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The Quad: Wellness Wednesday

(Harishwer Balasubramani/Illustrations director)

By Belicia Tang

Nov. 16, 2016 7:31 p.m.

College may very well be the best four years of a person’s life, but reports show that college students are more stressed out nowadays than they have ever been before. This stress creates a breeding ground for mental health ailments, with approximately 37 percent of college students suffering from depression, anxiety or stress. In recognition of this growing epidemic, Daily Bruin bloggers Appurva Goel and Belicia Tang will be delving into this phenomenon and investigating the major issues and stigmas that affect the mental health of college students, as well as what resources UCLA students can seek out for help.

College is a beast. Balancing academics, extracurriculars and relationships, while navigating first-time independence, developing your identity and choosing a career path is undeniably stressful. The unique set of pressures that come with college can cause many students to face emotional and psychological distress, as seen by the high rates of anxiety disorders and depression in the college student population.

As college students in a competitive university, it is okay to feel overwhelmed sometimes. However, we need to recognize when this momentary emptiness and regular stress turns into something more. In the first of this mental health series, we will discuss anxiety and depression, symptoms of each disorder and how you can help friends who are suffering.`

Anxiety

Stress is an everyday part of life, and experiencing moderate to high levels of anxiety, especially during midterms or finals season, does not necessarily mean you have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders occur when such high levels of stress are constant and interfere with daily functioning.

Anxiety is one of the most common types of mental health problems on college campuses, affecting 41.6 percent of students. Currently, 40 million U.S. adults suffer from an anxiety disorder, but only one-third of those with anxiety seek professional treatment.

Types of anxiety disorders include:

Symptoms of anxiety include:

  • constant feelings of worry and tension
  • irritability
  • trouble concentrating
  • fearfulness
  • sweating and dizziness
  • irregular heartbeat
  • frequently upset stomach or diarrhea

Depression

Depression is closely linked to anxiety, but considered a separate illness. A mood disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness or loss of interest in daily activities, depression is the second most common mental health illness on college campuses, affecting 36.4 percent of students.

The causes of high rates of depression among college students are similar to those pertaining to anxiety. Leaving home for the first time, an unstructured schedule, high academic pressures, substance use, non-nutritious eating and erratic sleeping habits are all factors that increase the risk of depression occurring in college students.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Persistent sadness, anxiety or emptiness
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies or activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Sudden weight gain or weight loss
  • Suicidal thoughts

It is important to recognize if a loved one is suffering from anxiety or depression. If someone close to you appears to live in constant fear of failure, exhibits intense discomfort in social situations or has visible panic attacks, he or she may have an anxiety disorder. If a friend appears to no longer enjoy once pleasurable activities, stops attending class or social outings or reacts with negativity or apathy to most things, they may be experiencing depression.

Suggestions on helping friends or acquaintances

Despite the increasing prevalence of mental health illnesses, there are still stigmas attached to seeking professional treatment for them. Be wary of pressuring your friend to get treatment if he or she does not feel comfortable to do so.

When speaking to someone with anxiety or depression, avoid phrases like “Cheer up,” “There’s nothing to worry about” or “Snap out of it,” regardless of how well-intentioned your words are. Understand that it is nearly impossible for an individual with mental illness to will their way back to health, so such words may make a suffering individual feel worse.

The best thing to do when you see someone you care about suffering is to be an active listener and encourage him or her to seek help.

While it’s easy for us college students to fall down a rabbit hole stressing over midterms, chasing deadlines and learning to be an adult, don’t forget to take care of yourself. These four years may matter, but not as much as your mental health.

Next week, we will delve into more mental health resources UCLA students can find on campus or on the Hill.

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Belicia Tang
Belicia Tang is a Daily Bruin Quad contributor. She writes about a wide range of topics, including mental health, meditation, dance, and the psychology of motivation and success.
Belicia Tang is a Daily Bruin Quad contributor. She writes about a wide range of topics, including mental health, meditation, dance, and the psychology of motivation and success.
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