Academic Stress Causing Addictions, Depression and Anxiety Disorders in College Students

Here is a familiar story. Peter was very excited about life after 12th grade. The thought of college would keep him up most nights as his mind made up colorful scenarios that will play out while in college. Even the prospect of endless studies assignments wouldn’t dissuade him. Trying to order an essay online is the last resort type of option but it would definitely take care of that problem. Everyone could tell he was looking forward to college just by watching him shine his thirty-two enamels whenever the word “college” is whispered.

Student studying

Student studying

It didn’t take long, and his dreams came through – he got into college. He was a very bright student, so nobody expected him to have a hard time adjusting.  Long story short, three years down the line, Peter is out of school earlier than he should have. Stories have it that he started flunking his papers, got into drugs, and finally, attempted taking his own life.

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Peter above may be a figment of my imagination, but his story is very true. Many similar stories abound over the web and while some of these were not as serious as Peter’s, others paid the ultimate price. There is an increasing incidence of suicide attempts and drug abuse among college students. Several studies have identified important risk factors that may account for this trend. These include but are not limited to pressure from home, financial difficulties, and academic stress. Among those who lived to tell their stories, the most reoccurring risk factor was academic stress. Anyone who has been through college will at this point nod in agreement as the college syllabus is no child’s play. Some students, however, to reduce their stress levels and get more free time use writing services where they pay for papers so that their grades do not fall.

The role of academic stress in the declining state of mental health among students

As stated above, stress is a common denominator underlying many cases of mental health problems encountered in students. These mental health issues most importantly include depression and anxiety.

In college, students are faced with a new environment, teaching method, academic material, increased workload, and syllabus. For most students, adaptation is not a problem as they can adjust to the changes while for some, the story is quite different. When this category of students fails to adjust, they are set on a path down the slippery slope of depression and anxiety and if they do not get the necessary help they need, they may end up with a sorry story.

The slippery slope that leads to anxiety and depression

While in college, it is completely normal and expected that students will occasionally feel anxious, sad, frustrated, and even scared sometimes especially during the start of the freshman year (when they are still finding it difficult to adjust to the voluminous syllabus or are not understanding certain concepts) and nearing exams or projects. However, when these emotions persist or last a long time, it becomes a cause for concern.

There are lots of expectations heaped on the shoulders of these students by their parents and guardians. This demand for success from home serve as motivation for some persons while for others, it breeds tension or anxiety. So, when things are not going as expected they resort to other means of increasing productivity. These other means include:

  1. Substance Abuse: This is the commonest form of unhealthy adaptation mechanism adopted by students. Normally, they may start with stimulants such as coffee to keep them awake at night in a bid to increase their study hours. When coffee no longer produces the desired effect and the frustration mounts, they step up to taking harder stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines. They get hooked on these drugs and ultimately derail from the primary reason for which they sought the drug in the first place. As addiction sets in, missing classes become inevitable, violence and other social vices become more apparent.
  2. Outsourcing of Academic Work: When their productivity starts tanking irredeemably, most students will start outsourcing their projects, assignments, etc. to third parties. There is a booming industry on the internet that eliminates the disconnect between those that are seeking to outsource their work and those willing to take up these jobs for a price. The high demand for this industry goes a long to buttress how much the system has deteriorated. An instance of such is Most students will go to such providers because of their reputation for confidentiality. Little wonder why these places are so popular among students!
  3. Cheating: This is encountered at the end of the spectrum of events that lie along the slippery road. When they get extremely overworked and frustrated, they resort to all forms of cheating including trying to pay for papers and copying in the exam hall. This usually becomes a chronic attitude and eventually lands them in trouble.

Prevalence of anxiety and depression among students

Depression and anxiety can occur as isolated entities but have also been known to coexist in individuals. According to a study by the American College Association’s National College Health Assessment in 2019, around 46 percent of students had disabling depressive symptoms while about 66.4 percent of them felt overwhelming anxiety within the 12 months preceding the study. About 16.6 percent were recorded to have both symptoms of depression and anxiety. These numbers indicate how common these mental health issues are becoming and the increasing need to pay more serious attention to them.

Signs of anxiety and depression in students

Anxiety is a non-specific feeling of apprehension, uneasiness, or worry for which the individual is not necessarily able to identify the cause or source.  The following can be an indicator of anxiety:

  1. Nausea
  2. Frequent headaches
  3. Abnormal awareness of heartbeat and rapidity of heartbeat
  4. Shortness of breath
  5. Lightheadedness
  6. Excessive sweating
  7. Insomnia or inability to sleep
  8. Fatigue
  9. Inexplicable pain
  10. Restlessness etc.

Depression on the other hand is a mental health disorder that is characterized by a low mood or loss of interest in activities that has lasted for at least 2 weeks. The following symptoms can be indicators of a depressive disorder:

  1. Sleeping disorders may range from sleeping too much to having little or no sleep.
  2. The feeling of sadness, guilt, irritability, worthlessness, and hopelessness.
  3. Restlessness, lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities, easy fatigability, trouble concentrating in and out of class.
  4. Changes in appetite
  5. Substance abuse and
  6. Suicidal thoughts.

The pressure to succeed, anxiety, and depression constitute a vicious cycle with one worsening the other. A break in this chain of events is required to free the individual from debilitating thoughts and actions.

Read Also: University of Michigan: Irregular Sleep Patterns Could Lead to Depression

Help for students with anxiety and depressive disorders

There are several treatment options available to students who think they are having anxiety and depressive disorders. These options include:

  1. Counseling: It is a good thing most colleges have counselors at the disposal of students. The problem however is that students do not utilize the services of these professionals. Students with depressive symptoms should walk into the college’s counseling unit and take advantage of the opportunities available to them.
  2. Visiting a Psychiatrist: The psychiatrist is involved in the management of symptoms when they are so severe that counseling is unable to stop the cycle. The psychiatrist can prescribe antidepressant medications to help fast-track treatment.
  3. Talk or Group Therapy: Studies have shown that one of the easiest ways to get over one’s problems is to talk about them among people that share similar problems. Group therapies have been known to be of benefit to most persons with anxiety and depressive disorders.
  4. Psychotherapy: Psychotherapeutic methods such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a psycho-social model of management that focuses on changing beliefs, thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors and the development of coping strategies that help solve a person’s current problem.
  5. Reassurance from Home: since a leading cause of depression and anxiety among students is needing to not disappoint their family, positive reassurance from significant persons in the individual’s life can impart on his view and approach towards his studies. Hence, parents and guardians who become privy to depressive symptoms in their wards should reinforce their confidence with positive words that do not include your expectations of them.


Mental health is an area of studentship that is often overlooked. The rising incidence of disorders of mental health especially depression and anxiety is a cause for alarm and calls for efforts from the government, schools, individuals, and families if there should be any hope of breaking the vicious cycle of events that lead students down the rough edge. The government can do its part by providing adequate funding for schools that will enable the provision of counseling services for students. Schools should structure their syllabus in a manner that does not overburden the student while preserving the quality of education. Families should avoid dumping so many expectations on these young ones and individuals should look out for their friends for signs of depression and get them the help they need. Help for depression and anxiety should be sought on time and treatment instituted immediately. The earlier it is commenced, the better the chances of a good outcome.

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