Saturday, April 08, 2006

Yes, We Really Do Live In A Prozac Nation
By Lindsey Dow

About a year and a half ago, it was my freshman year (December 2004), which was my first experience of dealing with exam week. Bored and needing a break from studying, I remember checking my Buddy List on AOL Instant Messenger and catching a friend’s away message, which read:

Today we salute you -- stressed out college student during exam week. As you sit in your lonely cubicle in the library, doped up on Starbucks & Adderall, you think to yourself: ‘Am I ever going to need to know this stuff in life?’ The distractions are tempting and you have suddenly diagnosed yourself with ADD along with Advanced Delusionary Schizophrenia with Involuntary Narcissistic Rage. I'm sure by now you know exactly what everyone is doing because you have checked your buddy list 800 times. Summer break is just days away, and your Prozac prescription will be in tomorrow. So crack open an ice cold Bud Light after that last exam, because for most of us Christmas Break will be spent in rehab.

Reading this cracked me up, because it is a perfect description of college students today. Of the four primary sources of stress, listed by the University of Florida Counseling Center, I would say that social factors are the most common cause of stress for college students. Social factors refer to interpersonal (friends and romantic), work, financial and academic-related causes for stress. The first source is the "environment," which includes noise, pollution, traffic and crowding, and the weather. I would agree cause stress, but only temporarily.

In my opinion, the environment would be the least cause of long-term stress because each of the examples are not lasting. They are frustrating inconveniences that are solved once the incident is over. For example, crowdedness causes stress when one is trying to push through a group of people in order to reach their destination or find someone, but once one has pushed through the crowd of people and the goal is achieved, there is no longer a cause for stress. Once overcome, environmental stress will not affect a person a day later, or even an hour later. The same is true for all the other examples given for the first source of stress.

The second primary cause of stress is "physiological," which includes illness, injuries, hormonal fluctuations, and inadequate sleep or nutrition. I am not one to comment on the stress behind a serious illness, because I have never suffered anything more severe then the flu. Having never suffered a serious illness, I can only begin to imagine what suffering from one could do to a person’s health, both mentally and physically. I imagine that would cause more stress than any of the social factors listed. However, I assume that the majority of college students do not suffer from a serious illness. In terms of nutrition and poor sleeping habits, I have yet to meet a college student who does not have poor eating habits and get enough rest. That being said, most students still seem to manage well enough without proper nutrition and rest, which is why I would eliminate that as the most common cause of stress.

As for the third primary cause of stress, which is “your thoughts" - the way you think affects how you respond. Negative self-talk, catastrophizing, and perfectionism all contribute to increased stress,” I agree. The way one inwardly (mentally) approaches a situation has everything to do with the outward response to the given task at hand. However, I would say that the majority of adults, including college students, have at least one form of negative thinking pattern that is self-defeating. I also believe that most of the situations in which college students respond to is the last factor, according to the article, of the four primary sources of stress: “social stressors," which include financial problems, work demands, social events, and losing a loved one.”

The reason I believe that social stressors are the most common cause for college students feeling stressed out is because all four of those factors play a huge role in the average college student’s life. For most students, it is their first time living on their own and, as a result, experience a rude-awakening when learning to manage their money. Money goes fast for the average college student, given the high demand and opportunity to attend social events, which almost always involve spending money. Not having enough money limits a person in countless ways, from going out to dinner to being able to afford a cab when running late for class to be able to pay the cable bill. The average college student tends to spend more then he/she can afford, because, without a college degree, most students do not qualify for a high-paying salary. Not to mention, schoolwork. Schoolwork is often very demanding and hard to fit into one’s schedule between worrying about money, going to work to earn that little bit of extra cash and high demands to go out and attend social events, one can certainly be overwhelmed. One must wonder how these students are able to stay awake.

The take away message that I copied at the beginning of this commentary was accurate about the common abuse of Adderall. Adderall is a popular stimulant medication used and prescribed to help treat the symptoms of the ever over-diagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder, which is also known as ADD. Adderall is a controlled substance but has a high potential for abuse and dependency because one’s tolerance to the medication develops quickly. As a result, I know of many college students from all over the country who feel that Adderall is necessary in order to do well academically. We live in a Prozac Nation—have you ever seen that movie? I tend to agree that in looking for a quick-fix for every stressful or unpleasant feeling, our society ends up causing more stress then was there to begin with.

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