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What Do College Students Struggle with the Most and What Stops Them from Going to Therapy?

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What Do College Students Struggle with the Most and What Stops Them from Going to Therapy?


College. A time of independence, self-discovery, and, let’s be honest, a whole lot of stress. Between academic pressure, social anxieties, and figuring out who you are in the adult world, it’s no wonder college students often feel like they’re juggling chainsaws on a unicycle.

But here’s the thing: you’re not alone. According to research, nearly one in three college students report feeling overwhelmed by stress in the past year. And guess what? That stress can manifest in a variety of ways, from the mundane (hello, procrastination!) to the more serious (anxiety, depression, even suicidal thoughts).

So, what are the most common struggles college students face? And why do so many of us avoid seeking help when we need it most? Let’s dive in and unpack this mental health backpack we’ve all been lugging around.

The Big Three: Anxiety, Depression, and Academic Pressure


Dealing with these three annoying issues is pretty common in college. Anxiety can turn a simple presentation into a scary dragon to face. Depression can drain your energy, making you feel like you’re just going through the motions. And let’s not even talk about the stress of academics – the fear of failing, letting ourselves and our loved ones down, and not meeting expectations can feel like a constant burden.

But here’s the good news: these struggles are normal. They’re part of the college experience, and they don’t have to define who you are. And guess what else? There’s help available. Lots of it.

Beyond the Big Three: College Struggles You Might Not Talk About


Okay, we tackled the anxiety-depression-academic pressure trifecta. But college throws a whole buffet of struggles our way, some of which we might not even realize are affecting us. Let’s explore these causes of stress and why they deserve some attention too:

Identity Crisis: “Who am I, anyway?”. 

Suddenly, you’re surrounded by a kaleidoscope of people, all seemingly with their lives figured out. You’re bombarded with new experiences, ideas, and pressures to define yourself. It’s no wonder so many of us feel like we’re constantly shapeshifting, trying on different identities like ill-fitting costumes. This existential search can be exhilarating, but it can also be incredibly confusing and isolating.

The Comparison Trap: “Everyone else seems so…”

Social media feeds overflow with picture-perfect college experiences – flawless tans, effortless A’s, and adventures galore. It’s easy to fall into the comparison trap, wondering why your life feels more like a Netflix documentary about mold growth than a glossy Instagram highlight reel. Remember, people only curate the best bits for the internet. We’re all battling our own unseen struggles, so avoid the downward spiral of comparison and focus on your own unique journey.

FOMO Frenzy: “Am I missing out?”

Fear of missing out (FOMO) can be a constant companion in college. Parties, clubs, internships, relationships – the sheer volume of possibilities can be overwhelming. You might feel like you’re constantly missing out on something, leading to anxiety, guilt, and even regret. But here’s the truth: you can’t be everywhere, be with everyone, or do everything. Learn to prioritize, say no without guilt, and embrace the joy of focusing on what truly matters to you.

Homesickness Heartache: “Where’s the comfort food?”

Leaving behind familiar faces and places can be tough. Homesickness can hit hard, making you crave your mom’s lasagna like your life depends on it. Embrace the memories, connect with loved ones back home, and build a new support system on campus. Remember, homesickness is temporary, and you can create a sense of home away from home.

Future Frenzy: “What am I supposed to do with my life?”

The “what am I doing with my life?” question can loom large, especially as graduation approaches. It’s okay to not have all the answers. Explore different paths, take risks, and remember that your twenties are for figuring things out, not having them all figured out. Embrace the uncertainty, trust your instincts, and enjoy the journey of discovery.


Therapy: The Unsung Hero of College Life


Therapy is like having a personal trainer for your mind. Much like you wouldn’t attempt to lift 200 pounds without proper training, tackling the emotional ups and downs of college is more manageable with some guidance. A therapist takes on the roles of a coach, a cheerleader, and a sounding board all at once. They work with you to develop coping strategies, handle stress, and embrace the incredible (though sometimes chaotic) person that you are.

Moreover, therapy isn’t just about fixing problems; it’s a space where you can explore your thoughts and feelings without judgment. It’s a safe haven where you can untangle the knots in your mind, gaining insights that can positively impact your overall well-being. As you navigate the challenges of college life, having a therapeutic ally by your side can make a significant difference in your mental and emotional resilience.

Emili Lair from Synergy eTherapy says,

“In working with many college students, individuals who come to therapy are often struggling with anxiety, depression, relationship issues with family, friends, professors or co-workers, adjustment issues (starting school, transferring or graduating), financial stress, and coping with the countless responsibilities that come with being in college. It is also common for students to struggle with new episodes of mental health issues they have experienced in the past or to struggle coping with past or recent trauma.”

Learning how to improve communication skills is often addressed in therapy, as many students are more accustomed to texting or using social media to communicate vs. in-person communication. Isolation and feelings of loneliness also come into play for many of the same reasons.

Jonathan Levin, also from Synergy eTherapy says,

“College students struggle with their own identities and their futures. I believe they find it hard to feel secure in the world today. I believe what stops them from going to therapy is not having the financial means to invest in therapy.”

Nikki Arthur, also from Synergy eTherapy says,

“What I see working with college students is often a combination of anxiety and depression. This is not uncommon given that many college students are away from home for the first time, and this is one of the biggest life transitions they will experience. Increased freedom and lack of “rules” or structure can feel very freeing and at the same time also overwhelming. Many share that anxiety and depression were present prior to college, but that they noticed an exacerbation of their symptoms with the added stressors that college life brings. College students can feel under resourced to cope effectively with this change that they often were looking forward to. I want to encourage all students to remember that they are not alone in how they feel, and that help is available so that they don’t have to suffer.”

 But hold on… why is therapy still kind of stigmatized?


There are a lot of reasons why college students might hesitate to seek therapy. Here are a few of the most common:

  • The stigma: Therapy is often associated with weakness or “being crazy,” which can be incredibly discouraging. But remember, just like going to the gym for your physical health, therapy is about taking care of your mental well-being. It’s a sign of strength, not weakness. Nikki Arthur says, “In my experience, current college students, in general, are very supportive of therapy and have a much more open view of the benefits. I hear from young adult clients routinely that they wish their parents would seek out therapy. Although there is a lot to be said about the negative impacts of social media, there is also some good. Many of my young adult clients report that seeing something on social media helped them to see the need for professional support.”
  • The cost: Jonathan Levin says, “I believe what stops them from going to therapy is not having the financial means to invest in therapy”. Therapy can be expensive, and unfortunately, not all colleges have adequate mental health resources. However, there are many affordable options available, such as online therapy, group therapy, and sliding scale fees. Don’t let cost be a barrier to getting the help you need.
  • The fear of the unknown: Emili Lair says, “What stops them from going to therapy? Number one, I would say that college students often get confused about what they need to do or where they need to go to get help. If students have never done therapy before, they may also feel scared starting therapy because they don’t know what to expect or how therapy can help them with all of the challenges that come with being in college (academics, social life, family issues, trauma history, career decisions, coping skills AND communication skills.)”. It’s normal to have these concerns. But therapy is a safe space where you can be open and honest without judgment. Your therapist is there to help you, not judge you.

Breaking Barriers: Synergy eTherapy and SWCC’s Support for College Students


Navigating through life can be challenging, with financial constraints and time constraints often preventing college students like yourself from seeking therapy. However, Synergy eTherapy, in collaboration with Southwestern Community College, aims to break down these barriers. We are offering you six fully funded virtual therapy sessions, courtesy of SWCC, providing you with flexibility to schedule sessions at your convenience.

If you wish to utilize these therapy services, you can click the link provided below and fill out the contact form to arrange an appointment: Synergy eTherapy Welcomes SWCC Students!

Remember, you’re not alone in this. College is tough, but you don’t have to go it alone. If you’re struggling, reach out for help. Talk to a friend, family member, professor, or even a resident assistant. And if you’re considering therapy, take the leap. It might just be the best decision you ever make.


If you, or know of someone who could use some online counseling to feel heard and learn ways to cope, please connect with one of our therapists today for a free consultation.


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As an online mental health counseling practice, our mission is to offer a variety of online therapy services to help you focus on your wellbeing. We take the stress out of getting the treatment you deserve. Synergy eTherapists provide flexible, convenient, and easy to use mental health services.

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