25 Signs Your College Student Might Be Facing Mental Health Challenges

Is Your College Student Suffering from Mental Health Issues?


Today's college students report feeling more stressed, depressed and anxious than ever before. If you're concerned about your college-age student's mental health, look out for these top signs of trouble.

A Widespread Problem

A substantial amount of college students struggle with mental health disorders, and there has been a striking increase in the demand for mental health services on campus. According to research by the American Psychological Association, about one in three college freshmen show symptoms of mental health disorders. The most common issues are generalized anxiety disorder, major depression and relationship trauma. 

Unfortunately, young college students often turn to drugs or alcohol to help cope with their issues. For this reason, it's important to watch for the following telltale signs of a mental health issue, so you can offer timely help.

  1. Excessive worrying or irrational fear
  2. Feeling excessively low or sad
  3. Problems learning or concentrating
  4. Confused thinking
  5. Extreme or abrupt mood changes
  6. Aggressive behavior
  7. Feelings of euphoria or uncontrollable highs
  8. Prolonged or powerful feelings of anger or irritability
  9. Avoiding friends, family and social activities
  10. Difficulties relating to others
  11. Feeling fatigued and low energy
  12. Changes in sleeping patterns
  13. Frequent nightmares
  14. Lack of appetite, increased hunger or changes in eating habits
  15. Low or heightened sex drive
  16. Risk-taking and promiscuity
  17. Hallucinations, delusions or difficulty perceiving reality
  18. Inability to notice changes in personal behavior, personality or feelings
  19. Abuse of substances such as drugs and alcohol
  20. Multiple physical symptoms without clear causes (such as stomach aches, headaches, vague aches and pains)
  21. Thoughts of suicide
  22. Inability to handle daily problems and stress or carry out daily activities
  23. An intense concern with appearance or fear of weight gain
  24. Changes in school performance
  25. Missing classes

A recent Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors survey reported that 95 percent of college counseling directors say the number of students with significant psychological problems is an increasing concern on their campuses. What's more, many say the availability of campus-based psychiatric services is inadequate. Even as universities across the country and world are experiencing a rise in mental health issues on campus, they have been unable to expand their counseling centers fast enough to keep pace with the growing demand for services.

What You Can Do

Although a study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology found that most mental health symptoms begin years before college, the dramatic life changes and stresses that tend to occur as students enter their college years often exacerbate existing symptoms. It's also not uncommon for young people to develop anxiety and depression once arriving on campus, even if they have no history of mental health issues.

If you suspect your child may suffer from a severe mental illness that includes hallucinations or delusions, reach out to your primary care doctor, health insurance provider or state mental health authority for more resources. With severe mental illness, a proper diagnosis is the first step to getting a proper treatment option that may include medication, social support, counseling (therapy) and education.

For more common mental health issues, such as generalized anxiety disorder, major depression and relationship trauma, encourage your college student to seek counseling to help uncover the underlying causes and develop safe, healthy coping strategies.

Our caring therapists can help you and your family overcome life’s greatest challenges. Contact us today!