While there are some ways that going to college can positively affect your mental health, many college students develop mental health issues that they haven’t previously experienced in life. Some of the most common mental health issues seen in college students include depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, and self-harm. Find out more about each of these mental health problems below, as well as information on how to cope with them.
5 of the Most Common Mental Health Issues in College Students
By definition, depression is considered a mood disorder. It is associated with a strong, persistent feeling of sadness and a loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyable. Unfortunately, depression can get to a point where it interferes with your daily responsibilities–and to someone who isn’t educated on mental health topics, depression can look a lot like laziness. Along with its psychological symptoms, depression can also cause physical symptoms like aches and pains, fatigue, headache, and changes in appetite.
Although some anxiety is completely normal, excessive worry about everyday situations can make daily life extremely difficult. Anxiety can make it hard to sit still, breathe, sleep, and even think straight. There are many different types of anxiety disorders, like Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Panic Disorder. Like depression, anxiety comes with physical symptoms as well. These include digestive issues, sleep problems, muscle tension and tremors, dizziness, tingling sensations, and headaches.
Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder are the most common types of eating disorders seen in college students. An eating disorder generally arises from a combination of distorted body perception and obsessive behaviors involving food. Anorexia is a disorder where calorie intake is restricted, while bulimia involves cycles of binging and purging. Binge eating disorder is when a person has a habit of consuming large amounts of food during a very short period of time. All eating disorders can have negative effects on overall physical and mental health, and they often co-occur with disorders like depression and anxiety.
In college, many people don’t realize that the amount of alcohol they drink and drugs they consume is considered substance abuse. It’s very common to drink and use other substances when socializing in college, but that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. The definition of substance abuse is a pattern of drug use that results in harmful problems like an inability to go to work or school or the choice to drive under the influence. Purposely using substances to alter your mood or avoid difficult emotions is also a part of substance abuse.
Self-harm is relatively common in college students, and it is often used as a coping mechanism for stress and mental health issues. Unfortunately, even though self-harm can potentially provide short-term relief, it is not a safe or healthy strategy for coping with difficult situations and emotions.
How to Cope with Mental Health Issues in College
If you believe you’re experiencing depression, anxiety, or any other mental health disorder, one of the best things you can do for yourself is look into your school’s mental health services. It’s likely you’ll be able to find a school counselor or therapist whom you can work with for free or reduced cost. If that’s not an option for you, online counseling platforms like BetterHelp.com offer affordable, accessible mental health services.
Aside from attending counseling, make sure to take care of your physical health–it has a big impact on your mental health. Get plenty of sleep, drink lots of water, eat nutritious food, and stay active. You might be surprised just how much an unhealthy lifestyle can negatively impact your mental health!
Creating a strong support system, employing healthy coping mechanisms, and finding an emotional outlet like exercise, journaling, or art can also help quite a bit with mental health disorders. When you have effective coping methods, you begin to feel that you have more control over your mental health, and this feeling of empowerment and capability is truly invaluable!
About the Author: Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.