Warning Signs of “Student Stress” — Tips for Mental Health Awareness Month

Going to college is as exhilarating as it can be emotionally draining at times. For many students, transitioning to a new environment can prove to be stressful. Even before COVID-19, the number of college students with anxiety, depression, or ADHD has been climbing. Shockingly, the University of Minnesota Twin Cities reports that half of female students visit mental health clinics during their academic careers. 

With the added stress of COVID-19 vaccines, constantly changing health policies, and travel restrictions, students have had a lot to contend with this year. This is a perfect time for parents to have an open conversation about this crucial topic. Students need to know that confidential psychological care is always available to them. 

In honor of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, we thought it would be helpful to review a few warning signs that students show when they are struggling with a mental health issue. Such symptoms may indicate a more serious psychological problem that requires professional care. 

College Student Mental Health Tips — Warning Signs Every Parent Should Be Aware Of

Social Withdrawal — When Is “Me Time” Too Much? 

While solitude can be  beneficial at times, students with mental health conditions often use social withdrawal as a security blanket. Instead of recharging during their solitary hours, anxiety sufferers may be retreating from events that trigger their negative symptoms. Social withdrawal is also quite common with depression patients who may lack the motivation to get out and socialize. 

With the recent explosion in digital devices, it has become even easier for students with anxiety conditions to check out of reality for a virtual world. There are even terms like “ghosting” and “hikikomori,” both of which refer to individuals who abruptly break with or avoid social contact.

If a student seems to be spending too much time in their room, there’s a good chance he or she is suffering from a mental health issue. 

Can Stress Kill Their Circadian Rhythm?

Nobody expects students to have a stellar sleeping schedule. In fact, most adults can’t boast of a healthy circadian rhythm nowadays. Not only is life even more stressful due to the pandemic, but we’re constantly bombarded by disruptive  blue light from our smartphones. 

That said, there’s a definite link between sleep issues and mental health problems. Sleep is the body’s natural stress-reliever; so, if students are struggling to get into a deep sleep and REM cycle, they will likely feel frustrated or overwhelmed.

If your student constantly complains of insomnia or fatigue, these may be signs of a mental health issue. On the other hand, sleep disorders such as  sleep apnea can trigger symptoms that sometimes mimic depression. Students who consistently struggle with sleep may want to schedule a professional sleep study to get to the root of this issue. 

Has Meal Time Become “Moody Time?”

Recent studies show there is a direct correlation between appetite and our mood. Researchers at the University of Oklahoma found that depression patients either lose interest in food or use overeating as a coping mechanism. Therefore, be sure to look for any significant changes in appetite patterns as they could signal a student is struggling with stress. 

It’s also common for students with mental health conditions to gravitate towards junk food. While a tasty burger here and there is no big deal, parents should encourage their student to eat a well-balanced diet for optimal emotional health. 

If parents notice their student is eating too many unhealthy foods, they may want to suggest a new meal plan. A poor diet can make it even more challenging for students to overcome issues like depression and anxiety. Conversely, developing a healthy diet with a registered nutritionist could work wonders for a student’s mental health. 

Be Extra Aware Of Substance Abuse

It’s no secret that alcohol is a common part of college life. Plus, now that cannabis is increasingly legal across the U.S., more students may feel tempted to mellow out before midterms with the help of Miss Mary Jane. 

Unfortunately, students typically gain access to these drugs during incredibly stressful times in their lives. Even worse, now students have access to dubious and even fake anti-anxiety and anti-depression pills on the Internet. As we discussed in our post on the fentapill epidemic, it’s increasingly common for students to order counterfeit prescription pills that unbeknownst to them are laced with the deadly opioid fentanyl.  

Parents need to keep a close eye on their students for warning signs of substance abuse. This is especially true if there’s a genetic predisposition to alcoholism. If it seems like students are using drugs to cope with stress, that’s a clear sign they’re covering up a mental health issue. 

Untidy Room, Untidy Mind 

Psychologists know there’s a direct connection between our exterior and interior worlds. Believe it or not, looking at how a student organizes their living space could give parents a clue to her or his mental health. People who have clean and neat rooms often have an upbeat, organized mind. By contrast, disheveled rooms could suggest excessive stress, fatigue, or depression. 

But it’s not just rooms parents should be looking at. Patients with mental health issues often neglect essential grooming habits like showering, shaving, or even brushing their teeth. Students suffering from anxiety or depression also tend to ignore performing basic tasks, including doing the laundry or putting any effort into their attire. 

These signs may seem superficial, but they can give parents a clue to their student’s inner world. 

Soften Students’ Stress Levels Before School Starts!  

Whenever parents notice things are off, they should encourage their students to visit a doctor or an on-campus mental health clinic. Typically, the longer students hold off on getting professional help to support their mental well being, the more difficult it is to treat. Parents should always stress the importance of seeking out professional help as early as possible. For extra peace of mind during the pandemic, students should also consider downloading the Umergency app. Whenever students feel overwhelmed or threatened, Umergency can connect them to the professional help they need. Find out more about what Umergency has to offer on this webpage.

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