Student Health and Wellness Services


Anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear. A person with anxiety disorder experiences anxiety that doesn’t go away and can get worse over time. These symptoms can affect daily activities and routines.

All anxiety disorders have one symptom in common: persistent, excessive fear or worry in situations that are not threatening. People typically experience one or more of the following symptoms:

Emotional symptoms:

  • Feelings of apprehension or dread
  • Feeling tense or jumpy
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Anticipating the worst and being watchful for signs of danger

Physical symptoms:

  • Pounding or racing heart and shortness of breath
  • Sweating, tremors and twitches
  • Headaches, fatigue and insomnia
  • Upset stomach, frequent urination or diarrhea

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): chronic, exaggerated worrying about everyday life. This worrying makes it hard to finish daily tasks and you may experience headaches, tension or nausea.

Social Anxiety Disorder: intense fear of social interaction that may be driven by irrational worries about humiliation. It may be difficult to partake in class discussions or offer ideas in large groups. Panic attacks are common if forced to interact in a social setting.

Panic Disorder: sudden feeling of extreme fear strikes repeatedly and without warning, often resulting in panic attacks. A panic attack causes powerful symptoms including chest pain, heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath and stomach upset, similar to a heart attack.

Phobias: feeling extreme discomfort or fear when encountering certain places, events, objects, or things. Reactions to phobias can be triggered and result in extreme panic and fear. Trying to control this fear can take over a person’s life.

A panic attack is an exaggeration of your body’s normal response to fear, stress or excitement. It is the rapid build-up of overwhelming physical sensations, such as:

  • a pounding heartbeat
  • feeling faint
  • sweating
  • nausea (feeling sick)
  • chest pains
  • feeling unable to breathe
  • shaky limbs, or feeling like your legs are turning to jelly
  • feeling like you’re not connected to your body.

“I could feel all these physical symptoms building inside me, literally filling every part of my body until I felt completely light-headed and disembodied. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, I just wanted to get out, go somewhere else, but I couldn’t because I was on a train.”

During a panic attack you might feel very afraid that:

  • you’re losing control
  • you’re going to faint
  • you’re having a heart attack
  • you’re going to die.

“My teeth would chatter uncontrollably and my whole body would tremble, I’d hyperventilate and cry with panic as the feeling that I was going to fall unconscious was so convincing.”

It’s different for different people. You might have a good understanding about situations or places that are likely to trigger an attack for you, or you might feel that your attacks come without warning and happen at random.

Panic attacks can also come in the night while you’re asleep, and wake you up. This can happen if your brain is very alert (due to anxiety), and interprets small changes in your body as a sign of danger.

Experiencing a panic attack during the night can be particularly frightening, as you may feel confused about what’s happening, and are helpless to do anything to spot it coming.

“I can’t sleep due to panic attacks and nightmares. When I fall asleep within an hour I am up, soaked, heart racing and shaking.”

Most panic attacks last for between 5 and 20 minutes. They can come on very quickly, and your symptoms will usually peak within 10 minutes. Sometimes you might experience symptoms of a panic attack which last for up to an hour. If this happens you are probably experiencing one attack after another, or a high level of anxiety after the initial panic attack.

Again, it’s different for different people. You might have one panic attack and never experience another, or you might have attacks once a month or even several times a week.

Having a panic attack can be a truly terrifying experience, but there are things you can do:

  1. Challenge fearful thoughts about panic attacks. If you are not afraid of panic attacks, they are much less likely to continue or cause problems in your life.
  2. Avoid avoidance. In other words, don’t do anything different because you have had panic attacks. Don’t avoid activities, places, or people because you have had a panic attack. Do the things that scare you as long as they aren’t harmful or dangerous.
  3. Get out of the habit of monitoring physiological symptoms such as heart rate. If you notice yourself doing this, direct your attention externally by silently describing the world around you.
  4. For more information or for additional help, contact Counseling Services 24/7 at (909) 869-3220.

  • Make an appointment with Counseling and Psychological Services (enter CAPS info) to speak with a professional if you’re concerned that you have depression.
  • After Hours: Call (909) 869-3220, and press “2” when prompted to speak with a crisis counselor
  • Aurora Charter Oak Hospital (7.6 miles)
    (Psychiatric emergencies only)
    1161 E. Covina Blvd. Covina, CA
    Phone: (800) 654-2673
    (North of the 10 fwy on Grand & E. Covina Blvd.)