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The Warning Signs of Depression and Anxiety in College Students

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College can be a stressful and overwhelming time. Students with depression or an anxiety disorder may struggle to function and pass their classes. Students dealing with these issues for the first time may not even recognize they have a problem. Without help, they may have serious trouble coping in this new environment.

Knowing the  warning signs of depression and anxiety can help you recognize a problem in yourself or others. This article will look at the warning signs of depression and anxiety in college students.

Changes in Sleeping Habits

Everyone enjoys sleeping in once in a while, but if a student spends most of the time in bed, it could be a sign of depression. Depression often causes physical and mental exhaustion, so getting out of bed in the morning can be more challenging if you are depressed. Depression can also bring insomnia, making it hard to get to sleep or stay asleep. Sleep troubles can also lead to anxiety because the student is missing classes or trying to throw assignments together at the last minute. Anxiety can also play into insomnia, as a person gets stuck in the “I have to be up for classes in five more hours” cycle and loses sleep.

Mood Swings and Irritability

One of the warning signs of depression is frequent mood swings and irritability. Individuals might be happy one minute, then angry or crying uncontrollably the next, or they might just shut down. Mood swings can happen at any moment for seemingly no reason. If you see a pattern of mood swings or irritability that lasts several days, this is a warning sign of depression and other types of mood disorders.

Changes in Appetite

With depression, appetite and eating habits may change. Some people have an increased appetite and will start eating more, while others may lose their appetite and never be hungry.

Trouble Connecting

When students feel depressed, they have trouble connecting with their close friends and family. They may seem to lose interest in their hobbies, social activities, life, or school. Even friendships can suffer. If you see someone isolating, that person may be feeling depressed.

Excessive Guilt

Students with depression or anxiety often feel guilty about withdrawing from people and activities they care about. They might avoid others because they don’t want to be a burden or feel they are bad friends because they’re withdrawn. When college students talk negatively about themselves or seem to feel guilty for no reason, this is a warning sign of depression or anxiety.

Unexplainable Pain

Depression and anxiety can take a toll on your physical and mental health, and have been known to cause unexplainable pain. If a college student has unexplained back, shoulder, neck, or chest pain, this could be a warning sign of depression.

How You Can Help a College Student Experiencing Depression or Anxiety

Here are a few things you can do to help college students who display the warning signs of depression or anxiety.

  • Be prepared to listen if they want to open up, and try not to ask too many questions that might make the conversation too intimidating. Do not push them to talk; if they are not ready to talk, respect that.
  • Validate their feelings and struggles, and do not let them dismiss their struggles because “other people have it worse.”  Remind them they are not alone.
  • Encourage them to break up big tasks into smaller ones so they do not seem as overwhelming.
  • For students with noticeable changes in eating or sleeping habits, do not criticize or harp on this, as these are touchy subjects for anyone.
  • For those who withdraw, try inviting them to grab some ice cream with you or order a pizza and try to chill and watch a movie at home.
  • If they feel excessive guilt, remind them they are not a burden to you, and let them know they have nothing to feel guilty about.
  • Encourage them to seek support and use their existing support group.
  • Recommend an anti-anxiety app that can help them get calm and centered when they are triggered.
  • Help them identify triggers and assemble an on-the-go anxiety coping kit to help them when they are out and about.

If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialists can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.

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About the Author: Auz Burger is a freelance writer and an expert in mental health. She has a BA from Washington State University and has been writing and editing professionally for over a decade.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio: https://www.pexels.com/photo/tired-female-student-lying-on-book-in-library-3808080/

Resources to Recover and Our Sponsor Laurel House Celebrate Black History Month

February is Black History Month, a time for celebrating the outstanding achievements of Blacks and African Americans and their central role in US history. It is also a time to recognize the struggles Black people have faced throughout our nation's history and give tribute to the strength and resilience of generations of Black Americans who have risen above adversity.

Black History Month originated from an idea by Harvard-educated historian Carter G. Woodson, who wrote the Journal of Negro History in 1916 to herald the achievements of overlooked African Americans in US history and culture. In 1926 he led an effort by the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History (ASALH) to officially declare the second week of February as "Negro History Week." These dates align with the birthdays of two crucial figures in Black American history: Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809), who signed the Emancipation Proclamation officially ending slavery in the United States, and the Black American abolitionist and author Frederick Douglass (February 14, 1818), who escaped from slavery to become one of the most influential civil and human rights advocates of the 19th century. In 1976, President Gerald Ford gave official governmental recognition to the observance by declaring February "Black History Month."

Without the contributions of Blacks and African Americans to more than 500 years of US history, culture, entertainment and the arts, science, athletics, industry and the economy, public service, and the Armed Forces, we would not be the country we are today.


The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.

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