When most people think of college, they think of the positive aspects. They think of the friends they made and the parties they attended. They think of the hope for the future and the excitement of working toward the career they’d dreamed about.
College isn’t all unicorns and roses, though. It comes with plenty of challenges, and among them is mental health. Mental health college struggles are incredibly common among college students of all ages.
To make sure your child is caring for their mental health, the first step is to learn about the issues. These are the most likely mental health concerns among college students.
1. Performance Anxiety
It’s no surprise that anxiety is high among college students. After all, there is always another test or major project on the horizon. Even as the end of college draws near, students enter the stressful experience of job-hunting.
This pressure can lead to intense anxiety symptoms, especially for students who are already prone to anxiety.
There are a variety of health consequences of anxiety, so it’s important for college students to get mental health college care when the symptoms arise. Unfortunately, many students think their anxiety is normal and untreatable, so they suffer in silence.
2. Substance Abuse Issues
We all know that many colleges have a culture that glorifies partying. Along with that comes alcohol and drugs.
When students start to experiment at parties, it’s easy for their substance use to get out of control and become an addiction. It takes less time than you might expect for a healthy person to develop a substance abuse disorder.
This includes another common college drug that students use to study, not to party: drugs for attention deficit disorders. Students without ADD sometimes use these stimulants to focus, and they may develop an addiction.
Going to college is a powerful change in a teen’s life, especially if they are living away from home. In some cases, the struggle to adjust to their overwhelming new environment triggers depression.
With depression, it’s important to know the symptoms to watch for. A student’s roommate may think the student is just an introvert who likes alone time, but they’re witnessing the early signs of depression.
Look for symptoms like extreme exhaustion, a lack of interest in previous hobbies, and an uncharacteristically bleak outlook.
4. Guilt About Leaving Home
When a college student first moves away from their home, it’s supposed to be a time of excitement and accomplishment. At the same time, though, students often feel guilty about leaving their parents with “empty nests.”
This is especially common when students see that their parents are struggling with the change. In other cases, college students interpret their parents’ other problems as being their fault.
For example, if you and your spouse get a divorce while your child is in college, the child may worry that them leaving the home is to blame. Find out how to talk to your college student about this delicate situation.
5. Attention Deficit Disorders
Most people assume that if someone has an attention deficit disorder, it will be obvious when the person is a child. Therefore, they don’t look for the symptoms in older kids and teens.
This isn’t always the case, though. Some intelligent students earn high grades throughout primary school and high school without needing to study. When they get into college and they do need to study, they find that they can’t concentrate.
College courses require more independent learning than younger grades do. When students don’t have their teacher looking over their shoulders at every step, focusing problems become more evident.
6. Social Anxiety and Other Social Issues
When kids are living at home, it’s easy for them to manage as much or as little social interaction as they want. If they want to come home after school and have time to themselves, they can do that.
In many college living situations, though, that changes. Living with a roommate forces students to be more social than they have in the past. College campuses also tend to plan events and activities to try to improve social interaction as well.
When students transition to these settings, social anxieties may be more prevalent than they were in the past. Students may realize that they aren’t simply an introvert. They develop anxiety symptoms in social situations, and they may start to drop their obligations to avoid social settings.
7. Emergence of Hereditary Mental Illnesses
College is a major change in a teenager’s life, and many of the other mental health issues on this list can stem from that change. In other cases, though, it’s simply a matter of biology.
While most mental health issues have some basis in genetics, others are more direct. Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other hereditary mental illnesses tend to start producing symptoms in a person’s late teens and early 20s.
Those happen to be the same years a person is often in college. Unfortunately, college students also tend to spend less time around their families who would notice the symptoms.
This is why it’s important to be honest with your teen about any mental health issues that run in your family. Tell them any mental illnesses you’re aware of and let them know the first symptoms to watch for. Don’t forget to tell them what to do if they spot those symptoms, like calling you or visiting the campus therapy center.
Helping Your Teen Manage Mental Health College Years
College may be one of the most bittersweet times in a person’s life. It’s a time for them to explore who they are as independent adults and to pursue a successful career. It’s also a time with a lot of pressure and risks.
To help your teenager have the best possible experience, start talking to them now about caring for their mental health. Educate them about the issues that have to do with mental health college years and how to get help if they need it.
Want more tips about how to help your college student? Check out more articles on our blog.