Anxiety and Panic Attacks


Anxiety can be generalised across a range of situations, or it may be situation-specific (e.g. exam anxiety, social anxiety, public speaking anxiety). Many students suffer panic attacks as a result of heightened anxiety, particularly around exam time.


Symptoms of anxiety include:

  • stress

  • agitation

  • panic

  • avoidance

  • irrational fears (of losing control, phobias, health concerns)

  • excessive worry (ruminations and obsessions)

  • sleep or eating problems

  • depression


What you can do


  • Take them to a quiet room, advise them to sit down and offer a glass of water


  • If the student is experiencing a panic attack advise them to take long, slow breaths. Try to call to call for a college First Aider who could offer more support


  • Don’t rush the student; focus on relevant information, speak clearly and concisely


  • If they have just left an examination before the end, advise them to make an appointment to see their tutor at their earliest convenience. They will also need to contact their GP to obtain medical evidence of their distress and send it to the relevant exam board within five days.


  • Help the student develop an action plan that addresses their main concerns, breaking larger problems into smaller parts so they are less overwhelming to the student


Suggest they see:

  • The learning support manager. In some circumstances they can authorise special exam arrangements designed to reduce anxiety. In most circumstances this would need to be arranged at least two months before the exams, but they can support you to liaise with your department.


  • Their G.P. who can offer advice and refer on to an appropriate service or prescribe medication to relieve symptoms


  • A Counsellor at the College Counselling Service




  • Overwhelming the student with information or complicated solutions.


  • Arguing with student’s irrational thoughts. (“You have nothing really to worry about; your grades are good.”)


  • Devaluing the information presented (“It’s not as bad as you think” or “Don’t worry; you have everything going for you.”)


  • Assuming the student will get over the anxiety without treatment.

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