Article: College and Anxiety

According to this recent New York Times article, college health centers have become overwhelmed by students struggling with anxiety. In fact, for the first time, incidents of anxiety have surpassed depression in college students.

Experts cite a number of factors for this trend. Social and academic pressures in high school have increased, leading kids to be "pre-loaded" with stress when they arrive at college. At the same time, parental oversight is increasing, so kids are developing fewer life skills and have a decreased ability to adapt or respond to stress. So kids are experiencing more stress, less able to handle it, and now social media serves to highlight how great everyone else's life is. While stressful situations or small setbacks in college may once have been "teachable moments," these factors combine to trigger anxiety.

Not surprisingly, college health centers are seeing a significant uptick in visits for anxiety and mental health issues. In many cases, health centers are simply overburdened, especially around mid-terms and final exams. They often don't have the staff for one-on-one therapy with waiting lists as long as several weeks. So instead they are turning to alternative methods, including group therapy and smartphone apps. At least one university even makes dogs available during final exam week as petting and interacting with animals has been shown to decrease stress.

For many people, college is seen as a golden time in life, with relatively few responsibilities and many opportunities. While that may or may not be true, college is certainly a time when young adults are learning to handle new stressful situations on their own. Anxiety is a natural part of that.