Common Mental Health Issues in College Students
Poor mental health can make the collegiate experience a challenging time for students and their concerned parents. In fact, research has found that students struggling with mental health problems are twice as likely to drop out.
In this article, we look at common mental health issues experienced by students. In doing so, we provide students and/or those who care about them with an assist in identifying potential disorders, along with action items about where to get help. More importantly, at this juncture, we let them (you?) know that they’re (you’re) most certainly not alone. There are thousands of students in your area who are also struggling with mental health. Below is a breakdown of how to move forward on the road to mental health and wellness so that the college experience can be all that it can be.
Mental Health Problems and Disorders Commonly Experienced by University Students and What Can Be Done About It
Current Statistics About the Mental Health of College Students
The COVID-19 pandemic has fueled a surge in mental health issues among students. However, college mental health services are struggling to meet this increased demand.
- The most common mental health problems that college students seek counseling for are anxiety (61%), depression (49%) and stress (45%).
- 60% of students say the pandemic has made it harder to access mental health support.
- 70% of university presidents have reported the mental health of students as their most pressing concern.
- 90% of students believe colleges are facing a mental health crisis.
Top 3 Mental Health Issues Faced by College Students
The most common mental health problems faced by students are anxiety, stress and depression. We look at the reasons why college life can impact the emotional well-being of students and highlight some of the warning signs of each condition.
I. Anxiety in College Students
For many students, starting college is an exciting time of increased independence and new opportunities. However, for some young people, these new experiences can cause anxiety.
There are several reasons why students can feel overwhelmed when faced with unfamiliar situations. Young people are particularly vulnerable to anxiety because their frontal lobe – the part of the brain responsible for decision-making, problem-solving and emotional regulation – does not fully develop until their mid-20s. Other reasons for heightened anxiety include being away from their usual support system of family and friends, loneliness, sleep disruption and academic pressures.
Students may suffer from a specific type of anxiety disorder such as social anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Find out more about the different types of anxiety disorders.
Common Signs of Anxiety in Students
- Recurring fears and worries
- Apprehensive and tense feelings
- Difficulty managing daily tasks
- Avoiding feared situations
- Struggling to focus
- Refusing to go to classes
- Drop in academic performance
- Extreme self-consciousness
- Highly sensitivity to criticism
- Withdrawal from social activities
- Seeking repeated reassurance from others
- Disrupted sleep
- Physical symptoms including shaking or trembling, shortness of breath and excessive sweating.
Anxiety can cause significant disruption to college life and can lead to depression if left untreated. Therapy is recommended to treat this common mental health condition.
II. Stress in College Students
A certain amount of stress is a normal part of college life. Healthy amounts of stress can help students to be productive and meet deadlines such as finishing assignments and revising for exams. However, when stress becomes overwhelming and prolonged, it is unhealthy and harmful.
Long-term stress can also increase the risk of students developing other mental health issues including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse problems.
Common Signs of Stress in Students
- Feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope
- Constantly worrying
- Struggling to function
- Problems with memory and concentration
- Difficulty making decisions
- Feeling burned out from studying
- Decline in academic performance
- Withdrawing from social life and college responsibilities
- Lack of self-confidence and low morale
- Changes in sleeping and eating habits
- Getting angry, irritable or easily frustrated
- Unable to relax
- Physical problems including headaches, stomach problems and muscle tension.
Learning how to manage stress will transform a student’s productivity, mental health and well-being. Professional support can provide tools and techniques to help students cope with stressful situations at college.
To find out more about the impact of stress, read our article: 30 Signs of Stress: Effects, Causes and Treatment.
III. Depression in College Students
There are several situations and events that can trigger depression in students. These include relationship issues, living in a new environment, feeling unprepared for college life, academic pressure, worries about debt and concerns about future employment prospects.
Students with depression have a higher chance of developing other problems such as drug or alcohol abuse, gambling addiction and risky sexual behaviors to cope with their emotional pain.
Common Signs of Depression in Students
- Withdrawing from friends, family and student life
- Finding it difficult to function at college
- Having no interest in extra-curricular activities
- Feeling low, sad and hopeless most of the time
- Lacking energy and motivation
- Finding it difficult to make decisions
- Struggling to remember things
- Problems concentrating in class
- Getting restless, agitated, angry and irritable
- Eating more or less than usual
- Changes in sleeping patterns – sleeping too little or too much
- Feeling unable to overcome difficulties
- Having suicidal thoughts.
Depression is a highly treatable condition. If you have been depressed for a prolonged period, and your symptoms are not improving, it is important to get help.
To find out more about depression, read our article: 6 Types of Depression.
Where to Get Mental Health Support
If untreated, mental health issues can affect a student’s mood, energy levels, concentration, motivation and resilience. This is likely to have a negative impact on their relationships, college life, career prospects and physical health. However, specialist help is available.
Most colleges have mental health services for students who need emotional support. These services may include individual and group counseling sessions, workshops, well-being apps, therapy dogs, and other tools and resources. However, since the pandemic, many colleges are struggling to meet the demand for student mental health care and there may be a long waiting list. Find out what support is available by visiting the college website.
Online Therapy – Wherever You Are Studying
If you are a college student struggling to find mental health care on-campus, or a concerned parent looking for solutions, we can help.
At Kindbridge, our fully-licensed therapists can remotely diagnose all types of mental health disorders and provide high-quality online counseling and support, wherever you are studying. Focus on your studies and student life while we focus on YOU. All that you need to do is call +1 (877) 426-4258 or send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to book an initial appointment with one of our experienced care coordinators.
Get Help Today