University of Vermont

Division of Student Affairs
Think. Care. Act.
Health and Safety


Everyone experiences some degree of anxiety some of the time. This is just a fact of life. Without fear and anxiety we would not survive. Fear helps us to recognize danger and prompts us to take steps to protect ourselves. At times we benefit from anxiety because it motivates us to find solutions and master new, challenging tasks. But high levels of anxiety can interfere with our ability to function and can be debilitating.

Intense academic competition, fear of inadequacy regarding an academic challenge, or relationship discord may be some of the sources of the anxiety. Symptoms associated with anxiety include: feelings of losing control, rapid heartbeat, chest pain or discomfort, dizziness, sweating and trembling. The student might appear to be confused, agitated, have difficulty concentrating, worry excessively, have difficulty making decisions, and be too overwhelmed to take action. Students may suffer from a wide range of anxious conditions which can include panic attacks. Panic attacks result in severe physical symptoms which can lead to the fear that one is dying. Some students may have a generalized anxiety, which can impact their ability to perform academically by affecting concentration, memory, the processing of information, the ability to recall information, and the ability to comprehend.

When you observe a student who is struggling with anxiety:


  1. Listen and let them discuss their feelings and thoughts. This can relieve some pressure.
  2. Be supportive and provide reassurance.
  3. Talk to the student in private, when possible. Remain calm and talk slowly.
  4. Assume control over the situation in a soothing manner. Speak in an explicit, concrete and concise manner. Be clear and directive.
  5. Focus on the relevant information. Respectfully help the student focus on items that can be addressed.
  6. Assist the student in developing an action plan that addresses the most pressing concern.
  7. Refer the student to Counseling & Psychiatry Services (656-3340) or call CAPS while student is in your office. If a student is experiencing a panic attack, and you need emergency assistance, please call Police Services at 656-3473.


  1. Make solutions complicated.
  2. Overwhelm the student with information or ideas on how to “fix” their condition.
  3. Argue with irrational thoughts or catastrophic thinking.
  4. Crowd the student’s physical personal space.
  5. Try to solve all problems presented.
  6. Devalue the information presented or minimize their concern.
  7. Take responsibility for their emotional state
  8. Assume the student will get over his/her anxiety without treatment.

Last modified March 19 2014 10:28 PM