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Student Health Services at Moffitt Health Center

Mental Health

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Maintaining Mental Health in College

Mental Health

Mental Health is defined as a stat of well-being in which the individual realizes his/her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. 

Mental Illness

Mental Illness is collectively all diagnosable mental disorders or health conditions that are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior (or some combination thereof) associated with distress and/or impaired functioning. 

Mental Health Indicators - 3 Domains

  1. Emotional Well-being - perceived life satisfaction, happiness, cheerfulness, peacefulness
  2. Psychological Well-being - self acceptance, personal growth, openness to new experiences, optimism, hopefulness, purpose in life, control of one's environment, spirituality, self-direction, and positive relationships
  3. Social Well-being - social acceptance, beliefs in the potential of people and society as a whole, personal self-worth and usefulness to society, sense of community

Maintaining your Mental Health

Incorporating these five simple steps into your daily life can help you stay on top of your mental health. 

  1. Engage in a self-assessment process - get to know yourself and be self-aware.
  2. Develop a support network of family/friends.
  3. Get organized - reduces stress and improves performance.
  4. Take care of your physical health - eat healthy and exercise regularly.
  5. Master time management.

Not sure where to turn for help? View Resources for Improving Students Well-being and discover the resources available to you right here on campus. 


Anxiety is a constant feeling of fear that is the main symptom in many anxiety disorders including:

  • Agoraphobia
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Panic Disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Social Phobia (or Social Anxiety Disorder)
  • Excessive, ongoing worry and tension
  • An unrealistic view of problems
  • Restlessness or a feeling of being "edgy"
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Nausea
  • Tiredness
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Trembling
  • Being easily startled
  • Increased heart rate
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations or pounding heart
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or stomach distress
  • Fear of losing control or going crazy
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Stress/trauma
  • Biological factors
  • Genetics
  • Personality traits

Treatment may include therapy, medication, and relaxation techniques.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a major mood disorder characterized by episodes of depression and mania - causes unusual shift in moods, energy, activity level, concentration, and ability to do tasks.

Mania is defined as clearly elevated, unrestrained mood or irritable mood manifested as an exaggerated assessment of self-importance, grandiosity, sleeplessness, racing thoughts, pressured speech, impulsivity, and high risk behavior. 

Depression is typically identified as difficulty falling and staying asleep or sleeping far more than usual. Minor decisions can be overwhelming. A person may become obsessed with feelings of loss, personal failure, guilt or helplessness. Such negative thinking can lead to thoughts of suicide.

  • Periods of unusually intense emotion, changes in sleep patterns and activity levels, and uncharacteristic behaviors—often without recognizing their likely harmful or undesirable effects.
    • These distinct periods are called “mood episodes.”
      • Mood episodes are very different from the moods and behaviors that are typical for the person.
      • During an episode, the symptoms last every day for most of the day.
      • Episodes may also last for longer periods, such as several days or weeks.
  • People may experience both manic and depressive symptoms in the same episode.
    • This kind of episode is called an episode with mixed features.
    • People experiencing an episode with mixed features may feel very sad, empty, or hopeless, while, at the same, time feeling extremely energized.

Adopted from National Institute of Mental Health - Bipolar Disorder - Signs and Symptoms Chart

  • Genetics
  • Stress
  • Brain Structure and Functioning


Treatment may include: 

  • Medication 
  • Psychotherapy
  • Self Management Strategies - identifying early symptoms of an episode
  • Complementary Health Approaches - exercise, meditation, spirituality, having a good support system


Everyone experiences sadness once in a while. Depression is more than a passing blue mood, it is a constant down in the dumps feeling that affects the mind and body. People with a depressive disorder cannot just get over it and get better. Left untreated, symptoms can get progressively worse.

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being "slowed down"
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain

There is no one single cause of depression. It can be one of many or a combination of factors including:

  • Family history
  • Trauma
  • Stressful life circumstances
  • Pessimistic personality
  • Physical conditions
  • Other mental problems

Depression is usually treated with medication and therapy. Exercise can also be a helpful way to improve mood.

Body Image 

Many of us internalize messages starting at a young age that can lead to either positive or negative body image. The key to developing positive body image is to recognize and respect our natural shape and learn to overpower those negative thoughts and feelings with positive, affirming, and accepting ones. Having a healthy body image is an important part of mental wellbeing and eating disorders prevention. 

Body image is defined as one’s thoughts, perceptions, and attitudes about their physical appearance. Body image is how you see yourself when you look in the mirror or when you picture yourself in your mind.

It encompasses:

  • What you believe about your own appearance (including your memories, assumptions, and generalizations).
  • How you feel about your body, including your height, shape, and weight.
  • How you sense and control your body as you move.  How you physically experience or feel in your body. 

Positive body image is a clear, true perception of your shape; seeing the various parts of your body as they really are.

Body positivity (or body satisfaction) involves:

  • feeling comfortable and confident in your body
  • accepting your natural body shape and size
  • recognizing that physical appearance say very little about one’s character and value as a person. 

A negative body image, on the other hand, involves a distorted perception for one’s shape.

Negative body image (or body dissatisfaction) involves:

  • feelings of shame
  • anxiety
  • self-consciousness.

People who experience high levels of body dissatisfaction feel their bodies are flawed in comparison to others, and these folks are more likely to suffer from feelings of depression, isolation, low self-esteem, and eating disorders.

Adopted from National Eating Disorder Assoc. - Body Image

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are serious and sometimes fatal illnesses marked by severe disturbances in eating behaviors. Eating disorders affect all genders, ages, races, sexual orientations, classes, body shapes, and sizes. They are caused by a complex interaction of genetic, biological, behavioral, psychological, and social factors.

Eating disorders frequently co-exist with other illnesses and rates are highest among women.  


Anorexia is an eating disorder in which a person refuses to stay at the minimal of the healthy weight range for one's height and age. He/she remains at an abnormally low body weight.  It is characterized by the fear of gaining weight and distorted body image. 


  • Weight loss of 15% or greater below the expected weight
  • Absence of menstruation
  • Skeletal muscle atrophy
  • Loss of fatty tissue
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dental cavities may be present with self-induced vomiting
  • Blotchy or yellow skin


  • Inappropriate use of laxatives, enemas, or diuretics (water pills) in an effort to lose weight
  • Self-imposed food intake restrictions, often hidden
  • Depression may be present in addition to the eating disorder
  • Most individuals with anorexia nervosa refuse to recognize that they have an eating disorder (denial)
  • Fear of gaining weight
  • Social withdrawal
  • Irritability

One specific cause of anorexia has not been pinpointed. It seems to be a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors including family factors, perfectionist personality, and social pressures. Anorexia is most commonly seen in adolescent and young adult Caucasian women.

Treatment for anorexia includes treating both physical and mental aspects of the disorder. Body weight must be restored and treatment of any medical conditions such as dehydration or heart complications are done. Medication, therapy, and support groups are used in treating the disease. Depending on the severity, one may be placed in a treatment facility for the disorder.


Bulimia is an eating disorder in which one binges on large amounts of food and purges through compensatory behaviors such as vomiting, using laxatives or diuretics or over-exercising. The binge-purge cycle may occur several times a month up to several times a day.

  • Binge eating
  • Self-induced vomiting
  • Inappropriate use of diuretics or laxatives
  • Overachieving behavior
  • Fear of gaining weight
  • Feeling unable to control eating behavior 
  • Excessive exercising
  • Eating until feeling discomfort
  • Pancreatitis
  • Dental cavities
  • Inflammation of the throat
  • Electrolyte abnormalities
  • Dehydration
  • Constipation
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Esophageal tears
  • Heart problems
  • Absence of menstruation
  • Laxative dependence
  • Anxiety/depression

Treatment includes treating physical conditions and breaking up the binge-purge cycle. This may be done through medications, behavior change techniques, and/or therapy.

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder is an eating disorder in which one constantly over eats, even when not hungry and past the point of fullness. During a binge, a person often eats alone and more rapidly than normal.

  • Eating until the point of discomfort or pain
  • Eating much more food during a binge episode than during a normal meal or snack
  • Eating faster during binge episodes
  • Feeling that their eating behavior is out of control
  • Frequent dieting without weight loss
  • Recurrent episodes of binge eating
  • Frequently eating alone
  • Hoarding food
  • Hiding empty food containers
  • Feeling depressed, disgusted or upset over the amount eaten
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Weight gain
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes

Causes for binge eating disorder include depression, poor coping skills, dieting, and family factors.

Treatment may include a combination of therapy and medications.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder develops in some people who experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event (accident, assault, military combat, or natural disaster.)  People with PTSD may feel stressed or frightened, even when they are not in danger. 

Symptoms usually begin within 3 months of the traumatic incident but sometimes can take years.

Symptoms may include: 

  • Flashbacks
  • Bad dreams
  • Frightening thoughts
  • Avoiding places, events, or objects that remind them of the traumatic event
  • Avoiding thoughts and feelings related to the event
  • Easily started
  • Feeling "on edge"
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Angry outbursts
  • Trouble remembering details of the traumatic event
  • Negative thoughts and distorted feelings (guilt and shame)
  • Loss of interest in fun activities
  • Anyone can develop PTSD.
  • Women are more likely to develop PTSD than men.
  • Genes may make some people more likely to develop PTSD than others. 
  • Increased risk for those who:
    • lived through dangerous events and trauma
    • have gotten hurt
    • have seen others hurt
    • experienced childhood trauma
    • feel horror, helpless, or extreme fear
    • have little to no support after the event
    • deal with extra stress as a result of the event
    • have a history of mental illness or substance abuse

Treatment may include medication, psychotherapy, and self-management strategies like mindfulness and self-soothing. 

Promote Recovery

  • Seek support from others.
  • Find a support group.
  • Learn and feel good about one's own actions in the face of danger.
  • Have positive comping strategies.
  • Be able to act and respond effectively despite fear. 

Campus Resources

Center for Behavioral Health


Price: Sliding scale based on income. Fees for assessment services and some of the specialty programs are fixed.

Offer services for children, adolescents and adults. Serves community members and USM-students, faculty, and staff. Services include individual, child, family, couples and group therapy, comprehensive diagnostic evaluations/ assessments, consultation in various areas.

Student Counseling Services 


Contact: counselingFREEMississippi 

Price: Free

Sees students on a short-term basis for counseling and provides assistance to walk-ins and students in crisis.

Student Counseling Services provides care to students with a wide range of concerns, particularly those related to the development of strong coping skills and issues that interfere with academic achievement.

University Clinic for Family Therapy

Contact: Stacie%20Frey 
Price: Sliding scale, $5 for students, $10 for faculty and staff

Provides individual, couple and family therapy to USM faculty, staff, students and to the community. They focus on communication and relationship issues, life transition concerns, anxiety, stress management and other general challenges that persons in relationships face.

Apps and Resources


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Anxiety and Depression 


Virtual Hope Box

Anxiety and Depression Assoc. of America - Facts and Statistics

Anxiety and Depression Assoc. of America - Coping Strategies

Anxiety and Depression Assoc. of America - Teens and College Students

Depression: What You Need to Know


Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder Facts

NAMI - Bipolar Disorder

Body Image and Eating Disorders

NEDA - Information by Eating Disorder

NEDA - Eating Disorder Risk Factors

NEDA: Health Consequences of Eating Disorders

Helping a Loved One


Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Facts

PTSD Coach




Screening for Mental Health: Stop a Suicide

Screening for Mental Health: General Mental Health Screening Tool 

Contact Us

and USM Pharmacy
Scott Hall
118 College Drive Box #5066
Hattiesburg, MS 39406

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Pharmacy 601.266.4075

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