Psychological problems are not "all in your head" or something you can overcome through sheer willpower. The average student risks experiencing psychological problems that can impact academic achievement, affect well-being and impair functioning. According to the 2013 National Survey of College Counseling Centers, 95 percent of college counseling directors reported an increased trend of students with serious psychological problems.
College is stressful by nature; you need to deal with numerous transitions, such as finding living accommodations, making new friends, dealing with class schedules, balancing personal and academic demands and handling your own finances. In the right doses, stress can motivate you to achieve and help you perform to the best of your abilities. But too much stress can be detrimental to psychological and physical health. According to the University of Minnesota's Student Mental Health website, too much stress can be at the root of insomnia, panic attacks, crying, sexual problems or increased alcohol or drug use.
Everyone feels anxious from time to time. When you feel like you don't have enough time to manage your responsibilities or you're worried about passing your classes, it's normal to feel the symptoms of anxiety, such as excessive worry, bodily tension, sleep disturbances and feelings of panic. These feelings often resolve on their own, but if they don't, it might mean you have an anxiety disorder. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health disorders on college campuses today. Anxiety disorders affect your ability to function normally in everyday situations. For example, you might feel afraid to leave your dorm room for no obvious reason at all or experience panic attacks before an exam.
It's normal to feel down or blue at times. But when you feel a persistent feeling of sadness and lose interest in activities you previously enjoyed, you might have clinical depression, the Mayo Clinic reports. College students are particularly vulnerable to depression because they're coping with increased demands on their time and resources. College students often feel homesick or overwhelmed by academic, social or financial pressures. Symptoms of depression can include frequent tearfulness, feelings of unhappiness, changes to sleeping or eating habits, fatigue, unexplained physical aches and pains, irritability or an obsessive focus on perceived failures or shortcomings.
Substance Abuse Problems
For many students, college is a time of partying and increased experimentation with drugs and alcohol. But for some, drugs and alcohol become a means of escape from everyday pressures. When you lose control of your drug or alcohol use, you might have a substance abuse problem. This includes the abuse of over-the-counter and prescription medications. According to the Clinton Foundation, prescription drug abuse is a growing, widespread epidemic on college campuses.
Knowing When to Seek Help
Serious mental illnesses -- such as anorexia, bulimia, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and suicidal ideation -- often manifest in young adulthood, and they're often mistaken for normal growing pains. These are more serious disorders that cause a significant and severe impact on day-to-day functioning and well-being and require professional intervention and treatment, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. If you feel unable to manage problems on your own or experience symptoms that impair your psychological well-being, consult your college counseling center as soon as possible.
- American College Counseling Association: National Survey of College Counseling Centers 2013 -- Section One -- 4-Year Directors
- University of Minnesota: Student Mental Health -- Stress Management
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America: College Students -- Facts
- Mayo Clinic: College Depression: What Parents Need to Know
- Clinton Foundation: A Rising Epidemic on College Campuses -- Prescription Drug Abuse
- National Alliance on Mental Illness: Mental Health Conditions in College Students
- Photo Credit Marcin Balcerzak/iStock/Getty Images