Causes of Anxiety in College Students

College is often touted as an exciting time in life where young adults will enjoy new experiences, make new friends, and begin establishing themselves as adults in the world. But all too often, young people get to college and find themselves instead overwhelmed by stress and anxiety.

In addition to making the normal routines of college difficult, anxiety can have particularly adverse effects on a young mind. Unfortunately, the brains of young adults and the college environment readily contribute to anxiety, leaving more than 60% of students to experience anxiety.

Why College Students are More Likely to Experience Anxiety 

Living with anxiety is never enjoyable. But in a college setting, anxiety can cause students to experience academic problems or try coping with anxiety in unhealthy ways, such as by drinking or drug use. 

There are several different reasons that the majority of students first entering college experience anxiety including:

  • Ongoing Brain Development – Until the mid-20s, when the majority of students are in college, the neural pathways of the brain are not yet fully developed, particularly in the frontal lobe, which handles the decision making processes. This means college students are not always making the best decisions, which can mean frequent setbacks that contribute to anxiety and unhealthy decisions for coping with anxiety.
  • Departure from Family and Friends – College students who move away from home have less immediate access to family and friends who they previously relied on when feeling anxiety. Instead, they are faced with managing the anxiety on their own.
  • New Environment – An environment change is always stressful, and for many students, entering college can be the first significant change in their lives. This brings new challenges which are often stressful.
  • Less Sleep – Sleep is key for healthy mental processing, but between studying to meet the demands of classes, extracurricular activities, and spending time with friends, the majority of college students do not get the 8 to 9 hours of sleep recommended for their age group. This will naturally increase the risk of anxiety.
  • Uncertainty – Throughout college, many students are faced with the questions of what they will do next and are faced with the task of sometimes making life changing decisions, adding pressure to each of their opportunities and setbacks.

All of these factors contribute to anxiety among college age adults and make it a primary reason why  people in this age group should work with a psychiatrist to manage anxiety throughout their college careers and be set up for success in future years. 

For college students in Dallas-Fort Worth and the surrounding area, Dr. Sehdev at Aware Behavioral Health works with young adults on the anxiety concerns and challenges specific to this time in your life. To get help with anxiety if you are a college student in Dallas, send a message to Aware Behavioral Health to schedule an appointment.

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