Depression

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Campus life can be overwhelming, and it′s very common for college students to become depressed.

Depression is a powerful feeling of hopelessness, gloom, and sadness that afflicts millions of people. It′s more than just a "gloomy mood," but rather a persistent funk that you can′t control that disrupts your ability to function in your everyday life.

According to the World Health Organization, depression affects about 121 million people worldwide. While many people suffer from chronic depression, others suffer from bouts of depression during difficult times in their lives.
 

What should college students know about depression?

 

First of all, if you are feeling depressed, seek help. There′s no reason to suffer when help is available. Contact your campus counseling center and set up an appointment as soon as possible. Campus health centers are staffed with people who work with students all day, and they are very well versed in the kinds of problems and concerns that students typically face.
 
If you are feeling suicidal or think you might do harm to yourself, seek help immediately. Either go directly to the campus counseling center, call their emergency hotline, or call emergency services. If you live in a dorm, tell a residence hall assistant what′s going on and he or she will help you. If someone around you is suicidal, you should get them help immediately as well.
 
You should never feel ashamed about depressed
. Often, depression is caused at least in part by a chemical imbalance or a genetic predisposition to depression. But even if your depression doesn′t have one of these more physical causes, you have nothing to be ashamed about. Depression is a very common human experience and is not a sign of weakness.

Symptoms

The symptoms of depression can vary quite a bit. Here are some common ones:

  • An overwhelming feeling of sadness or despair
  • A feeling of hopelessness that "it′s never going to get better"
  • A loss of interest in activities that typically make you happy
  • Physical aches and pains, such as back pain, that seem to have no cause
  • Appetite changes
  • Excessive weight loss or gain over a short period of time
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of motivation
  • Sleep disturbances (either insomnia or the desire to sleep excessively)
  • Strong feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or low self-esteem
  • Strong feelings of anxiety
  • Trouble with concentration
  • Thoughts of death or suicide (seek help immediately)

Causes

Why do college students get depressed?

Some college students get depressed for the same reason people get depressed in the general population -- chemical imbalance, genetics, a history of abuse, family problems, the death of a loved one, a traumatic event in one′s past, and many other reasons as well. The onset of depression often happens when someone is in their late teens and early twenties -- right during the college years. Factors in a typical college student′s lifestyle can help cause and contribute to depression, including: 

  • The stressful experience of trying to balance classes, work, social life, and other conflicting expectations
  • Uncertainty about money
  • Uncertainty about the future after college
  • Homesickness and the experience of leaving one′s family for the first time
  • Problems with romantic and sexual relationships, which many students are experiencing for the first time
  • Sleep deprivation and poor sleep habits
  • Poor diet and exercise habits
  • Alcohol (especially binge drinking) or drug abuse
  • Sexual assault, which is a common problem on college campuses
  • Eating disorders, another common problem
  • The anxiety of coming out to family and peers as a homosexual, another common college experience
  • Dorm and friendship "drama"

Help

Again, seek help ASAP, and seek help immediately if you feel suicidal or feel you might harm yourself. Depression is treated with talk therapy and sometimes with medication, and your school′s counseling center can help you cope with this common student problem. Don′t delay! Take care of yourself and get the help you need. You deserve it.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Some people will have reactions to a lack of exposure to daylight. Symptoms are similar to those of depression and typically occur during winter months when exposure to daylight is limited.

Treatment

Treatment for depression can include individual counseling, antidepressant medications, herbal remedies, and etc (electroconvulsive therapy). For those individuals diagnosed with SAD, treatment may include more exposure to certain wavelengths of light.

Strategies for self-help include: eating nutritious well balanced meals; getting adequate rest and regular exercise; continuing to maintain your schedule and going to classes, meetings, engaging in hobbies; getting support from your natural support system of friends, family, minister, etc.; finding out more about depression from the various books and tapes available in bookstores or libraries. It is important to talk with a professional when the depression symptoms are interfering with your ability to function in life. If you experience thoughts of death or suicide, seek assistance immediately through crisis hotlines and mental health professionals.

Local Support Groups

Memphis Depressive and Manic Depressive Association - Contact Leah Anne Kelly at 382-5483. Meets 2nd and 4th Thursdays from 7:00-9:00pm at Charter Lakeside Adult Bldg. 2911 Brunswick Rd. Group Room #1.

Recommended Reading

  • The Depression Workbook by Mary Ellen Copeland
  • On the Edge of Darkness: Conversations About Conquering Depression by Kathy Cronkite
  • 100 Ways to Overcome Depression by Frank Minirith
  • Overcoming Depression by Demitri Papolos and Janice Papolos
  • The Beast: A Journey Through Depression by Tracy Thompson
  • Anxiety and Depression: The Best Resources to Help You Cope by Richard Theodore Wernhoff

Books Available at the Counseling Center

  • Manic-Depressive Illness by Goodwin and Jamison