Whether you’re a middle school, high school, or college student, school can be complicated. While school is a source of personal development and inspiration for many students, academic pressures can lead to stress and mental health issues. Conversely, mental health conditions can also create academic challenges.
It’s normal to feel stressed and anxious in school from time to time. Nearly everyone has experienced stress before a test or disappointment over a bad grade. However, if your academic challenges cause significant stress, anxiety, or mental health problems regularly, it’s essential to seek support from a therapist.
Types of Academic Challenges
Academic challenges can relate to a student’s performance in school or a student’s behavior toward teachers and fellow students. Academic challenges can affect elementary school, middle school, high school, and college students. It may be present in the following areas:
- Learning differences: If you have a learning difference or a mental health condition that influences academic performance, such as ADHD, it can be challenging to practice time management skills, focus on completing assignments, or learn at the same pace as other students.
- Perfectionism: Some high school students and college students tend to judge themselves harshly and set high academic standards. For these students, it can feel difficult to accept anything other than perfect grades, a perfect GPA, and academic success.
- Impostor syndrome: Especially for students in higher education, private school, and elite academic programs, it can feel like you don’t belong and won’t measure up to other students.
- Bullying: Bullying and other social challenges can affect a student’s social life in any educational setting, from elementary school to graduate school.
- Time management issues: Procrastination and difficulty staying organized or motivated can make school more stressful.
- Academic transitions: Transitioning from homeschool to public school or from public school to private school can lead to mental health challenges.
- Test anxiety: Some students face intense anxiety and stress related to taking tests and other kinds of evaluations.
- Balancing school with other responsibilities: If you’re balancing school with working, caring for others, or maintaining other commitments like sports, you may be more susceptible to stress.
- Discrimination or harassment: Students facing harassment or discrimination at school because of their race, ethnicity, culture, gender identity, disability, or sexual orientation often face mental health challenges.
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Academic Challenges and Mental Health
Academic concerns are closely related to mental health. While approximately 20% of school year children have a diagnosable mental health condition, only about 20% receive a diagnosis and treatment.
Academic concerns may also arise due to mental health issues, such as anxiety or ADHD. At the same time, students may face mental health challenges due to academic pressures. Some of the most common mental health challenges related to academics include:
- Stress and anxiety
- Conflicts with friends or family members
- Self-esteem issues
- Identity concerns
- Physical symptoms, such as headaches and digestive issues
- Difficulty sleeping
What should you do if you’re struggling with academic challenges?
If you’re struggling with academic pressure, there are several effective ways to cope:
- Therapy: Academic challenges are often related to stress, personal or family problems, or financial issues. Psychotherapy can help students address underlying challenges and develop strategies for coping with related mental health challenges. School counselors can help identify potential concerns and refer students to a therapist. A middle school student who finds it difficult to finish assignments after a traumatic event, for example, may be able to improve their performance in the classroom after discussing the trauma with a therapist.
- Meet with an academic advisor: In most academic institutions, an academic advisor is available to help students with educational issues. If you’re overwhelmed with too many semester hours, finding it challenging to meet graduation eligibility requirements, or having trouble managing concurrent courses, your advisor may be able to help you work through problems and provide additional resources.
- Look into disability services: Some students with learning disabilities can excel academically without being placed in a special education program. Other students, who are identified as “exceptional” by school districts, can benefit from placement in a disability school program. The goal of a special education school program is to allow students with learning disabilities to enjoy the same opportunities and benefits from education as their peers.
- Work with a tutor: A student struggling with a particular subject can benefit from specialized study sessions with a tutor. For example, if your child struggles in social studies, working with a tutor can help them better understand the subject. Tutoring can also lead to greater confidence in the classroom.
- Apply for scholarships: High school seniors, recent high school graduates, and college students facing financial issues can receive financial aid by applying for scholarships. Many scholarships are available at the state level. For example, Arkansas residents can apply for the Arkansas scholarship lottery, Academic Challenge Scholarship, and Academic Challenge Program. Qualified high school students can also search for national scholarship opportunities. Before applying for a scholarship, ensure that you meet the scholarship’s eligibility criteria.
- Practice self-care: Creating a self-care plan is one of the best ways to stay calm and healthy when dealing with academic stress. Try spending more time with friends, playing with pets, prioritizing sleep and healthy eating, and intentionally setting aside time to relax.
What should you look for in a therapist?
If you’re struggling with academic stress, psychotherapy can be an effective treatment. Depending on the nature of your challenges, it might be helpful to work with a therapist experienced in stress, anxiety, or self-esteem.
If you’re not sure where to start, consider reaching out to a therapist through WithTherapy. We’ll connect you with a qualified therapist you feel comfortable with, regardless of your personal preferences and requirements. One of the experienced therapists on the WithTherapy platform will help you identify academic concerns and learn healthy strategies to cope with academic stress.