Why Does University Cause Depression? 5 Factors

Carolina Jacobs

Jan 2, 2023
Why does university cause depression

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Many people think of the college years as a time of nonstop fun. The movies certainly depict it that way, but it isn’t the reality for many students. People this age can and do suffer from mental disorders like depression. 

Sometimes, going away to school improves symptoms, but other times, it makes things worse. Why does going to university cause depression? Let’s examine five factors. 

1. Shifting Social Realities 

If you were the high school track team star, you might roll into college expecting the same kind of instant popularity. However, you may meet a far different reality when you arrive at university, especially if you’re going from a small, rural area to a crowded campus. You could feel overwhelmed dealing with so many new faces, many of them with different ways of looking at the world. 

It’s tempting to isolate yourself, especially if you feel insecure. However, loneliness can lead to depression. Both emotions cause similar symptoms like brain fog, restlessness, irritability, changes in appetite or sleep patterns and self-doubt. 

Your best remedy is to get involved on campus. Look for clubs that interest you. If you play sports, continue if you can. Consider tutoring other students or seeking such services yourself if you do better connecting with others one-on-one versus in a group. 

2. Academic Pressures 

College brings a new set of academic challenges. You might feel extra pressure to make the grade if your enrollment hinges on keeping your scholarship. Anxiety can keep you up at night, and racing thoughts can create a vicious cycle of despair. You worry so much about failing the test that you make it a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

The best way to prevent this cause of university depression is to prepare. Arm yourself with a planner — either paper or electronic — and spend the beginning of each semester filling in critical dates. Sit down each Sunday night and plan your week, making a to-do list for each day. 

If you find yourself slipping, reach out for help immediately. Talk to your instructor and locate your campus tutoring resources. If you don’t click with anyone in-person, consider online services that offer personalized support. It’s better to spend a few extra dollars on the help you need than to lose your tuition. 

3. Substance Use 

College is where many students try drugs and alcohol for the first time. Unfortunately, some get hooked, and their addictions can drive them to despair. Furthermore, many substances cause biochemical changes that worsen mental health symptoms when individuals withdraw, compelling them to further use if they don’t seek help getting clean. 

For example, alcohol alters the expression of GABA receptors in your brain. This neurotransmitter’s principal role entails moderating your nervous system response, but too much of it makes these receptors stop responding. As a result, you’re left with a constant sense of anxiousness and irritability — it feels like everything gets on your nerves. You find yourself needing another drink to “take the edge off,” and before you know it, you’re hooked.

The best way to prevent this cause of depression while in university? If you don’t drink, don’t start. If you do, restrict your intake to no more than one or two drinks per day.

4. Poor Diet 

Everything you eat affects your body chemistry. You might notice your mood changing if you live too long on the typical college student’s diet of ramen and pizza. That’s because your brain requires a precise combination of nutrients to function at its peak. You might be getting sufficient calories, but deficiencies can cause depression. 

Fortunately, this cause of depression in university has an easy fix — improve your diet. In particular, add more nuts and seeds. Why? People deficient in minerals like magnesium often make a rapid recovery once they address the underlying problem, and these foods contain high levels of this mineral. 

Adding a quality supplement couldn’t hurt, either, but go slow. Too much magnesium too soon can cause gastrointestinal distress — most notably, it makes you poop. 

In general, you should try to eat as many foods close to their natural form as possible to ensure a good intake of various phytonutrients and antioxidants. If you have a cafeteria plan, treat your plate as a clock when you go to chow and fill a half-hour with fresh fruits and vegetables. 

5. It’s the Economy

Unfortunately, getting an education isn’t the hot ticket to financial security it was once billed as. Reddit threads abound with tales of folks who have completed doctoral-level work and nevertheless make peanuts. 

Then, they have to compete with ever-rising rents, slated to rise another 10% in 2021 after a 14% hike in 2022. Add in student loans, and their chances of ever buying a home, starting a family and achieving the American dream start to look grim despite their hard work. 

It’s natural to question what it’s all for if your effort never results in the kind of security that enables you to have stability in life or raise a family. You could fall into a state of existential despair, wondering what the point of doing what you do is. 

Unfortunately, there are no rapid fixes to today’s economy. However, your nine-to-five grind will indeed feel much less demanding if you do something you love rather than slog through your hours simply to earn a paycheck. Keep that in mind when selecting your major — if you feel you can make a difference, don’t let financial fears steer your course. 

One way or another, you have to work to live. Why not make it something you enjoy? Combat this form of university depression by following your passions. 

Reasons Why University Causes Depression

Although the media depicts college life as carefree, the reality is often far different. The pressures associated with schooling can lead to mental health disorders. 

However, knowing why university sometimes causes depression can help you take effective proactive steps to prevent it. That way, you can fully focus on your studies and enjoy your learning experience. 

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