Anxiety and Depression in Post-Secondary Students

Anxiety and Depression in Post-Secondary Students

Anxiety and Depression in College and University Students

By Meghan Lederman, M.A., R.P.


Post secondary education is a significant period of stress for students.  Students are facing increased academic demands and social changes in addition to the ongoing physical and biochemical changes of early adulthood.  These physical, biochemical and social changes increase young adult’s vulnerability to mental health challenges, particularly Anxiety and Depression (Bernal-Morales, Rodriguez-Landa & Pulido-Criollo, 2015).


Fifty-six percent of post-secondary students report feelings of fatigue, while 25% experience clinical anxiety and 19.7% report difficulties in coping (Hussain, Guppy, Robertson & Temple, 2013).  One third of post-secondary students are affected by clinical depression (Bernal-Morales, Rodriguez-Landa, & Pulido-Criollo, 2015).  


These challenges impact a student’s ability to learn and perform at the post-secondary level.  High levels of anxiety interfere with an individual’s ability to concentrate and remember material.  This lends itself to lack of motivation, reduced academic performance, lower self-esteem and problems in social relationships (Bernal-Morales, Rodriguez-Landa, & Pulido-Criollo, 2015).  


We have come to learn that the higher the level of anxiety a student experiences, the lower the grades they achieve (Bernal-Morales, Rodriguez-Landa, & Pulido-Criollo, 2015).  We also know that the experience of Depression impacts academic performance (lower concentration, lower motivation, poor memory) (Bernal-Morales, Rodriguez-Landa, & Pulido-Criollo, 2015).


Anxiety and mood management are critical at this period of a young adult’s life for academic and social success and mental health.  Treatment options for Anxiety and Depression are: medication, psychotherapy or a combination of medication and psychotherapy.  Research tells us that the most effective treatment is a combination of medication and psychotherapy, with sole treatment of medication or therapy being close to equally as effective to each other over the long-term (18-36 weeks of treatment), but not as effective as combination treatment (March et al. 2007).


Psychotherapy for Anxiety and Depression helps individuals to identify the factors that influence their mood and anxiety.  Treatment may help individuals learn effective coping strategies, relaxation skills, behavioural activation skills, and strategies for challenging unhelpful messages to self.  Psychotherapy can be approached in a variety of different modalities.  There is a great deal of research to support the use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in the treatment of Depression and Anxiety, however other modalities are equally supported.  The biggest influence of whether psychotherapy will be effective or not is the individual’s relationship with their psychotherapist.  Individuals who feel they have a “good fit” with their therapist are likely to find psychotherapy helpful in treating their mood and anxiety symptoms.


If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, don’t hesitate to reach out for support.  There are counsellors at many of the post-secondary institutions and even more in the community who may be a match to what you need.  Don’t let your mental health challenges interfere with your success.


Meghan Lederman, M.A., R.P. is a registered psychotherapist who operates a practice in Welland, ON.  Meghan treats children, adolescents and young adults who are facing challenges with their mental health, including: Depression, Anxiety, and trauma.  Meghan can be reached at




Blandina Bernal-Morales, Juan Francisco Rodríguez-Landa and

Frank Pulido-Criollo (2015). Impact of Anxiety and Depression Symptoms on Scholar Performance in High School and University Students, A Fresh Look at Anxiety Disorders, Dr. Federico Durbano (Ed.), InTech, DOI: 10.5772/60711. Available from:


Hussain, R., Guppy, M., Robertson, S., Temple, E., (2013). Physical and mental health perspectives of first year undergraduate rural university students. BMC public health. 13, 848. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-13-848.


March, JS., Silva, S., Petrycki, S., Curry, J., Wells, K., Fairbank, J., Burns, B., Domino, M., McNulty, S., Vitiello, B., & Severe, J. (2007). The treatment for adolescents with depression study (TADS): long-term effectiveness and safety outcomes. Archives of general psychiatry, 64(10), 1132-1143. DOI: 10.1001/archpsyc.64.10.1132

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