Most Common Mental Health Disorders in College Students

Back to Addiction Blog
Most Common Mental Health Disorders in College Students

Most Common Mental Health Disorders in College Students

The prevalence of mental illness in college students is a major cause for concern. There is a significant difference between high school and college; the overall transition often overwhelms students. While talk of anxiety and the stress of “finals week” is a common joke among college pupils, there is a legitimate problem that needs to be addressed. 

As a drug and alcohol treatment center in Palm Beach, we understand that suffering from mental illness in college has become a new norm. In an attempt to get some more answers, we’re diving deeper into the most common mental health disorders in college students. 

The Most Common Mental Illnesses in College Students


Although most people experience anxiety every once in a while, experiencing regular anxiety episodes or attacks may indicate that there’s a bigger problem. Anxiety is an emotional disorder that can be described as an extreme state of nervousness. Anxiety can prevent you from carrying out normal tasks and enjoying things you normally would. There are several types of anxiety disorders, such as:

  • Panic disorder
  • Phobia
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Separation anxiety disorder
  • Illness anxiety disorder 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

People with anxiety usually experience symptoms like nightmares, panic attacks, rapid breathing, trouble sleeping, and difficulty concentrating. When people get to the point where they’re unable to carry out their daily tasks due to their symptoms, anxiety management treatment is recommended. 

Major Depressive Disorder 

Like anxiety, sadness is a common emotion; however, persistent feelings of sadness or emptiness are common indicators of depression. Major depressive disorder refers to clinical depression, which impacts a person’s behavior, thoughts, mood, and overall wellbeing. 

Symptoms of depression include: 

  • Persistent feelings of sadness 
  • Disinterest in activities that were once enjoyable
  • Inability to sleep or trouble falling asleep 
  • Restlessness
  • Constantly fatigued or tired 
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Trouble concentrating 
  • Thoughts of suicide or suicidal idealization

College students may also struggle with high-functioning depression symptoms. Many students try to ignore their symptoms for fear of jeopardizing their academic performance. Without comprehensive depression treatment, symptoms may worsen, potentially increasing the risk of suicide. 

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Although many people associate attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with children, this can occur in any age group. When someone has ADHD, they have difficulty concentrating, paying attention, and controlling impulsive behaviors.

Symptoms of ADHD include: 

  • Constantly making careless mistakes
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Problems concentrating on basic tasks such as conversation
  • Failing to finish tasks or follow directions
  • Becoming easily distracted by irrelevant things or thoughts
  • Difficulty staying organized
  • Forgetting basic responsibilities
  • Losing important things 

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder that causes extreme mood swings. People with this condition may experience extreme happiness (mania) or extreme sadness (depression). This extreme shift in mood can disrupt a person’s ability to carry out their responsibilities and maintain healthy relationships with others. 

The different types of bipolar disorder include: 

  • Bipolar I disorder
  • Bipolar II disorder
  • Cyclothymic disorder

Individuals with this condition are advised to get professional help. At Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches, we offer bipolar disorder treatment that addresses the symptoms of this condition and teaches patients healthy coping mechanisms. 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a mental disorder caused by a traumatic event or experience. People with PTSD have trouble forgetting about the event or emotionally moving past it. This is a common disorder in veterans, first responders, and even medical personnel. Without PTSD treatment, symptoms can worsen, increasing the individual’s risk of experiencing additional mental health problems. 

Symptoms of PSTD include:

  • Flashbacks of the event
  • Nightmares
  • Panic attacks
  • Emotional reactions to something that triggers a memory of the event

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders, an umbrella term that covers several different types, are also common among college students. They each define a psychological condition that represents an unhealthy relationship with food. 

The different types of eating disorders include: 

  • Anorexia 
  • Bulimia 
  • Pica
  • Binge Eating Disorder 
  • Rumination Disorder 
  • Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

While the symptoms for each disorder may vary, the general signs of an eating disorder include vomiting, taking laxatives, and exercising excessively. 

Possible Causes of Mental Illness in College Students

Attending university can be stressful; for many students, the transition from high school to college can be challenging. Not only are classes more difficult, but friend groups may also change. 

Potential causes of the most common mental health disorders in college students include:

  • Moving away from friends and family
  • Larger academic workload
  • Extracurricular responsibilities 
  • Social pressure to make friends 
  • Serious [romantic] relationships 
  • Pressure to accomplish certain academic goals


Unfortunately, many college students don’t receive the support they need. Numerous universities and colleges all across the nation lack the proper resources to help their students with these mental disorders. If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental illness or addiction, call us today at 561-220-3981 for more information about the addiction treatments and mental health services we offer for adults ages 18 and older. 


Related Reading: 

Alcoholism in College Students

Your Student May Be Abusing Drugs, & Their Drug of Choice Will Surprise You

Share this post

Back to Addiction Blog