There is a growing concern over the mental health challenges that college teens face. Evidence indicates an increase in levels of anxiety, stress, and depression over the last few decades with college students being the most affected group. This is because millennials are vulnerable to the stress college life brings and have challenges in dealing with their emotions.
In the year 2000, a study showed that an ordinary high school student had identical levels of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient of the 1950s. Another research conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness concluded that one in four students experience a mental illness, with 75% of the conditions presenting before the age of 24.
These staggering statistics prove how crucial it is to create awareness about this emerging epidemic. Young adults, many of whom will be away from their primary support systems, need to know how to identify the signs and symptoms of common mental health conditions and how to deal or cope with them. The goal of this article is to discuss in detail the 3 main mental health issues that college students face.
Depression is quite common among college students. In 2013, a survey done by Association of University and College Counseling Centre Directors concluded that 36% of university students were found to have suffered from depression. The stress of moving away from home and learning to live independently, manage tough coursework and meet new people can leave students feeling helpless and inadequate therefore result in depression.
Depression is not a character flaw but a serious illness that interferes with normal function and daily life and could lead to suicidal thoughts. There are different types of depressive disorders. This includes major depression, which is usually discrete, chronic low grade persistent depressive disorder and psychotic depression which is the most severe and is characterized by hallucinations. Other types include seasonal affective disorder that presents during specific seasons such as winter and premenstrual dysphoric disorder that affects women prior to their menses.
Signs and symptoms include:
- Diminished interest in activities that were previously enjoyable.
- Restlessness and slowed behavior.
- Appetite loss or over-eating.
- Difficulty in concentrating.
- Extreme sadness, hopelessness or anger.
- Suicidal thoughts .
If you regularly present with any of these symptoms, it is important to seek professional guidance from your primary health care or student health care center. You do not have to suffer alone as there are people willing and equipped to help you. Treatment includes talk therapy and medication.
It is normal to feel anxious now and then. However, anxiety becomes problematic when it is excess and begins to affect someone’s daily life and relationships. Anxiety disorders are very common in the U.S. According to The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 25% of teens suffer from anxiety. The causes of anxiety disorder are not fully understood and stem from a combination of factors such as stress, life experiences, genetics, or changes in brain chemicals.
Types of anxiety disorders include panic attacks which are characterized by sudden feelings of terror accompanied by hyperventilation and palpitations, social anxiety disorder or social phobia, general anxiety disorder and specific anxiety disorder.
- Worry and fear.
- Difficulty in concentrating.
- Sweating and dizziness.
- Shortness of breath.
- Frequent stomach upset and diarrhea.
- Chest pains.
- Tense muscles.
Treatment options include medication, yoga, psychotherapy, meditation and transcranial magnetic stimulation.
3. Eating Disorders
Eating disorders start between ages 18 to 21 and therefore are most common among college students. The vast majority of students suffering from eating disorders do not realize the extent of the disease and therefore, they do not seek any help. Anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating are the most common eating disorders. These disorders can result in serious mental and physical complications that can be life-threatening if left untreated.
Patients with Anorexia Nervosa consider themselves as being overweight even though they are not. They weigh themselves frequently and observe a very strict diet, avoiding certain foods and eating only small quantities. This disorder has the highest mortality rate of all the eating disorders as patients die from complications of starvation or suicide.
Signs and symptoms include restricted eating, emaciation, intense fear of gaining weight, lethargy, low blood pressure and low self-esteem that is influenced by body weight perceptions.
In Bulimia Nervosa, patients have frequent and recurrent episodes of binge-eating. This behavior is followed by forced vomiting, fasting, over exercising and excessive use of diuretics and laxatives. Patients maintain a relatively healthy normal weight.
Symptoms include feelings of lack of control while eating, chronic sore throat, electrolyte imbalance, and acid reflux disorder.
There are a lot of misconceptions that revolve around these disorders. One of them is that eating disorders are women issues and do not affect men. Because of this, men who are affected do not seek medical assistance. Therefore, it is important to create more awareness about this issue and advice people suffering to seek medical guidance since these disorders are treatable.
The biggest barrier to getting medical support for mental health disorders is a stigma. People often feel embarrassed to reach out for help and therefore end up suffering on their own. Like any other medical issue, if left untreated, mental health disorders can worsen and make it hard for students to cope with daily life . Therefore, it is vital to find a good therapist or support group and get the medical care you need to feel better and confident about yourself.
Has this article been educative to you? Feel free to add your thoughts or any other mental health challenges that face college teens in the comment section.
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