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How to balance a diagnosed condition with college living

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If you’re transitioning to college with a mental health condition, you aren’t alone. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t have a great college experience. The key is to do your research, plan ahead and take good care of yourself. Here are some tips on how to do just that.

Transition your treatment program. Part of managing your condition and college is making sure you have a solid treatment program and support network in place. If you are going to school in a new city, you may need to find a new counselor or therapist. Your current mental health professional may be able to help you coordinate this transition. It’s also important to understand what services your counseling center offers (learn more about the questions you should ask about campus counseling services ) If you take medication, you’ll need to make sure to take it as prescribed and stay on top of your refills. If you’re having a problem with your medication, always talk to your doctor before stopping the medication. It’s dangerous to stop taking medication without first creating a plan with your doctor.

Learn about academic accommodations. Together with your family member or significant other, research the accommodations your school offers. Give them a call beforehand to discuss what accommodations you might qualify for. The types of accommodations depend on your specific needs, but might include extra time to finish up exams, extended deadlines for assignments, condensed course load or different assignments.

Anticipate and plan for setbacks. While it’s incredibly exciting, college is also a stressful time, and setbacks can occur. But you can minimize their impact by paying attention to the warning signs. Talk with your therapist about your specific warning signs, and create a list to take with you. Your list might include symptoms like “crying easily, missing class, eating less, withdrawing from friends.” Your list of signs should also include a plan of action. What will you do if you notice these warning signs? Knowing how you’ll handle a setback is an enormous help in getting you back on track. Remember that the sooner you get help, the quicker you’ll feel better.

Turn to your support system. Having a support system — such as your treatment team, a school advisor and several friends you deeply trust — is imperative. At one point or another, college becomes an overwhelming time for all students. Reach out to your support system, and let them know how you’re feeling. Consider sharing with them your specific warning signs and your plan of action in case you may need their assistance.

Disclose your diagnosis to trusted friends. Who you tell about your diagnosis is a personal choice, but it’s important to tell people you’re close with. Also, because there are many misconceptions about mental illness, consider giving your friend a brochure or a link to a website like this one for accurate information about your condition.