Going to college is often one of the highlights in people’s lives, as it’s the perfect intersection of teenage abandon and the freedom of adulthood. Many individuals experience new opportunities, friends, and classes that help them discover who they are and who they want to be.
However, college students are having a more difficult time in recent years: depression and anxiety are now rife among the demographic, manifesting in 1 in 5 university students. These same mental health problems are also the top reasons that college students are seeking professional help, whether privately or on campus. These can be attributed to several factors. Here are three of the most common triggers of anxiety and depression in college students:
Social Media and Smartphone Use
Technology has rapidly evolved over the years to bring invaluable benefits to people all over the globe, but it’s also shown to have adverse effects. Social media is particularly intoxicating, especially for young people, as it encourages students to share their experiences and communicate with each other over technology instead of in person. This has also led to impaired social interactions while increasing the sense of isolation among many college students.
In fact, social media is so deeply ingrained in current college culture that many students often find themselves living dual lives: the real lives they live day-to-day, and the one they live on the Internet. The pressures of maintaining their virtual life have proved to be a stressor for many students, leading to anxiety and depression.
Excessive smartphone use has also affected the sleep patterns in college students, causing them to have poor quality sleep. Many students use their smartphone well into the night, with some even waking up to check notifications or answer messages. A regular lack of quality sleep is one of the major contributing factors to mental health disorders.
Another major trigger of anxiety and depression in college is substance abuse. While most think of this as excessive use of recreational drugs, the reality is more complex. Students are pressured to perform well and maintain good grades. Sometimes they have difficulty doing this on their own, so they seek the help of performance-enhancing drugs like Ritalin to sharpen their focus and prepare for exams.
These drugs can be very effective for patients suffering from certain disorders, but if they are used off-label, they pose a dangerous risk. Well-known side effects of popular cognitive enhancer drugs include anxiety and depression, which can exacerbate symptoms in a student already suffering from them.
Cigarette smoking has also contributed to sleep problems in college students, which also increases the likelihood of anxiety and depression. Overall, substance abuse of any kind—which is rampant among college students for a variety of reasons—is often a major trigger for the conditions.
Homesickness and Separation Anxiety
While it is less talked about, homesickness and separation anxiety can be a profound source of anxiety and depression. These feelings of isolation from familiar backgrounds tend to aggravate existing stressors, such as the financial stress of going to college and the fear of not getting a decent job after college.
Homesickness and separation anxiety can further isolate students, as they would be more inclined to stay in their rooms instead of mingling with other students. This period of adjustment is difficult for everyone, but for some students, it completely upends their college experience. The safety and stability of the home is suddenly juxtaposed with the very real fears of having an unstable albeit independent future, which can make students feel very anxious and depressed.
Fortunately, there are many resources available to help students with their mental health. There are 24-hour hotlines that are established specifically to assist students and help them get treatment for their mental health issues.
Additionally, even though technology can be a source of stress for students, there are plenty of methods online that connect students to a mental health professional. For instance, with Emote, students will have access to a qualified therapist in just a few taps.
It’s important to be cognizant of these triggers so that students and their support system can give them the strength and guidance needed to deal with anxiety and depression. With enough information, students will be able to seek help from experienced professionals to help them mitigate their symptoms in order to fully enjoy their college experience.
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