How common is PTSD among college students?

June 23, 2023

How common is PTSD among college students?

Kaitlin Gallo, Ph.D.
Chief Clinical Officer

After experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, many individuals will develop persistent, lingering side effects that disrupt their daily lives. This condition, known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), was first discovered in Vietnam Veterans returning from serving in the war in the 1970s, but is believed to have been around for centuries. Though it is prevalent among the Veteran community, it is far from unique to Veterans, and anyone can develop it.   

Traumatic events that can spark post-traumatic stress disorder include war/combat, natural disasters, serious accidents, terrorist acts, sexual assault, domestic violence, historical trauma, and bullying, according to the American Psychiatric Association. PTSD symptoms include experiencing intrusive memories, avoidance of thinking or talking about the event, negative thinking, irritability, and angry outbursts. 

Young adulthood is a prime time for experiencing potentially traumatic events (PTEs). Breslau et. al, 1998 found that the rates of trauma exposure spike between 16 and 20 years old, an age bracket that overlaps with that of traditional U.S. college students.  A study by Read, et. al (2011) demonstrated that over 65 percent of college students in the sample reported trauma exposure; of that group, nearly 10 percent developed PTSD.  

PTSD symptoms can significantly impact a person’s ability to learn. A student coping with post-traumatic stress disorder can have difficulty concentrating, memory issues, and trouble with problem-solving, which can hinder their ability to thrive in an academic setting. College students with post-traumatic stress are also at risk for substance misuse, which can exacerbate symptoms. “You have a group of young people exposed to some trauma who are away from many of the things that would otherwise provide them with support. Even those who are commuting have still entered into a new way of life,” says Jennifer Read, a psychology professor at the University of Buffalo and co-author of a research paper in Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research and Policy titled “PTSD symptom course during the first year of college.” 

If colleges and universities provide accessible mental health resources, a student experiencing a mental health crisis, as can occur for individuals dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, can receive immediate help. Addressing their symptoms with licensed professionals gives them the opportunity to improve and focus on their studies.  

For students struggling with mental health challenges, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, the resources offered through Christie Campus Health can be an important addition to the services already provided through a college/university. Christie offers customized solutions for college students to address a wide range of needs. Christie’s services include a 24/7 clinical support line; psychiatric prescribing; Navigators to assist with referrals and specialty care; science-backed meditation and mindfulness tools through the Headspace app; and SilverCloud, a self-directed and clinically validated Internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (ICBT). Contact Christie Campus Health to learn more. 


Three Art, Music Colleges Now Offering Mental Health Support to Students through Partnership with Christie Campus Health

Christie Campus Health announces that it has partnered with two art schools and one music conservatory. Manhattan School of Music, Maryland Institute College of Art, and Laguna College of Art and Design will offer their students mental health services through Christie. All three will provide their students access to a 24/7 Clinical Support Line, and Laguna College will also offer mental health counseling (in-person and teletherapy) and Navigators. 

Read More

How to Support the Mental Health Needs of College Students as they Return to Campus 

The beginning of a new academic year for college students is an exciting yet stressful time. Returning to the routine of managing classes, projects, and studying can become overwhelming.  

Mental health struggles among college students are continuing to rise. College students are susceptible to experiencing mental health struggles because they are entering an unfamiliar environment with new responsibilities and stressors.

Read More

One University’s Path Towards Supporting More Students

Like so many institutions of higher education across the United States, Salem State University has doubled down on their efforts to support the ever-growing mental health and wellness needs of their students. Salem State has a highly diverse student population with a significant percentage of students managing jobs and family responsibilities while attending classes. Coming to a traditional on-campus counseling center to access support is not always feasible for Salem State students when they’re struggling, nor is mental health counseling indicated for every student who experiences personal challenges.

Read More