What college students should know about mental health problems
BY SYLVIA KOHL
College is supposed to be the time of fun, new acquaintances, and life-changing experiences. However, all too often these experiences turn out to be too much of a strain for a great many students: too much pressure combined with a hectic tempo of modern life can make short work of one’s mental stability. And students are even worse off than many other groups because they are unlikely to seek help and tend to take their mental health issues too lightly. Which is wrong: you should look at them at just any other illness, because if left untreated they can be just as dangerous – if not more.
So, what are the problems students are most prone to and what are the signs that you should run to a shrink? Let’s find out.
1. Adjustment Disorder
It is quite natural to feel ill at ease if it is your first time leaving home for a prolonged period. However, if time goes on and it doesn’t feel like you are getting used to your new condition, if you still find functioning in college problematic, avoid people, cannot concentrate – you may need psychotherapy to cope with it.
Depression is one of the most widespread mental health issues in all developed countries, and students are among its most common victims. For many, it begins in college or high school and becomes the first step towards a plethora of other conditions.
It is hard to give a definitive set of symptoms because it may be different from person to person, and many people either don’t realize they have depression or successfully hide it for years. Being depressed isn’t equal to being sad – sadness is a natural reaction to some events and situations, depression remains the same whatever happens. Common signs include feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, self-disgust, the absence of motivation. Long-term depression isn’t caused by external factors but the chemical imbalance in the brain and requires complex treatment.
3. Anxiety Disorders
It is normal to feel stressed and anxious before an important exam – in fact, stress is a natural tool that helps body and brain deal with extreme situations. However, when you feel stressed, fearful, nervous and irritable most of the time, without any significant real-life reasons, it may be a sign that your brain is out of whack. A widely-known Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (a condition that imposes obsessive thoughts and behaviors on its sufferers) also belongs here. Students are especially prone to anxiety because college means completely changing one’s habitual lifestyle and opening up to a whole lot of new stress factors – so if you feel that unreasonable fears and obsessive thoughts don’t disappear for a while, it may be time to start worrying.
4. Eating Disorders (Anorexia and Bulimia)
College is likely to become the first time in a student’s life when he/she is completely cut from home and both convenience and control imposed by family meals. Easily accessible unhealthy food makes gaining weight a common occurrence, which leads to problems with self-image. It, in turn, causes all kinds of obsessions like anorexia (fear of gaining weight, eventually leading to weight loss much exceeding what one needs to be healthy) and bulimia (combining binge eating with compensatory behaviors like self-induced vomiting or fasting). If not treated, the effects may be much worse than unpleasant eating habits, in some cases leading to kidney failure and death.
Not all unpleasant feelings mean that you have a mental condition – sometimes it is a result of objective reality. However, if any of the symptoms mentioned above persist, you should seriously consider getting professional help – just like any other disease, putting off treating mental issues only makes them worse.
Sylvia Kohl is an IT teacher with more than 8 years of professional experience. Her main spheres of interest are e-education and she convinced that learning process doesn’t stop after years in school and university.