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What are anxiety disorders?

Anxiety disorders are a mental illness that exists when a person feels unexpected or unhelpful anxiety regularly. The high level of anxiety and stress impacts their daily living. It can affect any age or person and is often triggered by a specific event or stressful life experience. People experiencing anxiety can discuss its impacts with a doctor, counsellor or mental health worker to obtain a variety of support including medication, counselling, behavioral therapy, support groups and/or self-help strategies. 

Common types of anxiety disorders with DSM-5 coding

  • Generalized anxiety disorder – DSM-5 code: 300.02
  • Social anxiety disorder (social phobia) – DSM-5 code: 300.23
  • Panic disorder – DSM-5 code: 300.01
  • Agoraphobia – DSM-5 code: 300.22
  • Selective mutism – DSM-5 code: 313.23
  • Specific phobia – DSM-5 code: 300.29
  • Separation anxiety disorder – DSM-5 code: 309.210
  • Anxiety due to another medical condition – DSM-5 code: 293.84
  • Substance/medication-induced anxiety disorder – DSM-5 code: 291.89-292.89 

Symptoms & common characteristics  

  • Excessive anxiety and worry with difficulty to control worry with specific events, open spaces, closed spaces, in crowds or with people, and/or related to the use of transportation.
  • Restlessness or feeling keyed up/on edge.
  • Easily fatigued, irritability, dizziness, lightheadedness and/or faintness.
  • Difficulty concentrating; mind going blank.
  • Sleep disturbance (falling or staying asleep).
  • Panic attacks; heart palpitations, pounding heart or accelerated heart rate.
  • Sweating, trembling and/or shaking.
  • Shortness of breath or smothering; feeling of choking.
  • Fear of losing control, dying, "going crazy".

Centre for Accessibility support for anxiety disorders may include

  • Time accommodation for exams
  • Separate setting/distraction reduced exam setting
  • Listening to CAS approved music during exams
  • Note-taking services


  • In 2013, an estimated 3 million Canadians (11.6%) aged 18 years or older reported that they had a mood and/or anxiety disorder.
  • While the majority consulted a health professional about their disorder(s) in the previous 12 months, almost a quarter (23%) did not. Most people with mood and/or anxiety disorder(s) are currently taking, or have taken, prescription medication(s) (93%), but few (20%) have received psychological counselling to help manage their disorder(s).
  • The Canadian release of the 2016 National College Health Assessment (NCHA), a survey of student behaviors, attitudes, and perceptions about their health over the course of 12 months. Nearly 45 percent of students reported feeling so depressed that they had difficulty functioning (up from 38 percent in 2013); 65 percent experienced overwhelming anxiety (up from 57 percent); 13 percent had seriously considered suicide (up from 10 percent); 8.7 percent had self-harmed (up from 6.6 percent), and just over 11 percent had been diagnosed with or treated for anxiety and depression (up from 6.9 percent).


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: Author. 

Canadian Mental Health – BC Division

If a student has disclosed thoughts, plans and/or current attempts of suicide, please contact the Suicide Hotline: 1800SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or Mental Health Support: 310-6789 (no need to dial area code) or 911 for emergency situations.

Crisis support in BC

Crisis Line Association of BC

Crisis Centre BC 

How to support students with an anxiety disorder

Questions and feedback: Allow students to have access to feedback when providing instructions on homework assignments, exams, quizzes or other related projects. This allows students the opportunity to further discuss and better retain information. Allow time for clarification of directions and essential information.

Classroom participation: Give students time to think before answering questions in class, and enough time to read the information before being expected to use or discuss the material.

Projects, presentations, and assignments: Provide students with detailed instructions on major projects, presentations, and assignments through written and oral explanations. When marking projects, presentations, and assignments, provide feedback on content, structure and encourage the use of a computer and software to improve presentation.

Oral presentations: Allow students to have alternative ways of testing subject matter, as some students may be discouraged from completing oral presentations due to their disability. Provide an option to support them through office hours, provide you with a written assignment, or allow them to present in a small group setting.

Lecture notes: Provide lecture notes and course materials in a variety of formats (i.e. electronic and compatible with assistive technology).

Team building: Encourage students to work in pairs or small groups after lectures to pool notes and review topics. Providing students the opportunity to socialize and communicate their learnings can help with integration into the classroom.

Centre for Accessibility Services (CAS): Consult with the Centre for Accessibility Services at UFV to obtain help in understanding the specific nature of a disability. Faculty can gain information on student needs, exam procedures and other related information. It is important to work with CAS to help you communicate effectively with students to support their learning.

Counselling services: The counselling department offer support with career planning, study tools and tips, crisis support with personal issues, and workshops on special topics. This is a great referral for students if you recognize gaps in their learning.

Resources and websites

Canadian Mental Health

Canadian Mental Health – BC Division 

Mood and anxiety disorders in Canada

College anxiety: how to help an anxious student transition successfully

State of mind in the college classroom

Anxiety Canada – Educator resouces

How to manage anxiety disorders as a student

Sleep. Eat. Exercise: To ensure that you are successful in your time at university, creating a routine that provides you with enough sleep, healthy eating and regular exercise can be beneficial to your overall health. A proper routine can decrease or eliminate the symptoms of anxiety and allow you to maintain good mental health. Staying organized and creating a self-care plan that can model positive self-care strategies ensures you are taking care of yourself amongst the stressors of post-secondary life. 

Access supports and services: Connecting with UFV’s Centre for Accessibility Services (CAS), UFV Counselling, and community resources can help you manage your mental health. Connecting with others or having a strong support system allows you to lean on others when life gets tough. Connecting with local supports as early as possible allows you to strengthen easily accessible relationships, provide awareness around your disability and build accommodations around your disability. Talking to a professional about your experiences, symptoms, and challenges can allow you to work through problems, build self-confidence, and get the required support in any situation. 

Check-in with your mental health: As life gets busy, we often forget to take care of ourselves or check-in with how we are doing. Creating a Mental Health Meter for yourself can allow you to determine where you are on the continuum of happiness to sadness. Writing in a journal, asking yourself questions or talking to a friend/support worker about how you are feeling can help self-identify if things are good or bad. Taking a Mental Health Meter or creating your own can provide you with the awareness for you to reach out to support. 

The power of healthy thinking: The symptoms of a disability can often lead us into "thinking traps", where problems become very difficult to solve or situations can be unbearable to deal with. Healthy thinking allows you to use techniques that balance your thoughts and allow you to see the problems or situations for what they are. Counsellors or support workers can provide you techniques that can move you away from thinking traps and become solution-focused. Visit Anxiety Canada for some examples of thinking traps and ways to challenge your thinking traps.

Centre for Accessibility Services: Students are encouraged to meet with an accessibility advisor four months before the beginning of the course or program to ensure accommodations are set up from the start. Your accessibility advisor will explore needs, options and support during your time with the university. It is important to work with your accessibility advisor to help you communicate effectively with your instructors about what is helpful/unhelpful for your learning. You can review the university accessibility policies and procedures online or through the department. 

Counselling support: The counselling department offers support with career planning, study tools and tips, crisis support with personal issues and workshops on special topics.

Resources and websites

Canadian Mental Health

Canadian Mental Health – BC Division

Mood and anxiety disorders in Canada

Anxiety in college: what we know and how to cope

14 tips on surviving college with anxiety

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

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