Mental Health Issues Affecting College Students

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The college student population faces a broad range of mental health issues. Referring to various researches, five problems stand out as the most common - depression, anxiety, suicide, eating disorders, and addiction.

The results of student surveys conducted in the previous two years from the American College Health Association (ACHA), 60% of students reported anxiety and 40% experienced severe depression. These mood disorders are only part of the prevalence of mental problems in college students. Others include emotional or affective disorders, among which the most common problems are addiction and substance abuse, eating disorders, and suicide.

Addiction problems most often include alcohol and illegal substances abuse and should be especially highlighted for the reason they are stigmatized and students find it difficult to seek support from those responsible. They find solutions in contacting with drug abuse hotline.


Anxiety is common at all ages and almost everyone experiences it occasionally. It occurs every time the problem we face exceeds our current capacity to respond with an adequate solution. When anxiety is frequent because the delay in solving the problem is constant, it can become a medical condition. The results of the survey conducted in 2018 on more than 18 million students that were enrolled in college in the U.S. indicate that nearly three out of four of these students have experienced a sense of “overwhelming anxiety” at some time. 

Anxiety symptoms can often be confused with daily stress, so it is important to detect the symptoms properly. We must also take into account that the symptoms manifest differently in different people, which makes it difficult to detect anxiety. 

Symptoms of anxiety disorders can include:

  • Feelings of stress and apprehension
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irritability
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Muscle pain and tension
  • Fearfulness
  • Headaches
  • Sweating and dizziness
  • Frequent upset stomach or diarrhea


Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities are the symptoms of affective disorder - depression. The results of a scientific article published in 2019 show that the number of students who experienced symptoms of depression doubled in the period from 2007 to 2018.

Depression is the result of altered chemistry in the brain, influenced by daily stress. Its symptoms can also vary from person to person.

Symptoms of depression can include:

  • Physical symptoms - Appetite changes and changes in sleep habits.
  • Emotional Symptoms - Sadness, feelings of hopelessness, and feelings of powerlessness, feelings of being overwhelmed.
  • Thought disorders - manifested as seeing a bad side of every situation, having trouble concentrating and maintaining attention, difficulty reading and completing work tasks.

Students often look for solutions to problems caused by anxiety and depression in the abuse of alcohol and illegal substances. This leads them to new problems and further distances them from solutions. When they manage to identify this problem, they usually turn to an addiction helpline or drug and alcohol hotline.


The term suicide does not only mean the act of suicide itself, but also the stages that precede it. Experts consider overwhelming or highly detailed suicidal thoughts as a mental health crisis also known as stage one of suicide. The following stage is detailed planning of the suicidal acts and the third is the act of suicide - the realization of the suicidal plane.

Signs of suicide can vary but are most often manifested through a person's mood, speech, and behavior.

  • Mood - Collage students that experience suicidal ideation often display a variety of moods that include anxiety, irritability, loss of interest in activities they enjoyed before, as well as humiliation, rage, and depression.
  • Speech - People with suicidal thoughts may talk about feeling trapped, feeling as if they are a burden to others, feeling like they have no reason to go on, and ending their lives.
  • Behavior - College students that consider suicide may often exhibit specific behaviors, that include giving away their possessions, withdrawing from friends and family gatherings, inexplicably visiting people to tell them goodbye, and searching for means of committing suicide. They may also sleep poorly or too often, behave recklessly, display aggression or depression, and increase their use of drugs and alcohol. They rarely search for help from their friends and family as well as help through rehab hotline.

Eating disorders

Eating disorders are a group of emotional disorders and most often occur due to disturbed body self-image. This type of disorder includes both food deprivation and overeating.

The most common types of eating disorders are:

  • Anorexia - Manifested as an unhealthy fixation on thinness, a distorted body image, and fears of gaining weight, this disorder commonly results in emaciation. With prolonged refusing of treatment, a person can develop severe physical disorders that can lead to death.
  • Bulimia - characterized as binge eating disorder, involving recurrent and frequent episodes of eating very large amounts of food, followed by behavior that compensates for binging, like purging, fasting, or over-exercising.
  • Binge eating disorder - manifests as constant food cravings that occur at any time of day, even night result in binge eating. This disorder is often associated with poor body image and low self-esteem, frequently incorporated with depression.


It is not uncommon for students to mask their mental problems with frequent use of alcohol and recreational drugs.  Statistics from 2019 show this increasing problem. Addiction is clearly described through a tangible pattern of psychological and/or physical dependence on various substances and risky behaviors regardless of the familiarity with consequences.

Many students who use alcohol and drug use in college do not develop an addiction and manage to seek help through an addiction hotline. 

However, they can still feel the side effects of withdrawal or prolonged use of these substances, including:

  • Built tolerance for alcohol and drug use.
  • A propensity to suspicious behaviors or trouble with the law.
  • A financial crisis.
  • Fear, anxiety, or paranoia for no apparent reason.
  • Deterioration of physical appearances, such as weight loss or gain, and changes in hygiene habits.
  • A big and sudden change in activities or hobbies and friends.

It's not always clear when alcohol or drug use has turned from recreational to habitual. That is the reason for seeking help on time through family and friends, experts, and various addiction helplines.

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