Generalized Anxiety Disorder vs. Exam Anxiety

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a diagnosis described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – 5 (DSM-5). This disorder has a strict set of criteria, including that the anxiety causes clinically significant distress or impairment. This disorder can be diagnosed by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or sometimes by a family doctor. A common second diagnosis to Generalized Anxiety Disorder is Panic Disorder. Which, like Generalized Anxiety Disorder, has a strict set of criteria described in the DSM-5, and must be diagnosed by one of the same health professionals. Both of these diagnoses need to be present for over six months, and therefore are considered permanent throughout the student’s academic career. Based on the results of the assessments, the health professional can make a diagnosis, and make suggestions for support. Some treatments include: therapy, counselling or medications.

Exam Anxiety is a self-report to a family doctor or counsellor that there is an experience of anxiety specifically during exams. Usually students feel that the anxiety is leading to poor outcomes on exams. Students that experience this often feel that there is not enough time, or too many distractions in the classroom. Many students who experience anxiety during or leading up to an exam benefit from skill building to overcome this. It is typical for students to experience some anxiety before an exam, and this can even lead to better success. Students that provide documentation for exam anxiety from a family doctor or a counsellor will be referred to our exam anxiety skill sessions. These sessions will include education in mindfulness and anxiety management, as well as, academic strategies for studying and test taking. In teaching skills and coping strategies we hope to promote the growth and success of our students, without the need for accommodations. If the concern continues, the student believes that their anxiety is more generalized, or the student is experiencing panic attacks, we can look at making a referral for further assessment.

Here are some services on campus that may be able to assist with exam anxiety:


Counselling Services

Location: AH 153
Phone: 403-317-2845

Student Success Centre

Location: AH 148
Phone: 403-317-2845