Why Is Anxiety Such a Common Issue for College & University Students?


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Stress can be prevalent in every stage of life. Nearly every person you meet is probably struggling with some sort of stress that’s causing them to feel anxious. But those anxious feelings are especially true for college and university students. Students may face challenges unique to the college experience, including living away from family, developing new friendships, managing a rigorous course load and deciding their career paths.

College and university can take a toll on a student’s mental health, both in and out of the classroom. That’s why many students are diagnosed with anxiety while in school. Though it’s a common issue, students should get treatment, as their mental and physical health are compromised, as well as their quality of life.

We’ll talk about how common it is for college and university students to be affected by anxiety, then we’ll discuss the factors that contribute to the anxiety as well as potential treatment options.

The commonality of anxiety in college and university students

Although some amount of stress is normal for college students, excessive stress can lead to the development of an anxiety disorder. An anxiety disorder is a diagnosable condition that indicates that one’s ability to cope effectively with stress is impaired. Examples of anxiety disorders are generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Anxiety disorders are the most common types of mental health disorders, affecting approximately 30% of adults at one point in their lifetime. They also have a high rate among college students in particular. Approximately 37% of college students report anxiety disorder symptoms.

Anxiety is a mental health disorder that can interfere with your ability to carry out your daily responsibilities, such as coursework and part-time jobs. It can also affect your relationships with your family, friends, significant others and classmates.

Why anxiety is common in college and university students

It’s simple enough to say that college or university is an overall stressful experience, but it’s important to explore the particular reasons why anxiety is a prevalent mental health disorder in college and university students.

The best way to approach the topic is by breaking down the largest issues that can cause anxious thoughts and emotions, including:

  • Coursework — The coursework that college and university students take on can be difficult to handle. A syllabus for just one class can include hours of reading, long papers and comprehensive exams. Multiplying that by the average number of classes taken per semester, approximately four classes, the coursework can quickly become overwhelming and cause anxiety that makes it difficult to concentrate.

  • Being away from home — For many college and university students, this is the first time that they are on their own and away from their families. While the independence can be exciting, it can also take a toll on your mental and emotional health. Homesickness is a common factor for anxiety. It can also be stressful to learn the responsibilities that you’re used to your parents doing for you, such as laundry and grocery shopping.

  • Finances — Money problems are a common cause of anxiety for all adults. In college, it can be difficult to budget if you’re unable to get financial support from your family. Many students take on part-time jobs. But classes can limit their availability, making it hard to earn the money needed for necessities, such as food and transportation. It can also be stressful to take on large sums of debt that come along with student loans.

How college and university students can help their anxiety

Anxiety can make you feel like you’ll never be free from the unending worry and stress that take up every part of your mind. When your anxiety interferes with your ability to turn in quality schoolwork, be productive at your job, or form connections with your peers, it’s time to seek professional help.

Therapy is one of the most important tools in the mental health care space. If you’re a college or university student struggling to manage persistent or worsening anxiety symptoms, then talking to a mental health care provider can help. A licensed clinical therapist can help you get to the root of your anxiety by exploring your thoughts and emotions from every angle. You’ll also develop coping mechanisms to handle stress in the future.

Lightfully U can help college and university students treat their anxiety

With Lightfully U, students can seek evidence-based, clinical mental health care through our Virtual Intensive Outpatient Program, or vIOP. From the comfort of your bedroom or dorm room, you can receive treatment for your anxiety with one-on-one, family and group therapy sessions that work around your busy school schedule.

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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