For most people, college is their first foray into the “real world.” The sudden influx in responsibilities and social pressures can be overwhelming, leading to anxiety, depression and substance abuse issues if left unchecked. Data from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) shows that a quarter of college students in the U.S. have a diagnosable illness, with 80 percent of college students feeling overwhelmed by their responsibilities and 50 percent experiencing academically debilitating anxiety. Nearly half of these students do not seek help, making these issues even more damaging and potentially life threatening.
If you suspect that someone you know is suffering from any of the following conditions, do not be afraid to at least inform them of the number of resources for mental health issues that are currently available. Early intervention is the key to preventing the development of mental health and substance abuse issues, being able to identify their signs early on critical as well. The following are the top five mental health issues college students face and how to spot them:
Anxiety – The most common disorder in the U.S., anxiety is the cause of a slew of disorders that includes general anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and panic disorder (PD). However, simply experiencing anxiety does not necessarily mean you have a disorder; it must be adversely effecting one’s life in some way and be persistent for at least two years. Common symptoms for anxiety disorders may include feelings of stress, irritability, difficulty concentrating, fearfulness, muscle pain/tension, sweating and dizziness. There are many remedies for anxiety that can be tried before resorting to treatment, including diet changes and exercise as well as meditation and other therapeutic activities.
Depression – Nearly half of college students in the country experience some form of depression, according to the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors. The causes of depression are often rooted in legitimate fears that college students face such as performing academically and socially, financial issues, etc. Students are commonly told that their college experience will be their most exciting time of their life; while this unfortunately proves to be true for many of us, the disparity between their expectations and their reality can easily set the stage for disappointment and depression. Depressive symptoms include feelings of sadness or unhappiness, fluctuations in appetite and weight, fatigue, loss of interest in activities and difficulty focusing. Depression is one of the most common causes of death in the U.S., projected to be second only to heart disease by 2020. If left untreated, depression can lead to substance abuse and suicidal ideation, which brings us to the next issue.
Suicide – College is a time where we experience a new level of self-doubt, frustration and rejection. For some, unhealthy coping methods (i.e., drugs and alcohol) can exacerbate their depression, leading to suicidal ideation; for others, they may have a genetic predisposition that is exacerbated by stress and a lack of effective coping strategies. When combined with the residual “everything really matters” mindset from adolescence and high school, the pressure can lead people to make impulsive and fatal decisions. Common signs include depression, changes in mood and behavior, feelings of hopelessness, drop in academic performance and antisocial behavior. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 40,000 suicides are reported in the U.S. each year, with over 1,000 of them taking place on college campuses.
Eating Disorders – Due much in part to the pressures to meet certain physical requirements that college students are subjected to, eating disorders are very common amongst young people, especially women. Common signs include distorted perceptions of body image, excessive exercise, irregular heartbeats, dehydration, fear of eating in public as well as constant excuses for not eating. The most prevalent eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder (BED), leading to kidney failure, stunted growth, heart problems and loss of menstruation and reproductive system failures in women. The vast majority (95 percent) of people with eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25, with over 90 percent of college women attempting to control their weight through dieting and 25 percent purging to reduce their weight, according to statistics from the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.
Addiction – It is probably safe to say that partying and alcohol consumption has been an inseparable component to higher education since day one. Excessive drinking does not only lead to academic problems, but a multitude of mental health issues in addition to the formation of other addictions. With the increase of stimulant study aids such as Ritalin in the past decade, students are given even more opportunities to develop an addiction, not to mention the ones for overdose when mixed with alcohol. College students are heavily pressured to drink, evidenced by the fact that 80 percent of them consumed alcohol at some point while 50 percent binge drank, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
With the pressures of college coupled with the rampant substance abuse and partying that is unfortunately an entrenched tradition at this point, young adults are facing an arduous journey psychologically. Like mentioned earlier, being able to detect early signs of poor mental health or substance abuse is crucial to preventing the issue from eventually snowballing into something catastrophic.
Sovereign Health incorporates a wide array of psychotherapeutic and brain wellness techniques into our dual diagnosis treatment programs. Recognizing that mental health and substance abuse issues often co-occur and are interconnected with one another, we treat each case individually and holistically to ensure that all the underlying issues are addressed. If you would like more information regarding our treatment centers and programs, feel free to contact us today or read patient reviews.
Written by Chase Beckwith, Sovereign Health Group writer