Health Guide for College Students
College students live a stressful and often unhealthy lifestyle making them more prone to health issues including both physiological and psychological. If ignored and left untreated, these issues may become serious enough to negatively affect the student’s personal well-being and academic performance.
If you are a college student struggling with a mental or physical health issue, feel free to use this guide to learn what to do and how to seek help from professionals as well as how to manage your health while attending school.
Mental Health Issues that Affect College Students
More than anything, it’s a college student’s mental health that is the first to go awry when the pressures of studying and adulthood come crashing down. Studies have found that 80 percent of all college students admit to feeling overwhelmed by their studies. Meanwhile, 50 percent rated their own mental health to be below average or poor.
Here are some of the most common mental health issues and illnesses that college students face:
It’s normal to feel stressed or anxious once in a while but being in college can be such a highly stressful experience. Students often suffer from more intense feelings of anxiety on a daily basis.
As said above, college students lead a stressful life given their multiple responsibilities as students and newly independent adults. Living in such a stressful environment can lead to the development of more serious mental issues and physical health issues.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) develops while people are young. Students who enter university with ADHD face a set of difficulties that may make it harder for them to adapt to college life from scheduling their responsibilities to staying focused on their studies.
Some students enter college with eating disorders, but there have been studies that confirm that beginning college is in itself a possible trigger to people developing one. It is estimated that around 10 to 20 percent of female college students suffer from eating disorders.
Addiction and Substance Abuse
Newfound freedom and the pressure of academic life can be a bad mix when it comes to addiction and substance abuse. It’s no secret that campuses see a lot of partying and drinking. Researchers have found that there has been a sharp rise in the intensity of binge drinking and substance abuse by college students over the decades.
Depression / Suicide
Due to a lifestyle of little sleep, almost no exercise, and poor eating habits, college students are more prone to developing depression while in school. If you add other stressors like academics, financial responsibilities, and socializing to this mix, you get the reason why some students are forced to drop out of school or worse, attempt to end their life.
People often use self-harming as a way to mitigate the intense distress they’re feeling inside. There are plenty of ways students self-harm whether consciously or subconsciously from cutting to engaging in risky activities such as binge drinking.
Bipolar disorder is a mental illness which causes the person to swing from one emotional extreme to the other in a repeating cycle that’s greatly debilitating to some. Worse, the disorder often manifests during a person’s early twenties coinciding with college when life is already stressful.
Who am I? What do I want to be? What do I really want out of life? Did I pick the right major? These are just some of the questions that college students ask themselves. While normal in healthy doses, self-doubt and struggle with identity can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and even depression.
If you suspect you’re suffering from one or more of these illnesses, don’t hesitate to read more about them in the resources linked below.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Preparing for college life: A healthy guide
- S. National Library of Medicine: College health
- Rutgers University: 101 health and wellness tips for college students
Recognizing the Need for Help
While we do not encourage self-diagnosing yourself with any illness, physical or psychological, your own self-evaluation of your condition is a way of knowing when it’s time to seek help from other people.
Start by getting more in tune with your body and feelings. Observe your moods as of late. What has been stressing you out lately? What are you doing to deal with this stress? Have you been taking care of yourself as much as should be? Have you been isolating yourself from other people?
Some symptoms of a developing mental health issue are:
- Excessive feelings of sadness or just feeling low
- Avoiding friends
- Too much worrying and anxiety
- Abuse of alcohol, drugs, or other harmful substances
- Inability to do everyday tasks
- Inability to focus
- Sudden changes in sleeping and eating habits (getting too much or too little)
If you observe multiple of these symptoms in your behavior, it could be time to reach out for help.
- Mayo Clinic: College depression: What parents need to know
- National Alliance on Mental Illness: Know the warning signs
- Mental Health Screening: Help yourself, help others
Finding Help and Support at School
Most colleges and universities have their own guidance and counseling offices as well as health centers which specifically cater to students. If you feel comfortable or feel the need to speak with someone, you can set up an appointment with a counselor.
If you are not sure about what type of services they offer, you can check out ULifeline’s Self Evaluator search engine. Just type in the name of your school, and it will give you a list of offices or groups you can get in touch with for help.
- ULifeline: Self-evaluator
- John Hopkins University: College students speak: A survey report on mental health
- American Psychological Association: Campus mental health
Reading and educating yourself about the health issues we have discussed is a great way of equipping yourself to deal with them the best way possible in the future.
Here are some great websites where you can find information on mental health rights, self-help guides, and mental health first aid.
- Disability Rights - NC: Your rights in college: students with mental health impairments
- Wofford College: Mental health resources & online self-help
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Online resources