Mental Health Resources
Many students find their use of alcohol and/or drugs interfering with their educational goals, intimate relationships, health, friendships, and/or family life. Such problems often remain unnoticed until they seem unmanageable. Staff psychologists are available to help students address lifestyle choices that may contribute to alcohol and drug use and the problems that may result from that use. A range of strategies, including decision making for risk reduction, are offered. We do not normally offer services for those who are court mandated. If you have questions or concerns about your own use or that of a friend, call (859) 257-8701 for a consultation or to make an appointment.
All discussions are confidential.
The following links are also helpful resources on campus related to substance abuse prevention:
We have library materials and brochures related to substance abuse prevention and intervention. Our staff is also willing to present programs on these issues.
Often students report substance use that we believe will be better addressed through more intensive treatment than we can offer. As such, we regularly refer students to more intensive community treatment programs that are off campus. Students must pay for these off campus services as they are not part of University of Kentucky Counseling Center: Consultation and Psychological Services. Many facilities offering intensive treatment programs have a sliding fee scale or accept insurance. To find out about other resources available in the area, feel free to contact us.
What Is Anxiety?
Most people do not recognize their anxiety for what it is, and instead think there is something "wrong" with them. Some people are preoccupied with the symptoms of anxiety (e.g. stomach aches, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, etc.). Others think they are weird, weak, or even going crazy! Unfortunately, these thoughts only make people feel even more anxious and self-conscious.
Therefore, the first step to successfully managing anxiety is to learn to understand and recognize it. Self-awareness is essential!
Myth:Reading, thinking, and learning about anxiety will make you even MORE anxious.
Fact: If you do not know what you are dealing with, how do you manage it? Having accurate information about anxiety can reduce confusion, fear, and shame. Anxiety is a common and normal experience, and it CAN be managed successfully!
Learning the Facts about Anxiety
- Anxiety is normal. Everyone experiences anxiety at times. For example, it is normal to feel anxious when on a rollercoaster, or before a job interview.
- Anxiety is adaptive. It is a system in our body that helps us to deal with real danger (for example, anxiety allows us to jump out of the way of a speeding car) or to perform at our best (for example, it motivates us to prepare for a big presentation). When you experience anxiety, your body's "fight-flight-freeze" response (also called the "adrenaline response") is triggered. This prepares your body to defend itself.
More on Flight-Flight-Freeze
Our body's natural alarm system (the fight-flight-freeze response) can be activated when there is a real danger, such as coming across a bear when hiking in the woods. In this case, you may flee (e.g., run away from the bear), freeze (e.g., stay still until the bear passes), or fight (e.g., yell and wave your arms to appear big and scary).
But this response can also happen when something simply feels dangerous, but really isn't, such as being interviewed for a job. For example, you may feel jittery, on edge, or uncomfortable. You may snap at people (fight) or have a hard time thinking clearly (freeze). These feelings can become overwhelming enough that make you want to avoid doing the interview (flight). Many people stop doing things or going places that make them feel anxious.
Can you think some ways you may fight, flight, or freeze because of your anxiety?
- Anxiety is not dangerous. Although anxiety may feel uncomfortable, it is not dangerous or harmful to you. Remember, all the sensations you feel when you are anxious are there to protect you from danger, not hurt you!
- Anxiety does not last forever. When you are anxious, you may feel like the anxiety is going to last forever. But, anxiety is temporary and it will eventually decrease!
- Anxiety is mostly anonymous. Most people (except those close to you) cannot tell when you are anxious because it does not show on your face.
- Anxiety can become a problem. Anxiety is a problem when our body reacts as if there is danger when there is no real danger. It's like having an overly senstive smoke alarm system in your body!
- Anxiety problems are common. One-in-ten adults suffer from anxiety problems.
Anxiety is like a smoke alarm system:
A smoke alarm can help to protect us when there is an actual fire, but when a smoke alarm is too sensitive and goes off when there isn't really a fire (e.g., burning toast in toaster), it is rather annoying.
Like a smoke alarm, anxiety is helpful and adaptive when it works right. But, if it goes off when there is no real danger, it is not only scary, it is also very exhausting.
However, we DO NOT want to get rid of the alarm (or eliminate anxiety) because it protects us from danger. We want to fix it (i.e., bring the anxiety down to a more manageable level) so it works properly for us!
What Happens to your Body when you are Anxious?
Anxiety can cause many sensations in your body as it prepares for danger. These sensations are called the "alarm reaction", which takes place when the body's natural Alarm System (that is, the "fight-flight-freeze" response) has been activated.
- Rapid heart beat and rapid breathing - When your body is preparing itself for action, it makes sure enough blood and oxygen is being circulated to your major muscle groups and essential organs, allowing you to run away or fight off danger.
- Sweating - Sweating cools the body. It also makes the skin more slippery and difficult for an attacking animal or person to grab hold of you.
- Nausea and stomach upset - When faced with danger, the body shuts down systems/processes that are not needed for survival; that way, it can direct energy to functions that are critical for survival. Digestion is one of the processes that is not needed at times of danger. Because of this, anxiety might lead to feelings of stomach upset, nausea, or diarrhea.
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded - Because our blood and oxygen goes to major muscle groups when we are in danger, this means that we will breathe much faster in order to move oxygen toward those muscles. However, this can cause hyperventilation (too much oxygen from breathing very rapidly to prepare the body for action), which can makes you feel dizzy or lightheaded. Also, since most of your blood and oxygen is going to your arms and legs (for "fight or flight"), there is a slight decrease of blood to the brain, which can also make you dizzy. Don't worry though: the slight decrease in blood flow to the brain is not dangerous at all!
- Tight or painful chest - Your muscles tense up as your body prepares for danger. So your chest may feel tight or painful when you take in large breaths while those chest muscles are tense.
- Numbness and tingling sensations - Hyperventilation (taking in too much oxygen) can also cause numbness and tingling sensations. The tingling sensations is also be related to the fact that the hairs on our bodies often stand up when faced with danger to increase our sensitivity to touch or movement. Finally, fingers and toes may also feel numb/tingly as blood flows away from places where it is not needed (like our fingers) and towards major muscle groups that are needed (like our arms).
- Unreality or bright vision - When responding to danger, our pupils dilate to let in more light and to make sure that we can see clearly enough. This reaction makes our environment look brighter or fuzzier, and sometimes less real.
- Heavy legs - As the legs prepare for action (fight or flight), increased muscle tension, as well as increased blood flow to those muscles, can cause the sensation of heavy legs.
More About How Anxiety Works
Anxiety does not only affect your body, but it also affects your thoughts and behaviours. Therefore, there are three parts to anxiety: physical symptoms (how our body responds), thoughts (what we say to ourselves), and behaviours (what we do or our actions). Learning to recognize these signs of anxiety can help you to be less afraid of it.
- Thoughts e.g., What if I forget what I want to say during the presentation?
- Behaviours e.g. find an excuse to get out of it
- Physical Symptoms e.g., stomach ache, cold sweat, heart racing
Recognizing physical symptoms of anxiety
You can learn to identify the physical signs of anxiety by asking yourself: "What happens when I'm anxious? Where do I feel the anxiety in my body?" For example, when you feel anxious, you may get butterflies in your stomach, sweat a lot, breathe heavily, and feel dizzy or lightheaded.
REMEMBER: If you often experience many uncomfortable physical symptoms, but doctors cannot find anything wrong with you physically, you may have problems with anxiety. You are definitely not "going crazy"! Although these symptoms may be uncomfortable, they are not harmful!
Recognizing anxious thoughts
Anxiety also affects how we think. Anxious thoughts typically involve a fear of something bad happening.
Recognizing anxious behaviours
Anxiety can make us feel very uncomfortable, and it can make us believe that we are in danger, so it is no wonder that you may feel a strong urge to escape or avoid situations/activities/people that make you anxious. For example, if you are scared of dogs, you would probably avoid going to places where you may encounter a dog (e.g., dog park).
To help you identify situations that you avoid, try to come up with as many answers as possible to the following:
- If you wake up tomorrow morning and all your anxiety had magically disappeared, what would you do?
- How would you act?
- How would someone close to you know you weren't anxious?
Finish the following sentences:
- My anxiety stops me from...
- When I am not anxious, I will be able to ...
Depression click here to watch
Depression and Suicide
Symptoms/warning signs for depression:
- depressed mood
- change in eating and sleeping activities
- loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities
- decrease in sexual drive
- fatigue or loss of energy
- diminished ability to think or concentrate
- thoughts of death or suicide, or wishes to be dead
These symptoms must be persistent for 2 or more weeks, and 5 must be present before a diagnosis of depression is made
People are at more risk for suicide when they:
- are anxious, agitated and enraged
- using drugs and/or alcohol
- are feeling hopeless
While most people who become depressed do not become suicidal, of all those who die by suicide, more than 2/3rd suffer from depression or bipolar disorder (“manic-depression”).
Women suffer from depression twice as much as men.
Less than ½ of Americans consider depression a health problem, and 3 in 5 consider it a personal weakness.
Depression is highly treatable and 7 out of 10 people will improve with the help of psychotherapy and the new and improved drug treatments.
In our society, almost everyone worries at some time about weight, appearance, body image, and size. However, people with eating disorders develop an exaggerated form of such worries. These individual's lives can revolve around their fear of fat and food, feeling out of control, and trying to keep their eating disorder a secret from friends and family.
College students are particularly at risk for developing eating disorders. Some studies suggest that one in four college-aged women have an eating disorder and the number of both male and female students with eating disordered behavior continues to rise.
The reasons people develop eating disorders are numerous and complex. Frequently, there are individual factors such as low self-esteem, feelings of lack of control, and having perfectionistic tendencies. They are extremely critical of themselves and how they look. Food becomes a way of coping with these issues and the related feelings. For example, in response to feeling "not good enough" in general or in reaction to specific circumstances, people may binge, purge, or stop eating. These behaviors can serve to numb intense feelings, avoid difficult personal problems, or punish or reward oneself.
Family dynamics that tend to coincide with a member having an eating disorder include creating an image that is "perfect," having high expectations for the eating disordered individual, tending to avoid expressing feelings in direct or safe ways, or situations in which the individual feels a lack of control within the family. Denying oneself food can be a way to feel "in control" with the ability to accomplish set goals. Bingeing and purging serve as a release of anxiety, depression, and/or anger. In addition, women and men who come from families where dieting is the norm are at an increased risk for developing an eating disorder.
Overall, the transition from being a child to becoming an adult can feel overwhelming. Individuals with eating disorders often struggle with maturation of their bodies and the expectations of them as adults including relationship and sexuality concerns. An eating disorder may be a way to cling to a "child-like" body and expectations for oneself. Eating disorders may also develop or worsen as one tries to adjust to a new environment with new demands.
Biological and genetic factors may also play a role in the development of an eating disorder. It seems that the biochemical imbalances associated with depression may also affect one's eating behaviors. Research indicates that there may be imbalances in certain brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, in the parts of the brain that control appetite, mood, and sleeping patterns. These imbalances may shed light on why people with anorexia can refuse food despite their hunger or why those with bulimia lose control of their eating. Many people with eating disorders have found anti-depressant medications a helpful part of treatment.
Social and cultural factors also have a major impact on the development of an eating disorder. Our society continues to promote unrealistic images of what women and men should look like. The standards for beauty in this country are extremely difficult if not impossible to attain. Yet, there is a multi-billion dollar weight-loss industry that works steadily to convince us that we can and should attempt to meet these unrealistic body images.
Signs and Symptoms
- significant weight loss
- intense fear of weight gain or fat
- feelings of self-worth determined by what is or is not eaten
- absence of menstruation
- restrictive diets, avoiding certain foods, using low-calorie drinks to avoid hunger
- feeling fat, regardless of weight
- preoccupation with food, calories, fat grams, nutrition, and/or cooking
- compulsive exercise, rigid exercise regimes
- dressing in layers to hide weight-loss
- perfectionistic attitude
- withdrawal from people
- bingeing or eating uncontrollably
- vomiting, laxative or diuretic abuse, fasting, exercising to get rid of calories
- feeling out of control
- feeling guilt about eating
- eating in secret, hiding food
- lying about how much food has been eaten
- bathroom visits after meals
- depression or mood swings
- harsh self-judgment
- swollen glands, puffiness in the cheeks, heartburn, unexplained tooth decay
- usually average weight with regular fluctuation in weight
Binge Eating Disorder
- rapid weight gain
- weight is above average or overweight, possibly obese
- eating large quantities of food even when not hungry
- disgust and shame after overeating
- eating food to the point that one is uncomfortable and even in pain
- feeling out of control over food
- hiding food that will be used later for binges
- does not use ANY measures to purge the binged food
- exhibits an abnormally low self-esteem
- attributes any successes or failures to weight
- avoids sexual activity and/or any emotional intimacy
- uses food to help cope with stress, emotional distress, and overcome daily problems
The majority of people can recover from an eating disorder, especially if they seek help from a counselor or therapist who has training to work with eating disorders. Receiving help in each area that an eating disorder impacts has been shown to be effective. For example, consulting with a nutritionist about the food aspect, seeing a medical doctor about the physical effects and the potential for medication to help, and obtaining therapy for the psychological impact.
If you believe that you may be suffering from an eating disorder, the best thing you can do right now is seek professional help. The sooner you get started, the sooner you will be able to recover. At the University of Kentucky Counseling Center: Consultation and Psychological Services, there are trained psychologists who can help by working with you in both individual and group settings.
For a Friend:
Since secrecy and isolation help to perpetuate eating disorders, it is essential that you show that you are concerned and care about someone that you suspect may have a problem. Tell the person privately about specific concerns that you have about their behavior. Allow the person to talk and be prepared for some resistance to opening up to you right away. Encourage the person to talk with a counselor who will understand the issues and assist in recovery. If necessary, offer to come with the person to the Counseling Center to talk to someone. Your support and friendship can help the person take that important first step.
Student Behavioral Health
Eating Disorder Hope
National Eating Disorder Association
Eating Disorder Awareness Week TBA
Pritikin Wellness Resources
Information on OCD
Have you or someone you know been a victim of violence?
A spring 2004 survey of 1,000 female UK students found that 36% had been victims of stalking, physical or sexual assault. If you are a student who has experienced violence while at UK or elsewhere, please know that the University of Kentucky Counseling Center: Consultation and Psychological Services is a safe and supportive place to talk about your life experiences. If you would prefer to speak with one of our female staff, please let our receptionist know when you call to make an appointment. We also provide free phone consultation if you are concerned about someone who has been a victim of violence, or who is fearful because they are being stalked or harassed. Our services are available Monday through Friday, 8:00AM - 5:00PM. We will be working closely with the Violence Intervention and Prevention Center, which supports UK students, staff, and faculty impacted by power-based personal violenceparticularly in the area of safety concerns. Another important resource in the community is the Bluegrass Rape Crisis Center (BRCC), which operates a crisis line - (859) 253-2511 or 800-656-HOPE available 24/7/365. BRCC also provides hospital accompaniment for assault survivors, legal advocacy, and emergency counseling free of charge to anyone in the community.
Fact Sheet: Title IX and Sexual Assault
Know Your Title IX- Empowering students to stop sexual violence
Stages of sleep
- Stage 1: Between waking and sleeping
- Stage 2: Light sleep; no longer aware of surroundings
- Stage 3: Deep sleep that restores the body
- Stage 4: REM sleep that helps us psychologically
- Avoid naps: They reduce your sleep drive, making it harder to sleep later.
- Restrict caffeine: Do not drink caffeine in the evening.
- Restrict tobacco: Nicotine is a stimulant.
- Exercise regularly: It will increase your sleep drive, but avoid right before bedtime.
- Use a bedtime routine: Wind down an hour before your intended bedtime, avoiding TV or reading that will make you anxious or excited.
- Restrict non-sleep activities in bed: Try to avoid TV, reading, internet while in bed.
- Stay out of bed if not sleepy: If awake in bed for more than 20 minutes, get up out of bed, go to a different room, and read something boring in low light.
- Keep consistent sleep/wake times.
- Do not try too hard to sleep: Effort will only make it more difficult to sleep.
- Beware of sleeping pills for long-term: They can prevent deep sleep.
- Relaxation training: Learn how to relax your body and mind.
- Write down worries: Include worst-case scenarios and ways of coping with them.
- Seek help: If these strategies do not work, seek help at the Counseling Center or Student Behavioral Health.
Insight Timer Guided Imagery
Stress Tracker Mindfulness Meditation
GPS for the soul Simply Being
Breathe2Relax Creative Space
Stress in an internal or external pressures that require a person to change.
The stress response: Sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system is activated, which prepares the body to run away or fight to stay alive (“fight or flight”): increased adrenaline, heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, sweating, muscle tension, and cortisol to release sugar into blood.
The relaxation response: Parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system is activated (“rest and digest”), which opposes the stress response: decreased heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension.
Some stress is normal and healthy: Some stress is necessary to keep us alive and help us perform well, but chronic or excessive stress is unhealthy for the body and mind. It is important to have a balance between the parasympathetic and sympathetic systems.
Stress depends on perspective: Each person responds differently, so the same event can be stressful for one person but not for another. We all experience excess stress sometimes, but if we reduce unnecessary stress in our lives and respond skillfully to stressful situations, we can prevent it from becoming harmful.
Learn how stress affects you: Identify your typical stress triggers, behavioral responses, and what stress feels like in your body.
Strategies to manage stress:
- Eat well, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep.
- Time management skills: work more effectively, not just more.
- Spend time with those who support you and take time to do enjoyable activities.
- Practice a relaxation technique regularly and when you feel over-stressed.
- We all have the ability to relax by activating our parasympathetic nervous system, but it takes practice, like learning to ride a bike.
- Breathe slowly from your belly, making your exhalations longer and longer.
- Focus your attention on your feet. Consciously let your muscles relax and feel warm, heavy, and limp. Slowly work your way up your body by focusing on each set of muscles until your whole body is relaxed.
- Start practicing in a calm, quiet place without distractions for a few minutes each day. Once you can increase each session to 15-20 minutes, try using this technique during brief breaks throughout your day and eventually during stressful experiences.
“The Relaxation and Stress Management Workbook” by Martha Davis
Apps: Breathe2Relax, Headspace, Insight Timer
University of Kentucky Counseling Center: Consultation and Psychological Services offers workshops for students whose test performance is consistently lower than expected despite adequate test preparation. Please click on the Test Anxiety Workshop Flyer link below to get more information about these workshops.
* The content of the workshops is the same for all sessions
Test Anxiety Workshop Flyer - download here (PDF)
The University of Kentucky Counseling Center: Consultation and Psychological Services (UKCC) is committed to helping students make healthy lifestyle choices. One potential change for some students is the area of smoking and other tobacco use. The Counseling Center offers tobacco cessation services through individual counseling. Individual counseling for cessation may vary by clinician and is based on the needs of the student. Individual counseling can include but is not limited to utilizing behavioral techniques, enhancing motivation, reducing anxiety, and managing cravings. Some UKCC clinicians may use hypnosis, and adjunctive resources such as telephone coaches and online programs. UKCC clinicians can also talk to you about using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and prescribed medications, often prescribed through the University Health Service*, in combination with individual counseling to increase your chances of success. Counseling for smoking/tobacco cessation is like any other form of counseling at UKCC in that it is free for students who are enrolled for at least 6 credit hours. Spouses, partners and sponsored dependents of students are not eligible for ongoing services at UKCC, but they can call and talk to a clinician about treatment resources elsewhere, including options for free counseling and nicotine replacement therapy.
Free Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
Because the University of Kentucky is committed to providing a healthy place to live, work, and learn, the University committed to going completely tobacco-free as of November 19th, 2009. To help students who decide to quit using tobacco, the University is paying for nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) in the form of patches, gum, and lozenges. The Counseling Center is one of two places on campus where students can obtain coupons to receive NRT at no cost. The coupons are redeemable at the KY Clinic Pharmacy or the University Health Pharmacy. To be eligible for the coupons, students have to be enrolled in an approved program. For the Counseling Center, "enrolled in a program" means having an ongoing, collaborative relationship with a UKCC clinician and actively working to quit their tobacco usage. The University Health Service also offers tobacco cessation treatment options, including a structured group program. Click here for their link.
- To make an appointment for tobacco cessation services at the UK Counseling Center, call (859) 257-8701.
- A complete list of Tobacco Cessation Resources as well as information about the UK Tobacco-Free policy can be found at the University of Kentucky Tobacco-Free Website. The website address is http://www.uky.edu/TobaccoFree/.
* Please note that no clinicians at UKCC actually prescribe medication. The staff work closely with medical professionals at University Health Service when students may benefit from a medication evaluation.
While helpful, these suggestions are not meant to substitute for therapy or treatment by a medical professional.
- Create structure in your days to help you manage your time, develop a sense of predictability, and feel more in control. Go to your scheduled classes and meetings, develop a homework schedule, set aside regular times for meals, and make consistent time to be with friends.
- Make sure you eat healthy food regularly to maximize brain chemistry and help you manage daily stressors. Skipping meals also robs you of the energy you need to go about your daily activities.
- Develop a regular sleep-wake cycle – go to bed about the same time every night and wake up about the same time every morning regardless of class schedule. Try to get 6-8 hours of sleep every night. Avoid computer activities, TV, video games, and other activities that stimulate the brain before you try to fall asleep.
- Do some kind of physical activity that you enjoy – running, swimming, playing sports, working out. Even walks around the campus and neighborhood can help you feel better emotionally and reduce stress.
- Talk to friends and family members who are supportive. Isolating yourself can make things worse.
- Avoid excessive alcohol intake and minimize or cut back on recreational drug use.
- Find activities that are relaxing or soothing. Listen to your favorite music, take hot baths, meditate, paint a picture, take a walk in nature.
- Give yourself permission not to worry about your problems for part of each day. Do all your worrying for 20-minute blocks of time and then immerse yourself in positive activities.
- Attend to your spirituality if this is important to you.
- Find humor in your life. Spend time with people who make you laugh. Watch a funny movie or read a funny book.
- Distract yourself temporarily from your difficulties – watch TV, play a game, go window shopping.
- Try to recall what has helped you before in similar situations. Make a list of these things and do them.
- Keep a journal of the concerns that you need help with. Track days and times of particular feelings or problems you experience. You can bring this with you when you start your counseling.