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Mental Health

7 Mental Health Challenges Facing Students

Mental health itself is pretty fragile. Given the fast pace of the modern world and the abundance of stress and pressure, maintaining one’s mental health can be rather difficult. Although mental health challenges can affect a person at any age, it has been proven that students are of the highest risk. According to the report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, as many as 75% of lifetime mental illnesses develop by the age of 24.

These numbers clearly showcase that mental health challenges are real! Therefore, it is incredibly important for everyone to be more informed. Students may have minimal signs but could still be facing mental health issues.  If everyone, especially students are aware of the different mental health challenges, they will then be able to recognize and combat them.

In the list below, we have gathered the 7 most common illnesses (most often) faced by students:

1. Depression

Depression is probably the most common mental illness facing young people. According to stats, about 5-8% of young Americans are affected by depression every year, (and these are only officially reported cases!) In reality, depression affects each of us from time to time. How we choose to cope with our depression is certainly what impacts us in the long-term.


There are quite a few possible causes of depression, some of which are circumstantial, while others may be biological. Among students, some of the most common triggers that promote depression are:

  • Early childhood traumas
  • Family history of mood disorders or depression
  • Specific brain structure when the frontal lobe is less active
  • Certain medical conditions
  • Drug use


Signs of depression are difficult to recognize. If you lack motivation or are tired, you may have these symptoms too. Therefore it is necessary to keep track of your feelings and mood. Some common symptoms of depression include:

  • Lack of concentration;
  • A feeling of hopelessness;
  • Changes in appetite;
  • Self-doubt;
  • Lack of energy, etc.

Depression is known for impacting mood and mental health. In the case of a student, this disease can influence one’s self-esteem, energy levels, and motivation. In addition, it can reduce a student’s desire and ability to socialize. Also, the effects of depression can go beyond mental issues and even cause some physical health problems like inflammations, chronic pain, insomnia, significant weight gain or loss, etc. As a result, a student can get isolated, feeling completely drained and out of motivation, as well as experience some serious mental and physical health issues, and show poor academic performance.

2. Anxiety

Another common issue facing students is anxiety. The biggest problem with anxiety disorders is that they are very easy to treat but very hard to recognize. Even with clear symptoms, anxiety can be easily confused with the increase of stress levels of basic burn out.


Anxiety is one of the most viral mental health challenges not without a reason. The problem here is that it can be caused by a wide variety of external factors and, primarily, stresses. For example, anxiety disorders can be evoked by one or several of the following factors:

  • Panic, phobic or stress disorders
  • Medical illnesses and consumption of certain medicines that include anxiety in the list of possible side effects
  • Stress at college
  • Issues in personal relationships
  • Financial stress
  • Drug use


Once again, similar to depression, symptoms of anxiety are difficult to spot. Some main symptoms of anxiety are:

  • Problems with sleep
  • Irrational fears
  • Ongoing muscle tension
  • Excessive worrying
  • Self-doubt
  • Perfectionism
  • Panic attacks
  • Compulsive behaviour

Apart from the symptoms described above, anxiety can have a range of additional effects on students in particular. Thus, young people who suffer from anxiety normally show poor academic performance and achievement, lower self-concept and self-efficacy. Poor interpersonal relationships and unpredictable behaviours are also side effects of anxiety. Additionally, this disease can influence students’ working memory, making it hard to retain new information or recall what they’ve already learned.

3. Addictions

Not many may know this but Substance Abuse Disorders of various severity levels are faced by almost half of all college students. This includes drug and alcohol addiction. In the case of addictions, it is vital for students to be able to recognize the signs of it in themselves and their peers and know where to get help.


Although it may be quite obvious that any kind of substance abuse disorder is caused by excessive and irresponsible use of certain substances such as alcohol and drugs. For example, childhood traumas and stressful experiences, family history, as well as personal history can also play big roles in the development of addictions.


Although various drugs vary in symptoms, common symptoms of addictions are:

  • Unexplainable seizures
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Unusual weight changes
  • Tremors

Addictions can have a very significant impact on students. They lead to a whole range of major issues such as reduced physical activities, poor mental and physical health, nutritional diseases, and anxiety. Additionally, all sorts of addictions are known to lead to a significant drop in academic performance and interpersonal relationships.

4. Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are bound to mental health and this is another problem facing young students. There is a wide variety of eating disorders that are commonly observed in students, including anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia, binge eating, etc.


Eating disorders are most often triggered by an unhealthy approach to eating, including the following:

  • Excessive focus on dieting or healthy eating
  • Use of dietary supplements
  • Excessive exercising
  • Constant dissatisfaction with one’s body


Eating disorders, similar to all mental health challenges, can be very detrimental to one’s health. The clearest symptoms of eating disorders are:

  • Frequent weight fluctuations
  • Overeating drove by emotions
  • Feeling of guilt for eating
  • Irregular eating patterns
  • Restrictive or yo-yo dieting, etc.

Eating disorders can have a significant impact on students’ cognitive skills and academic achievement. Apart from the obvious effects of eating disorders, students who suffer from such diseases often demonstrate drastic mood swings, apathy, irritability, and low self-concept.

5. Sleep Disorders

Having to multitask daily life with schoolwork, students are often neglecting healthy rest and losing sleep. Young people often stay up all night to study, wake up too early and drink too many energy drinks during the day – including coffee. Due to this, sleep disorders can arise.


When it comes to various sleep disorders, the environment plays a large role in its formation. Among students, some of the most common reasons for sleep disorders can be:

  • Medical condition
  • Use of certain medicines that can cause sleep issues
  • Excessive stress
  • Physical disturbances like headaches, chronic pain, and others
  • Other mental health disorders like anxiety or depression
  • Environmental issues


Common symptoms of sleep disorders are:

  • Difficulty to fall asleep
  • Low quality of sleep
  • Frequent waking up during the night
  • Difficulty falling back asleep after you wake up
  • Low energy levels

Deprivation of sleep can influence all spheres of a student’s life. Young people who experience sleep disorders often remain in a constant state of fatigue. As a result of sleep deprivation, individuals feel completely drained, unmotivated, and passive. Not only this can affect one’s performance at college, but it can also lead to a growing feeling of irritation, anger, and indifference, thus, getting in the way of normal life and interaction with other people.

6. Panic Attacks

Other common mental health challenges facing students include panic attacks and disorders. As a result of high-stress levels, constant lack of energy, and poor rest, panic disorders can begin to develop.


Apart from the causes described above, other issues leading to the formation of panic disorders are:

  • Medication withdrawal
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Mitral valve prolapse (when one of the heart’s valves is unable to close correctly)
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Use of stimulant substances like cocaine, amphetamines, and even caffeine


The main symptoms of panic attacks include:

  • Fast heart rate
  • Excessive sweating
  • Lack of breath
  • Chest discomfort or pain
  • Dizziness

Regular panic attacks can also have a dramatic effect on a student’s life by interrupting normal activities. Consequently, such students may find it hard to stay engaged in class and beyond it. They may even feel self-conscious and isolated and try to avoid places that (in their opinion) may cause another attack.


The ADHD or Attention-Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder is another common mental health illness developed in young people. This disorder is most often caused due to a lack of proper rest, an intensive schedule, and an abundance of work.


Attention-Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder can be a result of different issues, for example:

  • Serious head injuries
  • Certain brain function and anatomy (when the elements responsible for activity level and attention are not functioning properly)
  • Prematurity
  • Prenatal exposures (for example, from nicotine or alcohol consumption)
  • Family history – this is probably one of the most common causes because ADHD is known to run in families and be passed through genes


Here are the key symptoms of ADHD:

  • Poor memory
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty completing tasks
  • Hyperactivity
  • Feelings of fidgety and restlessness

Obviously, ADHD has a huge impact on one’s brain function and academic achievements. Hence, students facing this disorder have trouble concentrating, processing and retaining information. As a result of this, many students have difficulties in their studies and tend to get low grades.

The Bottom Line

Due to a constant lack of time, exhaustion from the excessive academic load, and generally intensive schedules, students can suffer from a variety of illnesses. The problems described in this article are just a few of many risks facing young people, though the most common ones.

Mental health challenges facing students are very real. Due to this reason, it is vital to increase mental health awareness. School authorities and teachers should contribute time and effort to educate young people about the possible risks, ways to avoid and handle them, and otherwise provide support and help to students facing such issues. Only this way it will be possible to mitigate the problem and, over some time, overcome it.

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Nicole Cowart
Nicole Cowart

This post was created by Nicole Cowart. Nicole is a professional academic writer from with a degree in the field of mental health who helps students cope with their college tasks. Being a specialist in the sphere of mental health and interacting with hundreds of college students, Nicole knows first-hand how many issues students are facing, and, in this article, she shares her knowledge with us.

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