Depression and Anxiety Caused Me to Drop Out of College

December 20, 2016 Ashley Horsfall

Depression and anxiety can be devastating, but noticing the signs early helps. Don't let depression and anxiety force you to drop out of college. Read this.

Some with depression and anxiety drop out of college (How Can Colleges Help Students with Mental Illness?). I graduated from high school at 17 and was ready to tear through my freshman year of college. Instead, I dropped out of college with depression and anxiety. What followed were eight years of insecurity and an intense dread for the future.

How Anxiety and Depression Forced Me to Drop Out of College

One of the first signs that pointed to depression was that I could not pull myself out of the desire to sleep for hours on end, mixed with bouts of insomnia. I would lie in bed late at night, not necessarily worrying or thinking. Of course, this led to sleeping all day. It's pretty hard to make it to class when you can't get up for the alarm clock.

I would also experience intense sadness unlike any other I had felt. I could be doing anything, from writing an essay to taking a shower, and suddenly feel like crying. Life felt unbearable, and it soon became clear that I would be dropping out of college due to depression.

Anxiety was the second component leading me to drop out of college. I started out fine enough, attending classes every day. After summer sessions, I became afraid of going to class. I just stopped going. Of course, my grades dropped considerably.

How I Coped with Dropping Out of College with Depression and Anxiety

Dropping out of school felt like the best choice at the time, but it was not without consequence. It is nearly 10 years later, and I am finally going back to college. Watch this video to learn more about how I coped with dropping out of college because of depression and anxiety (How to Talk to Your College Student about Mental Illness).

See Also:

The Problems with Depression in College Students

APA Reference
Horsfall, A. (2016, December 20). Depression and Anxiety Caused Me to Drop Out of College, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 24 from

Author: Ashley Horsfall

August, 30 2022 at 12:16 am

It’s the second week of going to university and I feel like my life is falling apart. Every day has been increasingly difficult. Often I find myself sleeping more than usual. I am unable to concentrate on doing my homework because my mind began to worry about other things. I feel like my paralyzing anxiety is getting worse, making me lose how to function as a human being. Honestly, I feel like dropping out of college because my mental health is in a really dark place. But if I do, I just know that my parents would never understand how I truly feel and what is wrong with me. Not to mention I’m still haunted by my past of emotional distress and trauma ever since my childhood. Most likely I will get disowned by my parents too. It’s painful to see that my parents associate depression with the label of “crazy” people. I find it difficult to be happy or even smile. You may ask “Why?” Because I feel like I shouldn’t be born in this world nor deserve to be happy.

March, 16 2019 at 7:44 am

Glad to read the posts and to see folks returning after ten, twenty years. I recently went to a college concert and there were 2 students in it over age 60. So you can say it is never too late, to be the hope that others need. That's what this website can be!
A chronic illness is really a disability rather than an illness, and I think there should be colleges that have classes and majors for the type of learning that most people with mental illness can do-- no pressure learning!--and classroom environments that are like support groups. . Fewer classes, like 3 per semester, to be fulltime, too. I was overwhelmed with 5 classes each semester. I handled my illness with a lot of running, prayer, humor, and trying to drive the negative suffocating energy into my studies. I was like a firefighter running into a fire every day. Terrified and literally running across campus to sit(and fidget) through class. I managed to squeak out a degree days before I collapsed, barely stumbling through my senior year. And that only because I was in the right major for my particular skills and personality.
Why couldn't there be colleges that have a special track just for those with depression/anxiety... with classes that do not have massive amounts of reading, memorization, papers.I always felt that the timeline and credits needed to finish were so arbitrary and impossible. No wonder you have to drop out.
All this said, I am all too aware that the most favorable circumstances cannot fix the great suffering of a mental illness, and the social and financial consequences of it. A webpage like this offers great hope by knowing how many people suffer similarly. Thinking of you all and sending prayers/hope/peace.

February, 18 2019 at 10:39 pm

I'm also 18 and currently attending college. Last semester, I failed all of my classes mostly because of depression. I also had my first anxiety attack last semester and was going through intense mood swings. I haven't confirmed this with a psychologist, but I may have bipolar disorder.
This semester, I've been trying to eliminate as many unhealthy habits as possible and have been doing better. However, in times when I'm under a lot of stress, like right now in midterms season, it can be very tough to climb up the slippery slope that is my mental illness. Yesterday I woke up really motivated, then while eating breakfast I became depressed. I was able to study, but not as much as I wanted to. I was feeling really down last night until I suddenly felt a lot better and inspired. Feeling good scared me because my mood can fluctuate so much.
Now I'm just depressed, lethargic, and scared of trying hard at anything. I worked out today, but that was a monumental effort. It's hard enough to work out without your thoughts beating you down. I need to get as much as help as possible from the student health center... I really want control over this mental illness and to resolve past issues that may be the root of this. There's so much I want to do in my life but negative thoughts and self-doubt keep getting in the way and holding me down...
Thank you so much for posting this article. I've a game plan for dealing with my mental illnesses that I am still trying to perfect and follow. Sometimes, I don't have as much time for self-care as I would like because I'm so busy. however, that's also when my mental health deteriorates the most.
I need to stay strong this semester. I'm in my dream college. If I can stay hopeful and healthy, that would mean so much to me. I already invested so much into just getting here, so I would hate to lose it all in my first year.

October, 8 2019 at 11:02 pm

Charles' post helped me so much - I can see he is stronger and more in touch with himself than he might realize.

February, 4 2019 at 5:52 pm

Hey I am 18 and I dropped out of college when I was 17 too it’s been less than a year and I am trying to handle my depression and anxiety, I have no aspiration or ambition or any goals, I feel bad for my parents because I feel like a failure as I was doing good in college getting top grades i was just disappointed that my mental illness got the best of me but I am learning to accept that everything happens for a reason and perhaps I am taking a different journey in life, I just don’t want to be anyone’s problem especially a problem to my family when I’m supposed to be a young independent adult and I can’t even get a job because I’m petrified to leave the house most days. So as I’m laying awake struggling to sleep due to my frequent insomnia I was feeling down about it all again and I felt as though even though I had a weight lifted off my shoulders leaving college I still couldn’t enjoy this time and focus working on myself because of my overpowering guilt but watching your video and hearing your story really reassured me that it’s never to late to go back if I wanted and that there is light at the end of the tunnel even though recently I have been feeling so hopeless so thank you for that you’re really inspiring it’s nice to know I’m not the only one to have experienced this.

Que Se Joda
December, 16 2018 at 11:34 pm

When I first went to college years ago, I didn't care how I did. I was way more I dropped out. I had no direction. Now that I've returned years later, I'm finding that I care way too much about grades. I get constant nervous breakdowns. I am unable to control my emotions. I feel like I am in hell. Every bad grade is a reason to give up and despair, and what little encouragement I get doesn't help at all. I have exhausted myself looking for solutions that don't involve medication. I am going to try exercise...but really, I think it's all in the personality. Some people can withstand college, while others can't. I've been in the working world, had two careers - trust me, work stress is easier than school stress! A bad work day goes away! GPA's don't exist! You don't have to hunt down scholarships or professor recommendations or extracurricular activities...none of that nonsense. Someone needs the guts to stand up to the academic system and change it, because too many of us are suffering unnecessarily.

January, 26 2023 at 10:30 am

So true! People need to stand up against it
It’s affecting too many people
Information is all out there anyway- why should the whole process of education be so intense?

December, 2 2018 at 5:24 pm

Hi!, I'm in my las year of college. Since 9 yo i have depression, but I decided to treat it at 21 years when my low capacity of concentration didn't allow me to study or do my homework. Was very hard ask for help. I don't want to extend me too much, so, in summary: When I asked for help my parents found out, they know that I was take antidepressants and anxiolytics and they forceme to leave it because they left of support me economically, and the money that I gain isn't enough to pay my treatment, so I went back to panic attacks, depression, lost of memory, eating disorders etc. Now it's very hard to me to finish the college. I tried everyday but it's almost impossible, the only fact of not killing myself it's very exhausting.
I failed this semester, I failed four of five subject. I wanna cry, I feel so stupid. I talked to my parents at the beggining of the semester, but they only said me that I need to finish because I can't be a failure, and they think that I only was being lazy. I hate myself and I want to die. I understand the point of my parents, it's very scary don't have a college degree, but also I it's very debilitating fighting with depression without any help.
btw sorry for my bad english, isn't my first language.

May, 25 2018 at 2:49 pm

Hi Ashley, Thank you for sharing. I am now 25 and after trying college several times, I dropped out and gave up hope of going back. After trying different odd jobs for the past two years, I really want to go back, but I feel like I won't get that chance.... It's rough.

Albert j Saldana
July, 14 2017 at 1:41 pm

I'm currently at a trade school as an airplane mechanic. I honestly feel like this career isn't going to work out for me and have gotten anxiety and depression. I feel like dropping out, but I have student loans and would leave me in debt. I don't know what to do. Any advice?

Jim Buchanan
March, 26 2017 at 2:37 pm

I dropped out ofcollege in 1981 or the same reasons. I did go back and get a degree, but it was very hard to do. Back then i felt alone, but now I know many people face or have faced the same things. It is worth it to keep trying!

Pate Branch
March, 21 2017 at 6:21 pm

Thanks for sharing, Ashley. I'm currently in the same position you've described, feeling unwilling or incapable of continuing my degree, and also struggling with my sense of worth. I think I've fallen into the trap of comparing myself to my peers and acquaintances as well. It's terrifying moving forward in life without a plan or clear goals, but this really is helping me see a light at the end of the tunnel. Keep posting, 'cause I know I'm not the only one needing this kind of reassurance.

December, 21 2016 at 2:25 pm

I felt that I had to quit, too. I couldn't get out of bed to go to classes. Nobody knew about depression in 1978 really so I had nowhere to get or ask for help. I just thought I was a hopeless mess and that I wasn't meant to finish college. I tried going back several times - currently have 127 lower-division credits from changing my major so many times. Most seniors don't graduate with that many credits!
I still want to back and retake my math classes. I also want to take more chemistry classes, however I am not allowing myself to go back until I can choose, and stay with, one major. But that is due to ADHD, which makes all of it that much more difficult! So put recurrent major depression, generalized anxiety, ADHD/gifted "twice exceptional," and executive function problems all together and you get a life like mine: basically, a boat without a rudder! What interested me last week probably won't answer me next week. "Oh look - a squirrel!"

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

December, 25 2016 at 6:40 am

Hi Robin,
That is tough! Like you, I have accumulated quite a bunch of credits in a variety of fields. I do think part of my problem was not necessarily realizing that I was unsure what I really wanted to do. Sometimes I still don't even know!

August, 28 2017 at 4:15 am

I'm in the same boat. Thank you so much for your insight. It truly means a lot.

December, 20 2016 at 3:52 pm

I dropped out of graduate school three times due to depression and anxiety disorder. I remember many times in class going through a panicked attack and left class before embarrassment arrived. Finally at age 46 I received a masters degree. Back then I didn't know what it was or what was causing it.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

December, 25 2016 at 6:33 am

Wow, it's fantastic that you were able to receive your masters degree! And of course, also great that you were able to realize what was causing your panic. These things happen so often and yet many people do not even realize they are not alone in it.

J Wh
May, 20 2021 at 1:45 am

I too have struggled with this over and over. I'm 38 years old and I'm not a successful story because I got my Associate degree back in 2006. I haven't been back to college until January of this year. I decided after I got laid off due to covid, to start my bachelor's degree while I look for another job. I took 6 credits in the spring. I got an A and a B, but it took everything I have. My anxiety and depression were really bad this summer semester and I just dropped all three of my classes because I'm starting a new job soon and I don't think I can handle it all. I keep hearing from people, "I did 26 credits in one semester. You do what you have to do." This makes me feel even worse because I can only handle 6 credits in spring and 6 credits in the fall. I should be able to handle more by this point, but I haven't gotten there yet. I'm relieved to see others out there who have gone through this and I hope you all find a way to overcome your fears.

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