College Students and Anxiety

Although college is usually depicted in TV shows and movies as a life full of frat parties and sporting events, the sad truth is that many students, especially freshmen, find themselves suffering from anxiety and depression. Some students find the transition from high school to college to be overwhelming. Many struggle with feelings of homesickness in addition to issues  with classes, roommates, and workload. Although most students now have the freedom that they always desired, they are also pulled away from family and friends, getting inadequate amounts of sleep, and often using illegal substances. Without anyone present to supervise them, some students find this new lifestyle stressful. To make matters worse, they often spend their time watching other kids apparently having the time of their lives on Instagram.  The question becomes, when are these feelings normal, and when do they require intervention?

Mary Commerford, PhD, director of the Furman Counseling Center at Barnard College believes that this type of activity of comparing your college experience to what you believe are other people’s, leads to more anxiety and unhappiness among freshmen.  She counsels students to recognize that it is normal to take some time with making new friends and adjusting to their new living situation.  Unfortunately, some students progress from normal “freshman blues” to serious mental health issues, especially if they experienced them before college.  The director of counseling and psychological services at Appalachian State University notes that anxiety has become typical in today’s college students. A study at our own Penn State showed that more than half of the students who visited the campus clinics stated that anxiety was a health concern for them. In fact, most college clinics have seen a tremendous increase in the number of students visiting campus mental health facilities.  This may be partially due to a decrease in the stigma surrounding mental health diagnoses. Although most counselors see students seeking treatment as a positive change, it has caused tremendous strain for campus mental health centers. These centers can often treat the mild cases of anxiety with several early interventions. But there is always the risk that if a center is at capacity and a student can’t get an appointment for an extended period of time that their condition could worsen. Studies, such as one performed at Ohio State, have shown that students who receive counseling are more likely to stay in school.


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A student knows themselves better than anyone else knows them. They need to recognize the symptoms of anxiety and even depression in themselves. Certainly if the symptoms  of sadness, fear, lack of sleep , lack of appetite, or social disinterest are affecting a student’s ability to succeed, then intervention seems necessary. Carrie Landa, the director of Behavioral Medicine at Student Health Services at Boston University simply believes that it is time to seek help if your stress is turning into distress. There is no shame in reaching out for help.  The mental health centers, although busy, will make every effort to assist you.



7 thoughts on “College Students and Anxiety

  1. Audrey Elyse Sakhnovsky

    This topic is highly relevant in today’s society and your blog post’s openness shows how destigmatized people have become to mental illness. In a way, I feel like because of the what I consider an epidemic of school-related anxiety and depression, people are more apt to expanding treatments rather than focusing on changing the pressures causing the issues. Something I wanted to add to this discussion is something I learned from Gender Psychology last semester. Although the stigma around mental illness has definitely lessened in society, there is still a gender divide in people who seek treatment. Due to societal norms, men are less likely to look for mental health treatment. Additionally, women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression than men are. For those willing and looking into seeking treatment for mental health issues, reading about some of the statistics about gender relevance in psychological treatment would be highly informative and help that person get an idea of what could be provided to them.

  2. Michael Robert Szawaluk

    Just like all the comments are saying- this is a very relevant post. Coming to college I was not sure of how I would transition from “getting by” in high school to having to be fully focused 100% of the time in college. Still, almost a month in, I am not sure how I am going to get by, it is not that my workload is overbearing, it is that I am not used to this sort of intense pressure. That being said, I have already missed two homework assignments and am currently freaking out thinking that it will destroy my GPA. But I keep reminding myself that I will be OK. And that, honestly, is the self-confidence everyone needs. If you are anything like me read up on this article :

  3. Melanie Noemi Campos

    I loved reading your post on anxiety. In recent years it seems that anxiety is something that is being talked about more often and something people are either accepting they have or are getting diagnosed for it. I was always a very outgoing person, when i came to college however i developed serious anxiety. I am from California so not only was i culture shocked and faced with the realities of college but i was also extremely homesick. I began to experience things that i had never experienced before. I would get terrible social anxiety, i would crack all my knuckles and i would feel sick at the thought of having to speak to a group of people. All i wanted to do was sit in my dorm and dream about being home. It was not until i watched a video on youtube by a woman named Meghan RIenks that i decided i needed to address my issue. It is a very serious issue that could lead to other things like depression, therefore, i am very glad it is being talked about. A new platform for mental issues of this sort needs to be presented, below i linked Meghan’s video. I hope it can help those who do not suffer from anxiety understand a bit of what it is like.

  4. Madeline Elizabeth Dittrich

    This is a great topic to write about, especially since it’s so relevant to many freshman right now. You bring up a great point when you mention social media. Many college students, especially girls, make it seem like they are having a lot more fun than they actually are by posting cool pictures. I think it;s important for everyone to remember that this is a time of adjustment, and it’s okay if you don’t love college right from the start. It’s an adjustment and it takes time. Here’s an article I found about adjusting to college: Check it out!

  5. Justine Arlexandra Cardone

    At my orientation for Penn State, we had to watch a short powerpoint and discuss mental illness and how it is so relevant on college campuses. It was scary to me at first to see the statistics, however, now that I am here I can definitely see how easily this can happen. It is a tremendous change from many students old life and for some, it can be overwhelming. Time management is key to staying sane in my opinion. Students need to balance school, social, and personal time. You also need time to do your laundry, go to the store when you run out of things, and attend extracurriculars. When there is only 24 hours in one day, this can seem like too much and become very stressful. I also think it is important like you said, to know when you are having problems that need to be addressed. In this article,, it states that 25% of students have a diagnosable illness and only 40% will address that and go get help. That is a scary statistic and I believe that it is also important to watch out for the people around you so this number of individuals not seeking help can decrease.

  6. Michael Gerard Shevlin

    In relation to the stressful lives of college students, I came across something on Twitter the other day called Busy Lifestyle Syndrome. Apparently, when students take in too much information on a daily basis, mainly through phones and TV, but also through schoolwork, they can become very forgetful and experience serious memory loss. So not only does college lead to depression and anxiety, but it also causes memory loss. Check out this link to learn some more about it

  7. Madison Danielle Starr

    This is topic that is extremely relevant. I think it’s wonderful that you not only took the time to write the post, but that you also made the statement that there was no shame in receiving help. A lot of people, even those not struggling severely with depression or anxiety, can benefit from seeing a psychologist. It allows you to talk about whatever you need to get off your chest, and allow an objective viewpoint to help you sort things out. Here’s an article that explains signs of you possibly needing to talk to someone: .

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