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Causes and Factors of Depression and Anxiety among College Students

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Depression and stress among college students are proved to be linked with family issues. According to Landow (2006), the family issues increase cases of depression, anxiety and stress building up and may lead to mental health disorders. However, it varies from individuals. Some students lamented the intense pressure from their families to pursue a given course, join a certain school, score a certain grade or combine several courses. Such cases from the family become an obligation that conflicts with the students’ desires or dreams affecting their emotional stability negatively. Among the course, the students complained of the intense pressure from their families to pursue medicine, law, engineering and business related courses with the aim that they will take over their family business. In addition to running a family business, the chosen careers should be considered lucrative in the society. Parents put a lot of efforts to give their children decent education and a good profession. The children realize that their parents’ hopes are set on them, and there is no way they can let their parents down. In this case, the students are forced to do what they do not like just in order to make a profit. When they foresee this scenario for the rest of their lives, they get depressed and feel doomed even starting from the college time. All this may culminate in depression and chronic stress in their lives.

In other cases, being from single families, unstable families or having irresponsible guardian or parents were also echoed by Guenther and Herman (2011), as causes of depression among college students. These factors deteriorate the students’ academic achievements. The students devote much of their time to solve some family problems, rather than to concentrate on studying.

In addition, the students with overprotected parents have a big tendency to depression in college as well. The fact that they have to live far away from their parents and homes leaves its trace on their feelings. When the students realize that the circle of close people is far, they feel the lack of support and understanding. Those of them who get used that their parents make decisions for them, very often cannot even deal with easy matters. Some researchers define such factors as missing family and friends, loneliness, problems with accommodation, home reminiscences and others as the main causes of homesickness (Kegel, 2009). Students who feel homesick often experience indisposition, mental and physical disorders. Furthermore, many scholars regard homesickness as one of the major factors which contributes to the development of depression and anxiety (Kegel, 2009).

Relationships with others

At the college level, students begin serious relationships and courtship.  Unhealthy relationships, breakups, unfaithfulness and peer pressure from their college mates increase the chances of developing depression. Peer pressure on the relationship is more common among girls than boys. Landow (2006) mentioned that the fact that human beings are social beings increases the need to be in a relationship. College mates will yearn for being in a stable relationship, whether intimate or not. Relationship factor can affect college students psychologically revolve around an individual’s self-esteem and self-image. It shows the way a student is ready to interact with others in class work and co-curricular activities.

Furthermore, any kind of interaction always foresees the factor of comparison. Especially it refers to college students who always compare themselves with their peers. Sometimes, they can be even obsessed with the desire not to be worse than the others. It may cause intense relationship and even rivalry between the students.

Financial constraint

Economic instability is another core issue that determines a student’s emotional stability. Students who are financially constrained are also highly predisposed to mental health illness. Financial instability will lead to the cases of being sent away for fee; thus, affecting the consistency of academic chores. In addition, lack of enough economic activities will lead to inhibited relationship with other students. Students are tending to find strategies and ways of acquiring money for social activities and personal interests. This affects their concentration on studies, their performance. Consequently, it may lead to the development of mental disorders. Eisenberg, Golberstein and Gollust(2007) argued that financial incapacities is one of the causes of school dropout, involvement in illegal activities in school, poor performance, and depression among students.

Students would like to have enough cash to buy clothes, to travel and to host a party just like their colleagues. Therefore, when they do not receive what they want, their mental health can be affected significantly (Hefner & Eisenberg, 2009). In one of their recommendations, Hefner and Eisnberg emphasize the parental role of ensuring that a student minimally faces the financial problem. This will prevent cases of vulnerability of indulging into peer activities, which can ruin them either physically, psychologically or emotionally. Lack of adequate financial support forces students to find work places, mostly such work places are part-time jobs. Anyway, trying to combine working and studying, the students are exposed to double stress. Moreover, they can find easier way of getting money. It may lead to the involvement of students in illegal activities, such as drugs dealing, prostitution or robbery. Later on, it leaves its traces on the increase in the degree of depression, stress and anxiety among college students.  

Climatic conditions

Some college students have to get accustomed to a new country with its culture, traditions, and climatic conditions. Changes in climatic conditions are also factors that have captured researchers’ interest in mental health disorders among college student. Colleges have embraced international enrolment strategies in order to help international students to cope with the climatic changes. The diversity of students increases the chances in various ranges of climatic conditions exposed to such students. For instance, American colleges have been receiving students from all over the world. In such a way, the continental variations in terms of climate become a stressful factor among the students.

In a study conducted by Essler, Arthur and Stickley (2008), students from five colleges in Australia were asked to identify their core factors that affect their comfort in school. Foreign students claimed that climatic factor was a core issue. Fluctuation and changes in climate affect their studying performance. In this case, the students direct all their forces into ensuring their mental and physical well-being, and it is hard for them to concentrate on studying. In addition, when the students are indisposed not only their academic achievements, but also their social activity is under threat. The college administration should always take into consideration such conditions and give foreign students some period of adaptation, in order to ensure their further adequate performance in the college.

Study issues

It has been hypothesized that the increased workload in colleges is a key factor causing mental health disorders. Study issues leading to poor mental health include the students’ workload, uncooperative schoolmates, lack of interest in a topic, course or career, inability to handle exams and feeling of favors or discrimination (Guenther, Heiligenstein & Herman, 2011). Students prefer those subjects that have minimal workload. Unfavorable study conditions both at school and home increase stress build-up among the students. Stress is defined scientifically as a nonspecific body response to any internal or external demands. Stress build-up leads to depression, anxiety and, in extreme cases, to mental health problems. In a study, conducted by Landow(2006), curriculum and difficulties in understanding the subject were ranked sixth as the causes of stress among the medical students. Moreover, Robert Gallagher, a psychologist at the University of Pittsburgh, has reported that in spite of rare cases of students’ suicides because of study issues, the institutions with high academic pressure are more exposed to suicides among students, than other educational establishments (Peterson, 2002).

Dr. Kay also distinguished academic issues as very important factors causing depression in college students. From his point of view, there is a severe competition among students during studying process. Therefore, many students appear under pressure and have to get good grades in order not to be worse than the others (Tarkovsky, 2008). Stereotypes can be other incentives to study harder. Dori Hutchinson, the director of services at BU’s Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, distinguished one of them as “getting Bs is not enough” (Friday, 2011). Being imposed by social consciousness, this stereotype impels the students to do everything possible and impossible in order to succeed in studying. Regarding the educational process, it is a very good incentive. However, this pattern extends its sphere of influence on the other aspects of life. Consequently, the students overestimate their strength and take an enormous amount of tasks trying to do well in everything they start. When there is a screw loose in their affairs, they feel embarrassed and “not good enough”. In the long run, it may lead to depression and even to the complex of inferiority.

Pressure from professors

External forces influencing students are not only from parents, relatives or friends, but also professors. College tests are mainly conducted in two formats: sit-in test and take-away test. A lot of pressure is experienced from professors regarding the take-away test. Poor performance is faced by stiff criticism and harsh punishment from professors (Conrad, Dietrich et al, 2009). This leads to increased pressure to work hard in order to avoid failure. Some professors never show the satisfaction with students’ achievements and continue pushing them for better results. Students have complained of the increased pressure from professors during project supervision or proposal development. In fact, it seems to the students that some supervisors act in a way to punish them, rather than to correct their academic works (Elseler, Stickley et al., 2008). To some extent, the pressure looks like more personal than professional. Therefore, human agency is the factor which plays the main role in students-professors’ relationships. Being aware of the particular professors’ requirements and some peculiarities of cooperation with them should improve the situation. If students try to get accustomed to the demands of the professors, they will have all chances to avoid confrontation.

Elseler et al. found that mounted pressure from professors and academic supervisors leads to poor self-image and determination. Consequently, the performance is affected and culminates in depression. The date set by professors, for example, exam deadline and registration should be conducive with the students’ timetable. Intense pressure adds up to poor organization of an individual’s activities.

Poor guidance and counseling

Counseling is the best approach to handle life challenges. Counseling helps in coping with stress, as well as in offering an avenue to open up. In this case, build-up stress in one’s life should dissipate. One of the major approaches of handling with mental problems lies in psychotherapy (Diamanduros & Downs, 2008). This ensures that the affected person shares his or her feelings, thus potentiating way forward for finding a solution. Lack of proper counseling mechanism, both in schools and from parents, increases the chances of depression (Rones & Hoagwood, 2000). Moreover, the students feel themselves lonely in solving their problems. This increases stress build-up and a feeling of desertion and negligence, set in by the senior people.

Parents should allow their children to pursue their choice of careers, but not to force them to accept the so-called “lucrative” or “family matters” careers. In cases of such a necessity, enough explanations should be offered to avoid conflict of interest. Allowing students to pursue their general life problems is one of the reasons that are causing mental disorders among students.

Nowadays, with the rising depression rate, the significance of counseling centers rises as well. Hara Marano, the author of the report for Psychology Today, has concluded that the responsibility put on counseling centers at colleges is great. Therefore, lots of efforts are made in order to ensure an accessibility of decent mental health help to all students who need it. In this case, it is also essential to detect the problem in time and start the treatment (Peterson, 2002). However, many students deny that they suffer from depression, anxiety or stress and refuse to accept any help. It only deteriorates the situation.

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