Going to college often means leaving home, making new friends, and embarking on an educational journey within your craft. But it can also mean the development of several common mental health issues in college students.
Whether you, your friend, or your child is heading to college, we encourage you to learn more about these issues so you’re prepared. Knowing what to look for may help you identify early symptoms early.
The more we learn about mental health, the more we come to understand just how common it is.
Today, I’d like to spend a little time exploring five of the most common mental health disorders students face while on their journey. Take a look if you’re preparing to go to school, or even if you’re already there.
Mental Health Issues In College Students
There are five issues I want to explore today.
These include the following:
- Eating disorders
Let’s get started.
Call it paying your dues or initiation into college life, making dumb decisions seems to be a common action for new college students. But what it may be is your impulsiveness due to a lack of maturity. Don’t feel like you are the only one. Oh no, almost all college students go through this phase.
Credit card companies love the freshman college student. I mean, they love them and they prey on them like sharks over a school of minnows. They see an eighteen-year-old kid who has no sense of delayed gratification. They offer them quick access to money and even give them a free t-shirt. Then they bite like all sharks do.
College students are also impulsive when it comes to their peers. A group of friends asks you to go to a party on a Tuesday night when you know you have a test Wednesday morning. What happens? The party happens. Without thinking, you opt for the fun time over responsibility. At the party, your impulsiveness can get you into bad situations with substance abuse, gambling or just plain dumb activities (like streaking down the middle of the street just because someone dared you to do so).
Once all this impulsive gratification wears off, however, depression may appear.
You have twenty or more food options, you can stay up late and you can go on a date without permission. Seems like depression should be the last thing you need to worry over. While all of those are great benefits of attending college, there are even more reasons that lead to a student feeling depressed.
Admit it, you’re homesick. Everybody gets a little homesick. It is one factor that causes people to be sad. Being away from family and friends seems great at first. Then the honeymoon phase of being free starts to wear off and you start missing those loved ones who used to get on your nerves.
Forty-four percent of college students report having depression. That is a huge number. But think about it, you get little to no sleep and you mostly eat unhealthy foods. Sometimes you eat this unhealthy food in the middle of the night. Whether you eat it because you have the munchies or because you need that extra push to get you through a long night of cramming for a test, junk food does little to improve your mental health.
Don’t forget that you have pressures – major pressures – weighing on you. You must get good grades to stay in school or keep scholarships or grants. You have pressures from your parents who are wanting you to succeed. There are financial pressures, especially on those of you who must take out loans to pay for education and living expenses. Oh, and your job. You have additional pressures from work on top of academic pressures. It can naturally seem overwhelming.
Where there is depression, anxiety may be close behind.
Anxiety is one of the top mental health issues in college students.
There are many stressors lingering on a college campus. You face the anxiety of taking exams, as well as completing all assignments and requirements for academic commitments.
Some of you are trying to cope with social anxieties. Before college, you may have developed solid ways to deal with your social anxieties, you had comfort zones established and until high school graduation, you could avoid any major mental health crises. Now that you are in college, those comfort zones are gone and you are expected to participate in social situations without any new coping skills to rely on.
Depression and anxiety among college students can present itself through eating disorders, which are becoming more prevalent among students.
Over ninety percent of college students admit to trying to control their weight through dieting. This usually happens soon after beginning college with the freshmen fifteen. This describes the common fifteen or more pounds that freshmen seem to put on due to getting out of routines that once involved structured meals and exercise.
Common eating disorders among college students include binge eating disorder, anorexia, and bulimia. Binge eating disorder has the elements of bulimia but without the vomiting or purging of the food eaten during a period of out of control eating. Anorexia is the restriction of food or calories to an extreme and dangerous level.
All the above mental health issues in college students may lead to suicidal ideations.
Suicide is one of the top causes of death among college students. This is terrifying, especially because it can be prevented if you will take the step of reaching out for help. Tell someone how you are feeling. Tell a professor, a resident assistant, the dean, your roommate, or anyone. Just reach out for help so that you can change your thoughts and develop a plan of action for improving your mental health and your college experience.
You are not alone, many of your college peers are having similar thoughts about suicide because you aren’t quite sure of how to handle the myriad of emotions overwhelming you due to the stressors of college life. There are many avenues of help on a college campus, however, that can help you overcome these thoughts.
There are many resources on a college campus to help you deal with depression, anxiety, impulsiveness, eating disorders and suicidal thoughts. There are counseling centers on every college campus that offer individual and group treatments. There are tutors to help you with academic concerns, counselors to help you with emotional concerns, doctors to help you with medical concerns and peer counselors who know exactly what you have been through because they too have experienced these mental health issues.
Reach out for help. Your college experience does not have to be damaging to your mental health. With help, you can develop a plan that meets your needs in all areas. You can get help to find a healthy balance of academics, social commitments, job responsibilities and relationships. This healthy balance will give you the most awesome college life, the one you will remember fondly for the rest of your life.