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17 Things College Professors Need to Know About Students With Anxiety

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Being a college student can be stressful enough. Between classes, parties, relationships, extracurriculars and potentially getting used to a new city or state, there’s a lot. Adding anxiety to this list can make the journey extra challenging. While in some ways, colleges are starting to recognize they need to make student mental health a priority, we still have a long way to go.

With a new school year coming up, we asked The Mighty’s mental health community to tell us one thing they wish college professors knew about students with anxiety. Here’s what they had to say:

1. “Must going to class causes anxiety because of the fear of having to speak, of having to interact with other students, the pressure to perform. It is all so daunting and totally immobilizes you. So, it would be great if there was that understanding, an awareness of the strength it takes just to sit in that chair.” — Kristian H.

2. “When I don’t speak in class it doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s happening, I’m just too scared of people and the professor judging me.” — Adam M.

3. “Trigger warnings aren’t some joke on iFunny, PTSD is a real disorder and trigger warnings in the syllabus can be a lifesaver. Warn us if sexual violence, school shootings, abuse or of any triggering content that will be discussed and when. That way the student can ask the professor what alternative assignments there are.” — Allison R.

4. “I once had a professor tell me after I asked for an extension that they do not give extensions due to ‘poor time management.’ I think professors need to know that students with anxiety are not asking for an extension because they have poor time management, they are asking because even though they know they have enough time, it is still giving them anxiety and panic attacks and your understanding can help them.” — Kimberly J.

5. “I’m not meaning to be rude or disruptive when I come late to class or when I’m distracted during lectures. I may be late, but just making it is a success for me that day after struggling with my mind just to get out of the house. I may be on my phone as a grounding technique so that I don’t have to leave or have an anxiety attack in front of everyone. My anxiety comes out in ways other than crying and shaking (though that happens sometimes too). Please remember, I’m trying and fighting every day — I want to learn.” — Madeline C.

6. “Deadlines are hard for me. Give me time to turn the stuff in. When I say I’m struggling with anxiety and depression and need a little extra time, I’m not making excuses. I’ve been dealing with insomnia, yet med adjustments that make me want to sleep all the time and low motivation. I find it hard to even be around as many people that are in a school… Sometimes it takes me extra time cause I worry it has to be just right or it takes extra time just to get the assignments the way I want. So please don’t give football players extensions and just think I’m full of it.” — Samantha M.


7. “Anxiety is one of the biggest reasons I am an exclusively online student. If I have to email about some issue, be understanding that I am working through it and just need a professor to be non-judgmental.” — Lorenza S.

8. “I’m actually a really confident speaker and test-taker, but I make lists during class that can make it look like I’m not listening. Introducing a big assignment without warning me can make me have a panic attack. So when I come to you with my accommodation plan, please listen to what I say I need, not to what you assume I need.” –Breanna H.

9. “I have anxiety, a diagnosed mental illness that renders me incapable of leaving my home much of the time. Get out of my comfort zone? My entire life is outside of my comfort zone.” — Amber W.

10. “When I’m looking around the room during a test, I’m not trying to cheat, I’m just calming my nerves because if I keep looking at the test my anxiety goes haywire and I can’t focus on the test.” — Veronica H.

11. “My accommodations are required, not recommended. They are there because I know the material, I just need it presented differently. I really do need my exams given with only one question on a page or I get overwhelmed and can’t calm down enough to access the information in my brain. If I don’t get my accommodations, the best way to describe it is that when you give me my exam, you are simultaneously taking all the knowledge for the exam out of my brain.” — Annalise S.

12. “My anxiety doesn’t define me or my ability to learn and get things done. Instead, it motivates me and pushes me to work harder.” — Mandi D.

13. It is almost impossible to get to early classes because I stayed up most of the night having anxiety over a different project.” — Colleen M. 

14. “I’m not looking for pity. I’m just asking for a little understanding and compassion.” — Laura M.

15. “If I ask a lot of questions about an assignment, it is not because I am incompetent, it is because I am so afraid of doing something wrong.” — Adrianna W.

16. “I’m not a slacker.” — Vanessa M.

17.  “I am honestly trying my best.” — Kimberly S.

What would you add?

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Originally published: August 8, 2017
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