Bipolar Disorder in College Students

College can be one of the most exciting and rewarding times in an individual’s life, opening the door to pursue new knowledge, prepare for a future career and experience life in a new way.  It can also be a very challenging time for students, especially those who may be at risk of developing a mental illness or have already been diagnosed with mental illness. 

The onset of depressive illnesses including bipolar disorder tends to peak between the ages of 15 and 24 – just as academic pressures are mounting and students are adjusting emotionally to complex life changes.  The challenges of college – leaving home for the first time, learning to live independently, forming new relationships, sleeping irregularly, and being confronted with greater access to alcohol and drugs – can be overwhelming for many students.  

Recognizing the signs

This section of the website provides information about how bipolar disorder can impact college students, and tips for making the most of the collegiate experience when battling bipolar disorder.  It’s important for everyone – new students, returning students, faculty, staff and families – to learn to identify the signs of depression.  Visit Learn About Your Diagnosis to learn more about the symptoms of depression in young people and adults, and Know Your Treatment Options for information about the many options available for treating bipolar disorder.

How common are depressive illnesses on campus? 

The number of college students diagnosed with depression or bipolar illness has increased steadily in recent years.  But sadly, these illnesses often remain hidden and untreated.  Students may attempt to ignore or hide their symptoms because of social or academic pressures, and faculty and staff may not recognize the warning signs. But the good news is that depressive illnesses can be effectively diagnosed and treated, and treatment tends to be most effective when started in young adulthood.

Advice for College Students

Although the path is not easy, with a sound treatment plan, a good support system and a commitment to keeping stress in check and taking the necessary steps to maintain good overall health, students can succeed in college and manage their bipolar disorder at the same time.  The following tips form the basis of a successful strategy to do just that. The links below will lead you to more information about these specific topics found elsewhere on this website: