Because college often involves many challenges, transitions, and demands, it is not unusual for college students to become depressed. Everyone feels “down in the dumps” or “blue” from time to time. These feelings sometimes follow difficult experiences—the death of a loved one, the end of an important relationship, and other losses or traumatic events. It is normal to feel sad at times like these. It is also normal for these feelings to lighten fairly quickly and eventually pass.
With clinical depression, these feelings may or may not be associated with a particular event; they may seem to come for no specific reason and without warning. The feelings are more severe, and they last for most of the day over an extended period of time. If left untreated, depression in college can have many negative effects: difficulty maintaining motivation and concentration, poor academic performance, substance abuse, unhealthy decisions and behaviors, and even thoughts of suicide. But depression is treatable, and help is available. The first step is to be aware of the symptoms.
Symptoms of depression
|– Sad or gloomy||– Nobody likes me|
|– Flat, dull, or restricted||– Thing will never get better|
|– Irritable, cranky, or aggressive||– I’m a burden to others|
|– Guilty or self-critical||– I’m a failure|
|– Empty, inadequate, or despondent||– I can’t take much more of this|
|– Worthless, hopeless, or helpless||– I wish I were dead|
|Physical experiences||Behavior patterns|
|– Difficulty concentrating or making decisions||– Spending more time alone; avoiding others|
|– Change in appetite – increased/decreased||– Arguing with people more often|
|– Fatigue, tiredness, lack of energy||– Poor hygiene and self-care habits|
|– Sleep patterns changes||– Little interest or pleasure in doing things|
|– Decreased sex drive||– Reduced academic/work performance|
|– Tearfulness or frequent crying||– Substance abuse|
|– Suicide attempt|
Things to do if depressed
|Shift your mindset||Remember the basics|
|– Focus on the present, not the past or future||– Exercise regularly|
|– Notice and challenge depressing self-talk||– Engage in physical activities|
|– Focus on the positive aspects of your life||– Eat healthy foods|
|– Explore your gratitude||– Avoid alcohol and other drugs|
|– Set only realistic goals||– Get regular sleep|
|Shift your behaviors||Relax and enjoy|
|– Reduce exposure to stressful situations||– Meditate, pray, explore nature|
|– Spend time with happy, positive people||– Spend time with people you care about|
|– Do something creative||– Make time for fun|
|– Modify your schedule to reduce stress|
|– Organize your time around your priorities||Seek support|
|– Talk to a trusted friend or family member|
|– Contact the Counseling & Wellness Center|
|– Get professional help|
For some people, depressive feelings recur seasonally, usually during the fall and/or winter. This type of depression seems to be related to a lack of sufficient sunlight. The symptoms and coping strategies noted above also apply to those with seasonal depression. Additional strategies that involve maximizing sunlight exposure include:
- Uncover your windows to let in every bit of sunlight available, especially in the morning.
- Take day trips to higher, sunnier elevations, when possible.
- Consider utilizing a light therapy box, which emits artificial light. Consult with the Counseling and Wellness Center to make an appointment to use their light box.
You do not have to deal with depression alone. The Counseling and Wellness Center is here to help. Opening up to a stranger isn’t easy, but our trained professionals are experts at helping people get back on a healthy path.