In order to qualify for a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder, there are several criteria that must be met according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. One of the main criteria is irrational and excessive levels of stress and worry surrounding events that don’t warrant it. So, every student who is claiming to have an anxiety disorder, here is a message to you. You don’t have one, stop claiming you do.
That’s because most, if not all the anxiety you are feeling is entirely warranted and rational.
Although many outside of university like to believe that we spend 3-4 years drinking, partying and burning through the SU’s free condoms, for most of us, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Anxiety over deadlines, exams and grades hang over us all like a guillotine, ready to snap. For a lot of us, the guillotine is getting closer and closer as each day passes. For some of us, its already snapped.
Most worryingly, many students are also under financial burdens. Some struggle to work 20-hour weeks to pay off student loans while also trying to keep high enough grades. The most depressing fact of all is that many of our peers are forced to skip lectures, the very thing they are paying for, in order to work to pay off student debts. For some of us, failing a few modules to be able to pay your way is just part and parcel of university life. Its no wonder that a recent USI study reported that nearly a third of all Irish students are reporting “extreme anxiety”. Why wouldn’t they be anxious? After all, it’s only their futures being played with.
Yet, we are faced at every turn with many university staff that don’t care, a mental health center doing its best to cope under the monumental strain and a resounding silence from those with the power to actually affect change. Want to talk to a counselor? Here’s a microwave instead! Feeling depressed and lonely because you are struggling with course loads? Don’t worry, the new University Club won’t help in the slightest, but it looks nice. Feeling anxious all the time? Why not clear your mind with a walk through the Confucius institute.
After all, if the university was willing to run a few million over budget to fund it instead of directing that money towards health services, it must be worth it.
This stress and worry we face as students didn’t just appear out of nowhere. Rather, we live in a society that is quickly becoming hyper competitive. With so many people now attending university, students are pushing themselves harder and harder to stand out from the crowd. As a result, employers are expecting more and more from us, continuing the vicious cycle. We have to be stressed. We often must choose between sleep or study, just to try stay in a race many of us have already lost yet still struggle on to finish.
I don’t want to be molly coddled. I don’t want to be handed a degree I did not earn. I don’t want my hand held. All I want is to be able to talk to someone if times get tough. I understand that UCD needs money to run all these facilities and as such, certain aspects need to be run like a business. However, that doesn’t mean that UCD should treat us like annoying employees that it must placate once in a while to stop them moaning. We are not employees. A lot of us are scared young people still trying to navigate our way through a world we’ve had very little time to enjoy. So, excuse us if we sometimes drink too much or go a little wild on nights out. When you’re dealing with thousands in student debt or the crushing weight of exams with no one to talk to, sometimes you need to blow off some steam.
To all those students convinced they have an anxiety disorder, you don’t. University life and being a student is a very anxiety provoking and stressful thing to undertake. After all, with waiting lists as long as they are for the counseling service, its not like you’ll actually get to see someone to diagnose you anyways.
Marcus Dupuy – Opinion Writer