Top 3 Mental Health Challenges Facing College Students
Our office is across the street from several of the buildings for Colorado State University, and we’re a short walk away from the main transport hub and bike trail for CSU students. So we see a lot of college students. Whether they come to us for psychological testing or counseling, we see several consistent issues and challenges for many students.
With there being so much pressure with college, there can be a tendency for students to ignore or deny very real mental health challenges. Either they think they do not have the time or money to pursue support, or they think that how they are feeling is normal and just part of the stress of university life. The fact is that if left untreated, some mental health challenges can become debilitating and serious.
Here are the Top 3 Mental Health Challenges Facing College Students:
Stress is a part of a healthy life. Simply feeling stressed or anxious does not mean you have an anxiety disorder. But if stress and anxiety begin to interfere with your daily life, stopping your ability to function normally (unable to breathe in the moment of stress, can’t sleep, things like that), or cause incredible feelings of fear and dread, it may be worth looking for some help.
You’re not alone in feeling this way. Almost 40 million people over the age of 18 are affected with anxiety disorders, but only 1/3rd of those people seek help.
Here are some of the most common symptoms for anxiety disorders:
- Feelings of stress and apprehension
- Trouble concentrating
- Fearfulness and dread
- Sweating and dizziness
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular heartbeat
- Muscle pain and tension
- Headaches and migraines
- Frequent upset stomach or diarrhea
While every college student might get anxious, or experience stress around exams, if you begin feeling riddled with guilt or experience frequent anxiety or panic attacks, this could be cause for concern. Distinguishing the difference between regular stress and a disorder can be difficult, so it is best to seek out help if you feel you might be developing an anxiety disorder.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Do you experience anxious or worrisome thoughts on a daily basis?
- Are you plagued by fears others perceive as unfounded or irrational?
- Do you avoid everyday social activities because they cause you anxiety?
- Do you experience sudden heart-pounding panic attacks?
- Is your anxiety interfering with your school work, social life and family?
- Do you have difficulty sleeping?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you may want to consider pursuing counseling or a psychological assessment that can help determine if you are experiencing an anxiety disorder.
Depression is the number one reason students drop out of college. While we all feel depressed from time to time, constant feelings of depression, helplessness, detachment, and suicidal thoughts, if left untreated, can have dire consequences.
Many people tell new freshmen that college is “the best four years of your life!” There is a greater freedom to explore who you are and what you want to be about. But with all the excitement there are the challenges of making friends, getting along with roommates, coursework and projects, being away from home, the pressures of graduation, grades, job security, and figuring out your life once college is completed. That mixture of freedom and pressure can leave many people feeling helpless, lost, and feel like everything is out of control and they are doing everything they can to keep up. All of this, if left untreated, can result in depression.
While everyone can have a bad day, or times when life just feels overwhelming, most people can bounce back. But if those days become weeks, and ordinary things like getting out of bed or daily hygiene become a struggle, there is a cause to seek help.
Here are some common signs of depression that may warrant seeking help:
- You are not enjoying activities you once loved.
- You no longer attend classes or social outings.
- You experience extreme anger or sadness over relationships.
- You react negatively or with apathy to most things.
- You find yourself thinking or talking about death or suicide.
- You simply feel out of control over your emotions.
If you are unsure that you’re dealing with depression, ask yourself the following:
- Have you experienced extreme sadness or hopelessness?
- Does your family have a history of depression?
- Have you turned to heavy drinking or drug use to feel normal?
- Do you find yourself thinking a lot about death or suicide?
If you answered yes to any of the above, you should seek help. Most college campuses have mental health services for treating depression. If you ever experience any urgent thoughts of suicide or self-harm, go to an emergency room, call 911, or ask for help. There are plenty of people all around ready and willing to help you. If you are in Fort Collins, we recommend going to the Crisis Walk-in Clinic at 1217 Riverside Ave, or calling the Colorado Crisis Line: 844-493-8255.
Do you remember when you were in elementary school, and they warned you that college is full of dangerous drinking and drugs, and that if you weren’t careful you could be hurt, killed, or addicted because of it? Well, it turns out they weren’t lying. Much of the social aspects of college life can become incredibly dangerous for students. While many students who participate in drinking and drug use do not develop and addiction, many do.
Genetics contribute to the likelihood of an addiction, especially if there is a history of alcohol or drug abuse in one’s family. If you find yourself turning to drugs or alcohol more frequently to cover over feelings of stress or sadness, you should seek help.
If you are concerned for yourself or a friend, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you drink to relieve stress or suppress issues?
- Has your drinking or drug use interfered with your relationships with others?
- Have you withdrawn from activities or school work?
- Does your life now basically revolve around drug or alcohol use?
- Have you developed a change in personality?
- Do you drink heavily when you are disappointed, distressed or get in a fight?
- Have you ever blacked out from drinking or drug use?
- Has a friend or family member expressed concern about your alcohol or drug use?
- Do any of your blood relatives have an addiction to drugs or alcohol?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, or believe you have an addiction, seek help. Addiction is a serious growing crisis for college students today, and can be effectively treated with the help of a trained healthcare professional.
We’re Here to Help
Our clinicians specialize in treatment of Anxiety, Depression, and Addiction for college students at our offices in Fort Collins. Feel free to give us a call to learn how counseling could be helpful or to schedule an appointment. You can reach us at (970) 889-8204 or firstname.lastname@example.org.