Should I Drop A Levels Because of Anxiety and Depression?

Being a student can no doubt take a toll on your mental health which then impacts upon your academic performance and vice versa. Studying for A-levels can be a difficult time for many young people within the UK and can cause feelings of anxiety and depression. Don’t feel alone, lots of people have similar difficulties. One study found that 1 in 5 students suffers from a mental health issue, with depression and anxiety being the most common issues.

If you think that your wellbeing is being impacted from your a level education and you’re curious whether you should dropout, then stick with us. We’ve done our research and are here to discuss this subject matter in order to help you out.

student mental health


Student Mental Health UK

Mental health and studying have always gone hand in hand, studying for higher education can be stressful and put a lot of pressure on you to work to deadlines, complete coursework, and meet grade requirements.

As well as trying to have a social-life or hold down a part-time job whilst studying, it can all get too much.

Although, there’s a difference between feeling stressed and suffering with mental health issues. Everyone is bound to get stressed from time to time, but when it starts having an impact on your day-to-day life and you become vulnerable to anxiety and depression, it’s time to get help.

There are a variety of symptoms for anxiety and depression and quite often, they occur together. Whether it be suffering from panic attacks, persistent sad moods, low self-esteem, difficulty concentrating or constant worrying there are symptoms to look out for.

Find out more about symptoms for anxiety and depression here.

A study in 2021 found that 17% of young people aged 17 to 19 in England had a probable mental disorder. Along with 3.7% of all UK applicants for UCAS declared a mental health condition in their application to study in 2020. Of course, that amount doesn’t include those who choose not to disclose about their mental health on their application.

Unfortunately, these statistics show there is a student mental health crisis, and the mental health of young people needs to be a priority as those across the UK are facing difficulties with their well-being.

This year, mental health issues are especially prevalent in the a-level current cohort due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, meaning that students haven’t sat external exams since 2019.

It’s no surprise that this will be taking a toll on many students’ mental health thus increasing anxiety and depression levels.

Student mental health UK

To Drop Out Or Not To Drop Out?

There are several reasons that students may want to change courses, drop out of higher education all together or choose a different option like an apprenticeship or full-time job.

It can be hard to complete an education course if you’re struggling with your mental health as it takes concentration, dedication and commitment to study for a-levels.

This is because of how complex and in-depth the content is, which comes with the pressures of trying to achieve certain qualification grades to get into university.

If you’re asking yourself “Should I drop a-levels because of anxiety and depression?” then try and think about what you want for the future.

If you’re keen on the idea of going to university but you’re worried you won’t get in because of how you’re performing at college, there is always clearing and other options available like foundation courses.

Even just completing a-levels no matter the grades you get is an achievement, you stuck at it and did the best you could!

If you want to go to university, then it may be a fresh start and will hopefully be a different experience to the one you had whilst studying for a-levels. You’ll most likely be in a new place, with new people, studying in a new environment and being a new version of yourself. Chances are that this new chapter will be good for your mental health.

You could even take a gap year after completing your a-levels to take a break from education and go travelling or take up work or just take time to focus on yourself and your mental health, and even get treatment.

There isn’t any set path you need to follow though; you can go to university at any age or time in your life. There are also things like the open university where you can study flexibly whilst working or living at home and studying virtually.

By all means, if you are really struggling and unhappy with studying then do what’s right for you, studying isn’t for everyone, and you should always put yourself first.

If you are on the fence about dropping out, then choose the decision that is in your best interest. Nobody can tell you what the right or wrong option for you is, only you can do that.

Dropping out of college or any education doesn’t equal failure, remember that!

Dropping out of college

How To Deal With Mental Health Whilst Studying

  1. Dropping Out May Not Solve Everything

If you are struggling with mental health issues, then studying may not be the root to all problems with your wellbeing. You may still find that after dropping out of education, the issues are still there.

You might feel less pressure and stress from leaving your studies but if you believe you are suffering from a mental illness, then you should seek professional support. Mental-health issues stem from external and biological factors too, so education may not be the only cause for the way you’re feeling.

There are plenty of options and people to speak to about how your emotions whilst within higher education. There are ways to work around your mental struggles and find ways to deal with any issues, whilst also completing your studies. Don’t give up!


  1. Speak Out

Make sure you have a support network to talk to, whether it be your friends, family, your partner or your college or sixth form teachers. Talking to people will take a weight off your shoulders and chances are, they’ll be able to cheer you up and help you.

You may even find that some of your friends are feeling the same way, so you can support each other.

There are a variety of options available for you to make use of whilst you’re studying whether it’s at college or university, such as counselling sessions. Don’t suffer in silence or wait for things to get too overwhelming, like we said earlier, you’re not alone in this!

Talking to counsellor

  1. Put Yourself First

You may be struggling to take care of yourself if you’re suffering from mental-health problems and cannot achieve a good work-life balance whilst studying for a-levels or any other higher education course. Try to ensure you’re taking some time for yourself, away from any other stresses or issues.

Whether it’s having a self-care routine and relaxing in the bath and then putting on your favourite comfort movies or playing your favourite games. Don’t get too caught up in everything else that you forget to look after the most important thing, yourself.

Try and ensure you get enough sleep, eat regularly, drink water and stay active – we don’t mean you have to go for a run every day, but just getting out and about for a walk can make you feel a whole lot better.

If you’re using unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drinking, try to cut down as alcohol is a depressant after all.

Self care

  1. Try To Think Positively

When you’re feeling down and suffering with your mental health it’s hard to try and think positively. However, try to challenge these negative thoughts and find the silver lining. Don’t beat yourself up and try to reduce talking negatively about yourself.

If you find you’re regularly being quite harsh on yourself then stop and think, if you wouldn’t say it to anyone else, then don’t say it to yourself. Think about what you would say to your friends or family if they were in a similar situation.

Think about what’s going wrong right now, it may not matter too much in the future, a year from now you could be in a very different position. Try to put a positive spin on any negative thoughts you have.

For example, if you’re like nothing is going your way, you keep getting bad marks in your exams and feel like you’re failing, then just think about how you can work on this and make positive progress for next time.

Think about what makes you happy and feel good and try to imagine all the positive things in your life rather than just dwelling on the negative aspects, there has to be some goodness. Spend time with people like your friends and family to encourage positive thinking.


  1. See Your GP

If you think you’re really suffering from mental health issues, then make an appointment with your general practitioner to talk about how you’re feeling. There’s lots of treatment options available through the NHS such as medications like anti-depressants and beta-blockers as well as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Talking Therapies.

Your GP will be able to offer mental health services that are suitable and appropriate for you, which will be a great step in right direction for you.

It’s important to seek out help, and whilst it can be daunting, you can write down what you want to say beforehand, so you refer to your notes when talking to your doctor. You can even bring someone along for support like your parent or guardian or even a friend.

Talking to GP

Please remember that whilst we can offer support and advice, we are not professionals. If you are struggling with your mental-health and are facing difficulties with your higher education course, then reach out and speak to people in your life.

Make sure you have a support network, whether it be your friends, family, your partner or your college or sixth form teachers. There are a variety of options available for you to make use of whilst you’re studying. Don’t suffer in silence, like we said earlier, you’re not alone in this!

Here are some useful resources you can use if you’re struggling with symptoms of anxiety and depression. Find treatment for your well-being:

  • Student Minds: Student mental health charity which provide a range of support and services for anyone who needs it.
  • Young Minds: Mental health charity for children and young adults which gives practical tips and advice, as well as information on ways to get support.
  • NHS – Access advice and support for young adults and students with mental health problems. Find the right treatment for you through the NHS.

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