/ Jan 03, 2020

Is Your College Student Anxious?

Anxiety is now the number one mental health problem on college campuses across the United States. According to the latest statistics available, 10% of students have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression, causing concern among parents and educators about the increasing risk of suicide.

What is anxiety?

Let’s begin with what anxiety isn’t. Anxiety is not fleeting — it’s not about  being nervous about taking a single exam. It’s not being worried about a first date or rushing a fraternity or sorority. A college student who struggles with an anxiety disorder tends to have concerns that pop up again and again and again. These repetitive thoughts and concerns may cause physical symptoms, including sweating, shaking, even dizziness.  

Why is anxiety so concerning?

Schoolwork suffers. Students who experience anxiety can have trouble focusing in class and on homework. They may get lower grades. These students are also at risk of developing dangerous coping mechanisms such as binge drinking and illegal drug use. And finally, they may experience higher rates of attempting suicide.  

5 Causes of Anxiety

Some young people are more likely to be generally anxious because it is built into their biology. Whether there is this baseline anxiety or not, there are numerous added reasons students experience anxiety in college. For some, it may be the longest time they’ve ever been away from home. Do you remember how hard it was to adjust to living with strangers for the first time? There are additional factors as well. Several more are revealed below. 

  1. Courses. Classes are harder in college than they were in high school. Good grades are more difficult to earn.
  2. Expectations. It can be upsetting to think you’re not meeting parents’ expectations. This is not only true of academics. This pressure can also relate to dating and friendships.
  3. Technology. It’s not a surprise to learn that cellphone use can be another source of anxiety for college students. For some, too much time spent on phones interferes with relationships, schoolwork, and sleep.
  4. Sleep. Getting enough rest can be especially tough in college. Friends come in and out of rooms. Hallways can be noisy and disruptive. And of course, there’s always studying to do.
  5. Nutrition. A poor diet can make anxiety worse. Skipping meals or eating too much junk food may contribute to negative emotions.

5 Opportunities for Support

  1. On campus. To help with academic stress, encourage your son or daughter to see professors during office hours and take advantage of any free tutoring that’s offered.
  2. At home. Urge your college student to call home. Texting is great, but evidence shows hearing a loved one’s voice is even better. Communicating via social media may not be as effective as calling.
  3. Connections. Just because your young person is in college, doesn’t mean you need to let go 100% of the time. In fact, having a secure attachment to parents provides students a foundation for forming friendships. It also reduces social anxiety. Having meaningful connections with peers may also prevent anxiety in the first place.
  4. Self-care. Check-in with your son to make sure he’s taking care of himself. This may include touching base about how much exercise he’s getting and how well he’s able to sleep. Be ready to offer strategies to help.
  5. Nutrition . Many college students benefit from well-meaning reminders about proper nutrition. These tips are useful and support healthy eating habits.
Urge your college student to call home. Texting is great, but evidence shows hearing a loved one’s voice is even better.

Getting Even More Help

Resources are likely available on your son or daughter’s college campus. Students should check with their school’s health office to connect with appropriate professionals and programs.

In addition, the below national organizations offer helpful information and support.  

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

An international group of mental health professionals who concentrate on the prevention and treatment of anxiety, depression, and other disorders.  

Active Minds

This organization focuses on mental health on college campuses. There are more than 450 chapters across the country.

Jed Foundation

A non-profit supporting teens and young adults with suicide prevention programs and mental health education.

Actively Moving Forward

AMF is uniquely positioned to provide resources to college students who suffer from anxiety and other complications due to the loss of a loved one. Chapters are available on college campuses across the country.  

Art by: Aisa Binhashim

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Allison Gilbert

Allison Gilbert is Senior Writer for the CPTC. Her pieces cover an array of topics including self-care, bullying, grief, and resilience. Allison is author of numerous books and speaks across the country to corporations, non-profits, and community groups. You can learn more by visiting www.allisongilbert.com.

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