The Secret Struggle of College Freshmen

Millions of college freshmen are moving into school right now, flooding the nation’s colleges and universities to begin their studies. While this time is filled with hope, excitement, and promise, it can also be fraught with anxiety and worry as the first-years struggle to find their place in a totally new environment.

When we think of the college freshmen in our lives, we often wish them luck with their chosen field of study, assuming they will be going off on the adventure of their lives meeting new people and traveling to new places. That can all be true. However, that can also come with an undercurrent of fear, that in many cases can grip a student in the most unexpected ways.

Perhaps on top of the wishes of luck for those fresh-faced freshmen, we should be checking in on them regularly to make sure they’re OK – not just academically but socially, mentally, and emotionally as well.

Students facing this brand new life experience can easily descend into depression from being overwhelmed with such a major life change. Between school work, finding new friends, holding down a job, and generally finding their way in the world, college can be a terrifying place for many.

Depression in College Students

Depression is a mood disorder that brings on persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest in a person. While college depression isn’t necessarily a clinical diagnosis, it’s considered to be depression that starts as one enters and proceeds through college.

College students come up against many challenges, pressures and anxieties as they enter college and navigate their way through. Those challenges can bring on feelings of being overwhelmed, confused and homesick. This is often the first time they have lived on their own, representing its own form of culture shock on top of the rigors of college academics.

As they adapt to new schedules and workloads, life with roommates, and determining just how they belong, they can find themselves unable to cope with all the new stimuli. On top of those things, they may be experiencing money problems as well as issues with intimacy and forming social and romantic relationships.

Coping with these changes during the transition from adolescence to adulthood can either trigger or unveil depression during these college years.

Signs of College Depression

It’s completely normal for many college students to occasionally feel sad, anxious and homesick; however, those emotions usually come and go, or pass within a few days. On the other hand, depression affects how your child feels, thinks and behaves over a longer period of time and can often result in a host of emotional and physical problems.

As a parent or friend of a recent college freshman, be on the lookout for these signs and symptoms:

  • Feelings of being sad, empty or hopeless
  • Outbursts of anger, frustration and irritability, even over trivial things
  • Loss of interest in normal activities, such as sports or hobbies
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Changes in appetite: reduction in appetite and corresponding weight loss, as well as increased cravings for food, resulting in weight gain
  • Anxiety, restlessness, agitation
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, and fixation on failures from the past
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating and making decisions
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
  • Unexplained physical pain, such as headaches or back pain
  • Slower thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Academic problems that are inconsistent with previous performance

If you suspect that your child is dealing with depression, talk to him or her about it and truly listen. Make sure they make an appointment with the on-campus doctor as soon as possible, as many colleges offer mental health services.

Alternatively, contact Comprehensive MedPsych Systems, with several locations in Alabama, Florida, and Indiana. We offer depression diagnosis, treatment, and counseling. Please get in touch at 941-363-0878.

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