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How to Cope with College Stress? Young Adults Getting into Addiction as a Coping Mechanism

Learn more about the effects of stress on the body and methods for coping with stress in a college setting here.

What is Stress?

Although you may know how stress feels or have a basic idea of the concept, you may not know exactly what stress is or what coping with stress looks like. On a biological level, stress is any change that can cause strain in the body. This strain can be physical, emotional, psychological, or a combination of the three.1 

Coping with Stress

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What Does Stress Feel Like?

The effects of stress can be different for everyone. It can depend on many factors, including how you manage stress. However, overall, the symptoms of stress can include:
  • Irritability
  • Feeling “wound up”
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Body aches
  • Chest pain
  • Racing heart

Acute Stress vs. Stress

There are two different types of stress: acute stress and chronic stress.
Acute stress is a short-term condition. This is any stress that you undergo for a short amount of time. For college students, this may look like stress about an upcoming test or assignment. Chronic stress, however, is a long-term condition. If you’re worried about a class and every test and assignment, for instance, this is now chronic stress rather than acute stress.2

Stress Symptoms and Signs

Stress can manifest in many different ways. That is why it is important to develop healthy mechanisms to practice coping with stress. 

While it may seem like the only symptoms of stress are emotional, they can actually be physical as well as behavioral. 

Physical Symptoms of Stress

While you may be familiar with how stress impacts your mind, you may not be as familiar with how it affects your body. There are many physical symptoms of stress, some of which are more noticeable than others. In fact, some symptoms of physical stress, such as nausea or cycle changes, may be mistaken for another cause entirely.

If you’re struggling with coping with stress, you may notice some of these physical symptoms:
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Panic attacks
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Body aches and pains
  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Diarrhea 
  • Nausea
  • Changes in weight
  • Hives or other notable rashes
  • Changes to period or menstrual cycle
  • An increase in the severity of existing physical health concerns

Behavioral Symptoms of Stress

Physical and emotional symptoms aren’t the only signs of stress. When you experience acute or chronic stress, you may also notice some behavioral symptoms. These are common when someone doesn’t know how to practice coping with stress through healthy habits. Some of the behavioral symptoms of stress include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Problems with memory
  • Persistent worrying
  • Snapping at friends and loved ones more often
  • Nail biting
  • Skin picking
  • Dental problems, such as teeth grinding or clenching
  • Problems with intimacy

College and Upper Education/Youth Impact on Stress

The average person spends around the first two decades of their life in school. It is also one of the first introductions to both acute and chronic stress, but also a time when coping with stress is important. Some of the stress that may be encountered as a student includes:

  • Stress about school performance
  • Financial stress
  • Peer pressure

Stress Causes and Side Effects

Above, you’ve learned more about what stress is and how it may manifest in your day-to-day life. Below, you’ll learn more about the potential causes of stress and its side effects.

What Causes Stress?

There is no single cause for stress. From finances to grades to troubles with loved ones, there are an endless number of causes for the body’s stress response and its symptoms.
However, on a biological level, what causes stress? This involves understanding how your body responds to certain situations. Stress occurs when your body senses a threat. This can cause the production of certain hormones that prepares your body for its natural fight or flight response. However, when it comes to some of the stress causes you may know well, there is no true threat. As a result, rather than helping you survive, stress can cause some negative side effects. 

Stress Effects and Risk Factors

While some stress can be healthy for your body, chronic stress can lead to a variety of negative side effects. Acute stress can increase your heart rate and blood pressure. However, because this is short-term, this can go away quickly. With chronic stress, however, there is a notable increase in your risk of developing cardiovascular problems.3
Because of these problems, it is important to learn about coping with stress in a healthy way. 

How Easily Can College Students Fall into Addiction?

In 2019, studies showed a significant increase in substance use disorders in college students. Alcohol, drugs, and other substances can all be readily available on a college campus, making it easy to develop a substance use disorder and addiction.4

While there are many types of substance use disorders seen on college campuses, alcohol use disorder is one of the most common. It can show up during parties, free time, or even as a way of coping with stress. 

How Long Does it Take to be Addicted to Alcohol?

There is no set number of drinks or fluid ounces you can drink before becoming addicted to alcohol. Some people may become dependent on alcohol after just a few times drinking, while other people may not develop an alcohol use disorder without binge heavy drinking.

Common Addictions Amongst College Students

lcoholism isn’t the only common addiction on college campuses. Other commonly abused substances among college students include:
  • Marijuana
  • Stimulants
  • Nicotine
  • Depressants

Peer Pressure

One study has found that a student who has a peer in their class who smokes is around four times as likely to pick up smoking themselves.5
Similar studies have found that peer pressure involving alcohol and other substances can also lead to use.6

Party Culture

Although coping with stress is one reason why college students may turn to substance use, it’s not the only reason.
One of the primary reasons that college is such a hot spot for substance use disorders is because of the party culture on campus. College youth can gather together to party and enjoy their free time. However, in some instances, this can lead to drug and alcohol abuse.

How to Deal with Stress Without Turning to Illicit Substances/Addiction

Coping with stress can be an entirely new challenge for many people, especially college freshmen. However, it’s important for everyone to learn more about coping with stress. This includes learning to manage this stress in a healthy way without turning to substance use.
Some ways to go about coping with stress include:
coping with stress
  • Pre-commitment
  • Social support
  • Changing routine
  • Exercising regularly
  • Eating a nutritious, healthy diet
  • Finding the balance between work and free time
  • Reducing causes of stress in daily life

Treatment for Stress and Alcohol Addiction at Ripple Ranch Recovery

Are you or someone you know having trouble coping with stress? Has your stress led to alcohol addiction or other substance use disorders?

Here at Ripple Ranch Recovery, our team of professional healthcare providers is prepared to go above and beyond when it comes to helping you develop healthier habits. We offer many different treatment programs so that our compassionate and caring staff can develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your needs. 

Treatment Opportunities at Ripple Ranch

Along with teaching you more about coping with stress, you’ll have the opportunity to try out different treatment options, including:
To learn more about coping with stress and the services we offer at Ripple Ranch Recovery, please reach out to us today.