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Friday November 30th, 2012

Posted at 3:00pm

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This is part two of a two part series looking at Anxiety Disorders in University Students By Asil Moussa

Susan, who used to be “a health freak,” also started smoking cigarettes secretly two months ago. She smokes about one cigarette every three days and the hookah about once a week.

“I smoke cigarettes when I feel so stressed. That’s when I started. With the hookah, I think ‘well, we’re dying anyway.’ This is the way I started thinking,” says Susan.

Part of the reason she started smoking is to overcome her fear of dying, which causes her panic attacks. “I know it’s so stupid but I don’t want to be scared of anything,” says Susan.

“At the same time, I sometimes just want to leave and empty my mind,” Susan says. “The hookah makes me feel better but smoking cigarettes makes me feel disgusted.”

Research shows smoking cigarettes does not help a person relax– it does the opposite, increasing anxiety and tension. Nicotine creates an immediate sense of relaxation but this feeling is temporary and soon gives way to the withdrawal felt between cigarettes that increase anxiety, says the Mental Health Foundation.

BMC Medicine states that smoking and nicotine dependence increase the risk of panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.

Research shows that those with a mental illness find it particularly difficult to stop smoking, but they have more reason to stop because smokers with mental illnesses are at an accelerated risk of diabetes, heart attacks, and stroke, says the website, Anxiety, Panic & Health.

Susan says that she does not know whether or not she will continue to smoke in the future.

“I’m scared that one day I can’t control myself,” Susan admits about her smoking.

“It happened so many times in 2007,” she talks about her panic attacks, “I felt like I was losing it big time. I thought I was dying.”

Tips for Dealing with Anxiety from Beg and Chaker

 1. Self care is important. Don’t forget to schedule time for yourself, exercise, or visiting friends.

2. Sleep is huge. You should be getting seven to nine hours of sleep a night so you’re rested.

3. Manage your stress so you’re not taking on too much.

4. Caffeine and anxiety are not a good combination. Cut out your caffeine, if you can’t, reduce it significantly because it acts like a stimulant and increases your anxiety.

5. Seek help. Have a strong support group, even if it starts off as a friend and it moves on to seeking professional help later.

6. Figure out and pin-point where the anxiety is coming from. Try to avoid those situations or figure out a way that you’re able to face them.

7. Find hobbies that make you feel good about yourself. It will help you calm down.

Susan deals with her anxiety disorder in different ways.

“Sometimes if the weather is nice, I go for a walk,” says Susan. “I started excising. I know that it releases anxiety and it makes me feel good. Since I started working out, my anxiety reduced.”

“I keep up with my health, taking blood tests to ensure that there’s nothing wrong with me,” says Susan. “It’s all in my head.”

University students with anxiety disorders or suspect they have one can visit the Student Counseling Centre, where psychologists and other mental health professionals can help them.

Student Disability Services offers services for students who have anxiety disorders and need help in terms of academic accommodations.

“We offer them things that could ease their anxiety. We can give them extra time and a computer to write on so they are stress-free from spelling. We can also give them a calculator if they need one,” says Carleigh LaLonge from University of Windsor’s Student Disability Services.

“I think that knowing you have a mental health disorder should make you more confident in that you can still do things, and be even better then somebody else,” says Chaker. “So definitely don’t make it an excuse for yourself.

“You can morph your life into either using it against yourself or putting it as something that compels you even further.”

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