Common Mental Health Disorders Found On College Campuses

It’s hard to believe it, but the time for your student to gather their things, pack up the car, and say goodbye to summer friends is here again. After a year of remote learning, your student is likely heading off to school with a bit more gratefulness in their heart—glad to be away from home and back on campus. Although you may also be ready for the separation, you can’t help but worry about them in their home away from home. What are the most common mental health disorders found on college campuses, and what should you be aware of as the parent of a college student in 2021? 

Anxiety Disorders

Recent studies have shown that anxiety is the most common disorder cited as the reason college students seek out mental health assistance. Whether it’s test anxiety, panic attacks, or newly developed social anxiety as they readjust to life in person, anxiety can profoundly affect any college student’s life. 

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

ADHD is a disorder we hear about a lot in terms of higher education. In recent years, many have been exploiting its pharmacological treatment method to get ahead in their academics. An actual presentation of the disorder is marked by variances in brain development, difficulties in focusing, and a lack of organization of thought, schedule, and physical space. Other behavioral characteristics may also be present, such as hyperactivity or impulsiveness. 

Research demonstrates that two to eight percent of the college population lives with clinically significant ADHD, and roughly 25 % of all college students seeking disability services have been identified with ADHD. While ADHD is often diagnosed in childhood, the rigor required in college academics and lack of parental support in daily life may lead to instances where a proper diagnosis is warranted. 

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder, also referred to as manic-depressive disorder, is associated with dramatic shifts in mood, levels of energy, and the capability to confront the outside world. Different extremes of bipolar disorder are common among college students, ranging from mild to severe which would require hospital care. The average age of onset for this disorder is twenty-five, making the college years especially vulnerable.


Depression is another common mental health condition that you may find on college campuses. This is a medical condition characterized by isolation, feelings of sadness, seclusion, and a lack of motivation towards life. 

In the 2019 to 2020 school year, a survey showed that over one-third of the college student population had a moderate to severe bout of depression. Given the emergence of the pandemic in the year that followed and the mental health challenges it brought about, many college students may be struggling to return to “life as usual” this coming fall. 

Seeking Help For Mental Health Disorders

Many students fear disappointing their families or friends, and out of embarrassment, they do not receive the help they need. Left untreated, anxiety, depression, or any of the above-mentioned disorders may worsen and lead to a number of other concerns. 

Suicidal Ideation – Many people diagnosed with depression can experience deep feelings of futility, inconsequentiality, and sadness to the level of thinking about committing suicide.

Self-Injury – Self-injury, unlike suicide attempts, is an approach of causing self-harm and not a means of ending one’s life. The most common practices of self-injury are burning, cutting, or hurting the body’s surface. Although you may not be familiar with this extreme method of coping, estimates suggest that nearly 25% of college students have self-injured in one way or the other.

Substance Abuse – One of the other dangers to untreated mental health concerns is the potential that students will turn to substances instead of their support systems to help them cope. This practice, also known as self-medication, paves the way for addiction to take root. 


It is a well-known fact that the college years end up being a time where many students will experiment with alcohol and other drugs. Equally well-known, perhaps, is how easily something meant to be fun can turn into dependence and addiction. 

Reliance on substances is caused by the complex brain disease that encourages people to abuse substances even when the behavior leads to the detriment to themselves and the people close to them. The condition becomes even more challenging to treat when its roots lie in mental health concerns, and the pattern of turning to substances to cope becomes cemented. 

Treating Co-occurring Mental Health and Addiction Disorders At The Haven at Pismo

When your student is acting in ways that have you concerned, and you’re worried that a mental health condition and substance use may be at play, connect with one of our admissions counselors to talk about your next steps. Our team is experienced in working with co-occurring disorders, the exact team you want on the case when it comes to something as precious as your son or daughter. 

Call us today at 1-805-202-3440 to learn more!

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