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Health Education

Depression & Anxiety

Important note: If you or someone you know has thoughts of suicide, seek professional help immediately through your healthcare professional, or call 411 to get the phone number for the nearest local suicide hotline.

 What is Depression?
 Symptoms of Depression
 What is Anxiety?
 What Causes an Anxiety Disorder?
 Symptoms of Anxiety.
 Take a Self Test
 What is Test Anxiety
 Controlling Test Anxiety
 Other Links

 What is Depression

Depression is a disease that affects millions of Americans each year, believed to be caused by an imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain, called neurotransmitters.

*Anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status, can suffer from depression. It is estimated that 19 million American adults suffer from depression every year. Depression is not a weakness or a character flaw—it is a real medical illness. But the good news is that with proper treatment, 4 out of 5 patients will improve. (from Lexapro)

*People who suffer from depression are not just moody or have "the blues" for a few days. They experience long periods of feeling very sad and lose interest in social and daily activities. Many feel they have no concentration and no energy. Depression can change the way a person feels, thinks, and behaves.

 Symptoms of Depression

Common symptoms of depression

*Depressed or irritable mood most of the day—nearly every day
*Loss of interest or pleasure in activities (such as hobbies, work, sex, or being with friends) most of the day—nearly every day
*A sudden change in weight (weight loss without dieting, gaining more than 5% of body weight in 1 month) or a change in appetite
*Inability to sleep or sleeping too much nearly every day
*Agitation or restlessness (observed by others) nearly every day
*Constant fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
*Frequent feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt nearly every day
*Difficulty concentrating or making decisions nearly every day
*Frequent thoughts of death or suicide (or a suicide attempt or plan)

 What is Anxiety

*Anxiety is a sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physical symptoms (such as sweating, tension, and increased heart rate)

*Anxiety Disorders are a group of serious yet treatable health problems affecting one in 10 Americans; anxiety disorders are caused by a combination of biological and environmental factors.


 What Causes an Anxiety Disorder?

**Experts believe that anxiety disorders are caused by a combination of biological and environmental factors such as brain chemistry, life events, personality, and genetic predisposition. This makes an anxiety disorder much like other physical disorders, such as heart disease or diabetes. (from ADAA)

 Symptoms of Anxiety

There are many types of Anxiety Disorders: Listed below are a few from the ADAA:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). GAD is characterized by excessive, unrealistic worry that lasts six months or more; in adults, the anxiety may focus on issues such as health, money, or career. In addition to chronic worry, GAD symptoms include trembling, muscular aches, insomnia, abdominal upsets, dizziness, and irritability.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). In OCD, individuals are plagued by persistent, recurring thoughts (obsessions) that reflect exaggerated anxiety or fears; typical obsessions include worry about being contaminated or fears of behaving improperly or acting violently. The obsessions may lead an individual to perform a ritual or routine (compulsions)-such as washing hands, repeating phrases or hoarding-to relieve the anxiety caused by the obsession.

Panic Disorder. People with panic disorder suffer severe attacks of panic-which may make them feel like they are having a heart attack or are going crazy-for no apparent reason. Symptoms include heart palpitations, chest pain or discomfort, sweating, trembling, tingling sensations, feeling of choking, fear of dying, fear of losing control, and feelings of unreality. Panic disorder often occurs with agoraphobia, in which people are afraid of having a panic attack in a place from which escape would be difficult, so they avoid these places.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD can follow an exposure to a traumatic event such as a sexual or physical assault, witnessing a death, the unexpected death of a loved one, or natural disaster. There are three main symptoms associated with PTSD: "reliving" of the traumatic event (such as flashbacks and nightmares); avoidance behaviors (such as avoiding places related to the trauma) and emotional numbing (detachment from others); and physiological arousal such difficulty sleeping, irritability or poor concentration.

Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)
. Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is characterized by extreme anxiety about being judged by others or behaving in a way that might cause embarrassment or ridicule. This intense anxiety may lead to avoidance behavior. Physical symptoms associated with this disorder include heart palpitations, faintness, blushing and profuse sweating.

Specific phobias. People with specific phobias suffer from an intense fear reaction to a specific object or situation (such as spiders, dogs, or heights); the level of fear is usually inappropriate to the situation, and is recognized by the sufferer as being irrational. This inordinate fear can lead to the avoidance of common, everyday situations.

 What is Test Anxiety

What does test anxiety feel like?

*Some students experience mainly physical symptoms, such as headaches, nausea, faintness, feeling too hot or too cold, etc.

*Others experience more emotional symptoms, such as crying easily, feeling irritable, or getting frustrated quickly.

*The major problem of test anxiety is usually its effect on thinking ability; it can cause you to blank out or have racing thoughts that are difficult to control.

*Although many students feel some level of anxiety when writing exams, most can cope with that anxiety and bring it down to a manageable level.

 Controlling Test Anxiety

Here are some tips for controlling test anxiety. (Taken from SDC)

* Be well prepared for the test.
* Include as much self-testing in your review as possible.
* Maintain a healthy lifestyle:get enough sleep, good nutrition, exercise, some personal "down" time, and a reasonable amount of social interaction.
* As you anticipate the exam, think positively, e.g., "I can do OK on this exam. I've studied and I know my stuff."
* Engage in "thought stopping" if you find that you are worrying a lot, mentally comparing yourself to your peers, or thinking about what others may say about your performance on this exam.
* Before you go to bed on the night before the exam, make sure to collect together anything that you will need for the exam -- pen, pencil, ruler, eraser, calculator, etc. Double check the time of the exam and the location.
* Set the alarm clock and then get a good night's sleep before the exam.
* Get to the exam on time - not too late but not too early.
* Don't talk to other students about the exam material just before going into the exam.
* Sit in a location in the exam room where you will be distracted as little as possible.
* As the papers are distributed, calm yourself down by taking some slow deep breaths.
* Make sure to carefully read any instructions on the exam.
* As you work on the exam, focus only on the exam, not on what other students are doing or on thinking about past exams or future goals.
* If you feel very anxious in the exam, take a few minutes to calm yourself down. Stretch your arms and legs and then relax them again. Do this a couple of times. Take a few slow deep breaths. Do some positive internal self-talk; say to yourself, "I will be OK, I can do this." Then direct your focus on questions; link questions to their corresponding lecture and/or chapter.
* If the exam is more difficult than you anticipated, try to focus and just do your best. It might be enough to get you through, even with a reasonable grade!
* When the exam is over, treat yourself. If you don't have any other commitments, maybe you can go to a movie with a friend. If you have to study for other exams, you may have to postpone a larger break, but a brief break can be the pick up that you need.

***You can take control of test anxiety so that your performance on a test reflects your real standing in that course. If interfering levels of test anxiety persist, however, talk to a counselor for some specialized help.

 External Informational Websites

* Anxiety Disorders Association of America

* Lexapro - Depression

* Lexapro - Anxiety


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