5 Signs of Mental Illness To Recognize in Your College Roommate

By Alexia Gonzalez on August 4, 2015

It’s common knowledge that you never truly begin to know all about a person until you live with them. This statement will definitely ring true when sharing close quarters with a friend or even a complete stranger.

Living together creates a unique bond that will allow you to gain an interesting perspective on another individual no matter how close your relationship started out.

Living with another person not only helps you grow and mature in regards to your own personal well-being and sense of responsibility but also changes the way that you approach relationships. You may become more trusting but typically it teaches you the opposite: to tread lightly. Sometimes being forced to grow so closely to another individual clues you in on issues that you would have never anticipated.

It is no doubt that college is a stressful time in any young adult’s life. It is a period of increasing pressure and responsibility that can cause some serious emotional disturbances for students, especially those who are predisposed to mental issues.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “one in four young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 have a diagnosable mental illness. More than 25 percent of college students have been diagnosed or treated by a professional for a mental health condition within the past year.”

These statistics only skim the surface of the very real mental health issues that college students deal with on a daily basis. This is why it’s vital for students to be doing everything possible to seek the help that they need to alleviate their troubles.

The problem stems from the fact that students are not seeking help when it comes to dealing with or admitting to their mental illness. NAMI reports that, “Overall, 40 percent of students with diagnosable mental health conditions did not seek help. Fifty-seven percent of them did not request accommodations from their school.

These percentages need to change and even if you personally do not suffer from a mental illness, you can keep your eyes open to support peers or loved ones who need to seek help.

This is increasingly vital when you start to notice symptoms of mental instability in someone close to you in proximity, such as a roommate. For someone who interacts with them on a daily basis and in their personal space, you will probably be among the first people to notice any behavioral changes that can indicate potential mental health conditions.

That being said, major mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia will rarely appear from nowhere. Family, friends, teachers, or even the individual will recognize that something is amiss with the affected individual’s feelings, thinking, or behavior before one of the more severe illnesses will become, if not obvious, then at least fully formed.

Being informed about warning signs or developing symptoms can lead to an intervention and help. As with all ailments, it’s all about early detection in order to reduce the severity of the final result.


These are not clear diagnoses, of course, but being able to spot symptoms is important. Keep a keen eye out for any of the following symptoms of mental illness if you start to notice behavioral or physical changes in a roommate. You may be able to help save them from themselves.


Every college student is bound to exhibit signs of stress and strain at some point. However, if an individual displays constant and consistent signs of anxiety, this could definitely be a cause for concern.

These symptoms can be manifested through anything from restless behavior, irrational fears and worries, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, light-headedness, or constant and unwarranted nausea.

Lack of motivation

Lack of physical or academic motivation is certainly a sign to look out for. If you notice a roommate or friend becoming unusually unmotivated in their work or hobbies, not performing to the best of their abilities, or appearing overall disinterested in things that once concerned them, this could be a sign of depression.


If a friend seems unhappy, depressed or irritable, and this goes on for a period of weeks or longer, this could also indicate something is wrong. Keep an eye out for manifestations of guilt or worthlessness, as these can be signs of depression.

Social withdrawal

Also look out for a sudden lack of interest in spending time with others.

If the person starts spending more time alone, this could also signal a mental health issue such as depression, bipolar disorder or a psychotic disorder.


Fluctuating weight or rapid weight loss could also be a cause for concern, as mental health issues can affect our appetite and weight.


Lasting changes in a person’s sleep patterns can be an indication of a troubled mind, so if a person is sleeping unusually little – or unusually a lot – this could be a symptom of a problem such as anxiety or depression.

Currently seeking a Master's Degree in Media and Communication Studies with a Certification in Multicultural Marketing. Also an undergraduate Public Speaking Instructor at Florida State University. Along with media studies and marketing, I have extensive experience in journalism, writing for outlets such as the Huffington Post and USA Today. Lover of food, fitness, travel, music, and film. 23 years old and bilingual.

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