The Mighty Logo

19 Things Students With Anxiety Wish Their Teachers Understood

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

With all the pressure put on students to succeed academically, participate in extracurriculars and maintain a social life, it’s no wonder more than 80 percent of college students reported feeling overwhelmed by all they had to do this past year. For students who live with high anxiety or anxiety disorders, this pressure can be amplified and more difficult to manage. According to Active Minds, “Mental health issues in the college student population, such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders, are associated with lower GPA and higher probability of dropping out of college.”

But when the pressure’s on, teachers have an opportunity to make a difference. Active Minds and The Mighty asked students who live with anxiety what they wish their teachers understood.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “I wish they knew when I lacked in participation, it wasn’t because I didn’t care. I often enjoyed the subjects I was learning. I just physically couldn’t handle the assignments thrown my way. I wish they knew how often I vomited and shook knowing I’d have to face them the next day and let them know I hadn’t completed my assignment, yet again.” — Marissa Lynette Berube

A blonde, white woman hold her hand over her face. Text reads: "I wish they knew when I lacked in participation, it wasn't because I didn't care."


2.I wish they’d tell students it’s OK to come to them if they’re struggling because of anxiety. Because there’s such a stigma surrounding talking about mental health, I never know which professors will be understanding and which will think I’m just making ‘excuses.’” — Emily Prather

3. “I wish some of my teachers would have some compassion instead of assuming everything is just an excuse.” — Jen Hayes

Books are stacked. The text reads: "I wish some of my teachers would have some compassion instead of assuming everything is just an excuse."

4. “I wish my professor had known it wasn’t just a matter of adjusting to grad school. It was serious.” — Jennifer Rowe

5. “I wish my teachers understood putting me on the spot to answer a question, when I didn’t have my hand raised, isn’t helping me gain confidence. Confidence and competence have nothing to do with the situation. I am smart. I am paying attention. I don’t need to have a spotlight over my head to prove it.” — Tricia Rathgeber

6. “I wish it was easier to have absences excused. I’d much rather stay home than go and cry in class. That’s not an exaggeration by the way. I’ve had panic attacks in the classroom where I just couldn’t stop crying.” — Lee Dralling

7. “I’m finally graduating this semester after six years, but I feel like everyone thinks I’m making up excuses or I’m lazy. I literally get paralyzed with anxiety, and I can’t even get out of bed. I wish people understood it’s just as real as the flu or… anything else. It’s not something we’re making up because we procrastinated.” — Jessica Sprayberry

A male student wit dark hair sits at his computer wearing a sweater. Text reads: "It's not something we're making up because we procrastinated."

8. “When you put me on the spot to stand in front of the class, my performance is absolutely not an indicator of what I’ve learned. As you can see my by tests, quizzes and paperwork grades, I’m learning a lot. All of that goes straight out the window when you ask me to demonstrate on the spot.” — Alex Wickham

9. “My 12-year-old son who has anxiety said, ‘I sometimes wish they would just give me a moment to collect my thoughts. I know the answers but I need to take a breath before I give it.’” — Becky Burrier

10. “The one thing a teacher should understand is that calling on a student with social anxiety is a nightmare. Calling on students with social anxiety does not help them overcome it!” — Autism – Doesn’t Come With Instructions

11. “When I abruptly leave the room, please don’t make it a big deal.” — Paige Johnson

Chalkboard with text that reads: "When I abruptly leave the room, please don't make it a big deal."

12. “Sometimes I’m going to need to ask you to repeat instructions for an assignment several times. Please don’t make me feel bad about it. I just need to affirm to myself that I heard you right the first time.” — Nichole Cherin

13. “I’m not lazy. I try my hardest. I’m not lying. I do everything I can. Anxiety isn’t something I just made up one day.” — Lexie Sittsamer

14. “Usually it strikes out of nowhere and I have no control over it. I’m not trying to get out of anything or trying to get attention. I feel like I’m going to die when my panic starts and can only calm down if allowed to escape to a quiet spot. Then I can calm myself down and return to class.” — Anita Contreras Munoz

15. “I wish they knew how much time, dedication, tears, breakdowns and energy it can take to get an assignment done. But also how great it feels when you succeed!” — Jennifer Scinto

Hands are raised in a classroom. Text reads: "I wish they knew how much time, dedication, tears, breakdowns and energy it can take to get an assignment done."

16. “I have an intense fear of giving the wrong answer to a question out loud. So if I get it wrong, please realize how much courage it took to say anything, and don’t laugh at me.” — Chelsea Noelani Gober

17. “When I got in trouble in school, I wasn’t trying to be a ‘bad kid’ and it wasn’t a ‘phase.’ I needed help, and I needed someone to recognize that.” — Liv Raimonde

18. “My inability to function at times is not a result of laziness, procrastination or sheer lack of willpower.” — Christian Cochran

19. “I might be too scared to come to you. If you see me struggling, please say something.” — Ashleigh Young

A teacher writes on a chalkboard. Text reads: "I might be too scared to come to you. If you see me struggling, please say something."

*Answers have been edited and shortened. 

Want to start an Active Minds chapter at your school? Click here to learn more. 

Related: 34 Mental Health Tips Every Incoming Freshman Needs to Hear

Originally published: January 15, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home