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Within minutes, I heard from Danielle not her real namean year-old freshman at a university in Massachusetts. Danielle told me she wasn't a loner at her "tiny" high school in New Jersey, about four hours away from her new college. In fact, she had "an amazing, tight-knit crew of about 10 girls.

I loved meeting up with them before classes and rushing to get lunch together," she reminisced.

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She was the president of three clubs. But when Danielle got to college, a large state school, many of her fellow freshman seemed already to know each other from high school, and she felt lost in a sea of thousands of students, unable to really connect with anyone the way she did with her friends from home most of her dorm mates like to party, which isn't her style. After her very first college class, "I was so overwhelmed that I had to hide in a bathroom stall for a good 45 minutes before I could come out. Often, Danielle dissolves into a puddle of tears.

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I cried because I can't figure out why it is so easy for me to make friends in my hometown but not at my new school. You'd never know it from the shiny, happy, super-fun depiction of college in movies and TV shows, but beneath the flying Frisbees, frat parties, and funny a cappella concerts on the quad, many college freshmen are struggling.

While colleges' handling of campus sexual assault remains an ongoing battle, mental health issues are also gripping college students, especially freshman, from cases of homesickness and difficulty adjusting to college — sometimes called the "freshman blues" — to more serious battles. Last year UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute which has studied the lives of incoming college students every year for the last 50 years in its American Freshman report found that thefreshmen they surveyed rated their emotional health as lower than any class since When asked to rate their emotional health compared to their peers, only about percent said theirs was "in the highest 10 percent" of people or even "above average.

With the pressure surrounding college admissions reaching new heights, "It seemed as though students were really buckling down in their senior year to make sure that they got into college," noted study author Kevin Eagan, an assistant professor and managing director of the Higher Education Research Institute.

But "when they got to college, they were pretty stressed out. They were pretty anxious. Many of them were feeling more depressed. Anxiety has outpaced depression as the most common mental health issue among college students overallbut both remain obstacles for freshmen. According to The Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Pennsylvania State University's annual study of more thanstudents at colleges and university counseling centers nationwide, percent of college women felt "overwhelming anxiety" in the last 12 months, while percent said they had felt so depressed that it was difficult to function.

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A smaller — about one in six college students or percent have been diagnosed with or treated for anxiety within the last 12 months, according to the annual national survey by the American College Health Association, which suggests there may be a pretty large group of students who aren't getting help.

What's the difference between anxiety and depression?

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As for depression, it's more severe than just "feeling down. Anxiety and depression are often linked, experts say, as dealing with long-term anxiety can lead to depression, or one may feel anxious about their battle with depression. Both anxiety and depression can disrupt your sleep; losing or gaining weight can be more closely linked to depression.

Both anxiety and depression can crop up — or come back, if someone has experienced them before — during freshman year, when students leave life as they know it for the first time ever. In theory, it sounds like a dream: no more parents or curfews, and newfound freedom to do you. But in reality, being on your own can also mean you're away from your family and friends, your sleep schedule is messed up, or you start trying alcohol or other substances. In fact, the first six weeks of college can be such a dicey time, that experts call it a "red zone" in which college women can be more susceptible to sexual assault.

Without family in the mix, you might feel more free to either binge or not eat enough, quit exercising or exercise far too much. Being thrust into college, among hundreds or thousands of other and year-olds, can also force you to consider complicated questions about your family background, your economic upbringing, race, ethnicity, and sexual or gender identity this can be particularly overwhelming for first-generation or low-income freshman.

Sky-high expectations of college as a wonderland where your problems from home could never crop up is another common trigger. Those who feel that college was supposed to be the best time of their lives can only feel more isolated when reality doesn't measure up. I expected everything to be like, 'I have best friends right away. I didn't find my friends right away.

I felt just distant from everyone else. As a result, it's easy to feel like you're the only one who doesn't think college is the best thing ever. Everybody puts on a good front for the public, even if they're not so happy inside," says Mary Commerford, PhD, director of the Furman Counseling Center at Barnard College. Building new friendships is a process during your first year. It can take a while to meet people that you have a lot in common with.

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In some cases, the shaky, early days of freshman year and a case of the normal, expected "freshman blues" can escalate into more severe anxiety or depression that can linger until, well, now — around winter break and beyond. If that happens, experts advise seeking help from your college mental health center — more on that later. With the stress of new adulthood and living on your own, the late teens and early 20s are a time when mental illnesses can manifest for the first time, whether someone is in college or not, says Eells, especially if someone is already genetically predisposed.

About half of the people seeking counseling services at Cornell have already experienced mental health issues before arriving at college. During a tough childhood that included mental illness in her family, Mitchell idealized college, expecting it to be an escape. She hoped to find close friends which she didn't really have many of in high schooland even, possibly, love.

But "being thrust into all these new social situations triggered my anxiety in the worst possible way," she recalled. As Mitchell discovered her high expectations of freshman year were naive, her depression raged on. Burdened by depression and anxiety, Mitchell mostly ignored academics her first year — so much so that her GPA is still recovering two years later. Academic-related anxiety and depression is a common theme among freshmen who seek counseling, says Eells, whether because college academics are much more difficult than those at some high schools, or because students who long identified as the smartest kid in their old school are suddenly one of many.

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It's also easy to lie in your extra-long twin bed refreshing Instagram instead of going to the awkward ice cream social in your dorm and "friending" people IRL. But being glued to your phone makes it that much harder to put yourself out there, meet new people, and find the same kind of support at college that you might have had at home. The UCLA American Freshman report found that current incoming college students are socializing with friends less than ever before: Inpercent socialized at least 16 hours per week with friends; bythat dropped to percent.

Over the last decade, "we are starting to see some of the influence of social media," says UCLA's Eagan. It's part of a new reality. Mid-way through her first semester, Sara was tired and bored of sitting in her room and hearing the roar of the nearby football games she was too shy to attend, so she took matters into her own hands. She ed a sorority, something she never thought she'd do.

She started grabbing coffees with her "sisters" and feeling less alone. Looking back, Sara sees her rough first semester of freshman year as a case of the "freshman blues" — homesickness, feeling a little lost and alone — rather than an anxiety disorder or depression. An important distinction is that she was able to function in her everyday life: sleep, get out of bed, attend class, and, as awkward as it was at times, venture to the dining hall with some girls from her hall.

But when feelings of anxiety, or depression, or both, make you feel unable to sleep or get out of bed, eat, attend class, or socialize, "that's when you know it's time to seek help," Eells says.

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Visit your school's mental health center most colleges have them for a consultation and let a counselor know what you're going through — you may need more counseling or, in some cases, medication. Of course, you don't need to wait until your symptoms get to the point where you can't get out of bed to seek help at the counseling center; if you're struggling with anxiety or depression, try to go as soon as you are able.

If you had issues with anxiety or depression in high school — even if you're doing better when you come to college — experts suggest making a plan for maintaining your care at school, just in case you have a flare-up. This isn't my past. Making a connection at the mental health center or scheduling a periodic check-in is a proactive way to take care of yourself in your brand new world. Though the stigma of seeing a therapist is slowly falling away, freshmen women who are struggling should remember that they're hardly alone, and that there's no shame in reaching out to get assistance.

As Commerford says, "seeking help is an act of courage.

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There's not a person on the planet who doesn't need help sometimes. Seeing a counselor at Penn State's mental health center and eventually starting to take antidepressants helped Erin through her freshman year "from hell.

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In addition, she cited getting a gym membership as helping her feel more physically and mentally healthy. Are you getting enough sleep? Eating regularly? Without sleep and food, even the hardiest person begins to have symptoms. Do you do things regularly to relax, get your mind off things, have fun? Do you talk about your life and feelings with friends, family, and get that support? Erin also found solace in a new support network — sorority sisters she met in her spring semester of freshman year.

Though she was vigilantly anti-Greek before coming to college, she decided to try rush on a whim, and came to realize that not all sorority girls fit the stereotype she'd perceived as catty. Realizing that her FWB relationships were triggering her depression, she wrote off casual hookups with guys who didn't treat her to her standards. I think that's a permanent part of my life," she says, "but the good thing is that, through a lot of trial and error, I've figured out how to deal with it, and it doesn't control me. A month after our first s, Danielle is doing better at her Massachusetts college.

She hasn't yet sought counseling, only because her symptoms are slowly subsiding: During one of the late nights when she couldn't sleep, she realized she wasn't the only one on her floor with lights peeking out under the door.

A group of people on her floor stayed up late talking and hanging out. She still doesn't like to party, but she's met a few people on her floor that don't, either, or she keeps her door open for late-night hangouts with those who do go out.

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Things still aren't perfect, but they're a lot better. She's even thinking about becoming a resident advisor next year to help new freshmen through their own tough times: "It's really amazing how far I've come since that day in the bathroom stall. Follow Seventeen on Instagram for more stories from real teens.

Type keyword s to search. Today's Top Stories. Timeline of the Second Amendment and Gun Control. How to Watch 'After We Fell'. Lauren Keech. Erin Mitchell Lauren Keech. Sara O Kane at her sororitys founders day ceremony last April. Sara never imagined she would a sorority. Sara O'Kane. Erin Mitchell, with her sorority sisters Sarah Northey.

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