Anxiety: Academic vs. General


I can’t do this… It’s too much. So many people will be looking at me and I just can’t handle that much pressure. They’ll probably judge me, criticize my slides and micro-analyze my speech. I just have to stay calm, everything else will fall into place. Right? I suck at convincing people of things, I can’t even manage convincing myself.

Take for example: Today Amelia has a presentation for her writing class. To many, this may not seem like a big deal at all, it is “just a presentation” in front of roughly 30 students. Simple, right? Well, let’s just take a look at how her body reacts to the stress she feels leading up to and during this presentation.

“I get to class on time and choose a seat near the back of the room. My professor asks for volunteers and I avoid eye contact. Finally, a brave soul volunteers to present first. You would think that I would be relieved after not going first, but I still have to present at some point. My heart pounds in my ears and I dread the moment that my name is called for me to present. For the following twenty minutes I attempt to calm myself to no avail.”

A small amount of academic anxiety is generally not a bad thing, although having too much anxiety can lead to poor academic performance. The amount of anxiety that Amelia is feeling is affecting her academic performance. This is the main effect of academic anxiety; however, if Amelia did not have any sense of anxiety, this could also negatively affect her academic performance because by lacking anxiety the sense of urgency to do schoolwork or study is not present. In other words, low anxiety equals low motivation.

“My name is called by the professor and I walk up to the front of the room. Everyone’s eyes watch me as I walk nervously and I try desperately to gather my thoughts. When I finally begin presenting, my words came rapidly and all I want to do is be out of the room, away from the eyes that are glued to my face. It’s fine, you know this stuff, I tell myself. It does not help the way I feel, but I am able to make it through the presentation without making a complete fool of myself.

After Amelia presents, the professor comments that she did not meet the time requirement for her presentation and also spoke too quickly, which may result in a low score. These things occurred due to Amelia’s high level of academic anxiety. Overall, Amelia did do well
on her presentation, she knew the content and remained on topic, but having such a high caps-logolevel of anxiety resulted in a score that she probably would not have preferred.

General anxiety differs from academic anxiety in that academic anxiety directly affects performance in classes and general anxiety interferes with daily activities, such as going to the market or to a ballgame or even get in the way of general thought processing by diverting them to more worrisome thoughts. Additionally, general anxiety, or GAD for short, requires a medical diagnosis and has symptoms similar to certain disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder and panic disorder.




Image credit: Natty, Caroline Richmond Says, and Sunny Says. “Home.” Mommy Edition. Mommy Edition. Web. 06 Oct. 2016.

Understanding Academic Anxiety [PDF]. Ithaca: Cornell University.



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