A new environment. Challenging classes and workloads. Bad teachers. Inconsiderate roommates. Low grades. For many college students, these words are enough to trigger nightmares. They’re also some of the reasons why depression is common in this group.
According to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health, one in five university students are struggling with depression, a mood disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest. Considering the many problems of modern life, it’s normal to get the blues from time to time. But if this persists for two weeks or more and you can’t snap out of it, that’s another story.
College depression may occur because of the changes that accompany the transition from adolescence to adulthood. These changes may be brought about by homesickness, the need to belong, the fear of debt, and intimate relationships, among others. Other factors named by David Rosenberg, professor of psychiatry at Wayne University, are the excessive use of social media and drug use.
Signs and symptoms of depression
In some cases, the changes brought about by depression can be so overwhelming and lead to a host of physical and emotional problems that include:
- Feeling sad, empty, or hopeless
- Irritability, frustration, and outbursts of anger
- Loss of interest in normal activities like hobbies and sports
- Insomnia or sleeping a lot
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Reduced appetite and weight loss (the opposite may also happen)
- Back pain or headaches
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating, and remembering things
In others, depression can be so intense and give rise to frequent thoughts of death and suicidal tendencies. The American Association of Suicidology revealed that 31% of college students have seriously considered suicide.
Rosenberg added that many students are also frustrated that they won’t be able to accomplish as much as their parents did. The fear of not getting a job and moving back to their respective homes after graduation can make matters worse.
Silently struggling with depression
Because students live away from home, their parents may not realize that the former have problems until it’s too late. Furthermore, many aren’t treated for depression since they are embarrassed to share how they feel and don’t want to give others the impression that they don’t fit in.
This is bad since aside from affecting a student's academic success, untreated depression can lead to other high-risk behaviors like binge drinking, substance abuse, and unprotected sex, to name a few. While there’s no way to prevent college depression, here are some things you can do before it gets out of hand:
1. Be supportive
For parents, be there when your children need you. Show that you care by regularly checking up on them. Encourage your child to be open to you or to someone close. That can be a brother, sister, relative, roommate, classmate, professor, or a trusted friend.
2. Break up tasks
Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t try to do everything at once. Learn time management techniques to handle things. Bigger tasks become more manageable if you break them down into smaller ones. Concentrate on what’s urgent and do the rest another day.
3. Get a life
It’s normal to think about your future in college but that’s no reason to eliminate fun from your life. Join college clubs to make new friends and be with like-minded people. Try something new for a change instead of worrying about your studies all the time.
4. Love your body
Exercise regularly since this releases endorphins that can make you feel good. Going to the gym can also eliminate negative thoughts and help you meet interesting people. If you don’t like it there, hit the road by walking, jogging, or running with your roommate or close friend.
5. Eat healthy
It’s easy to go for quick convenience foods, but processed foods that are laced with sugar, preservatives, and fat will only make you feel worse in the long run. Give your brain and body the boost they need to succeed in school with the right diet. Eating fruits and vegetables regularly may help reduce the risk of many diseases such as heart ailments, high blood pressure, and some cancers.
6. Know yourself
If you have been feeling depressed for quite some time now, don’t keep it to yourself. Reach out to family members or friends. Or see a doctor whom you can confide in. Some colleges may offer mental health services and can refer you to nearby professionals.
Depression can be tough to handle, so at the first sign of trouble, get help from the reliable mental health professionals of Meridian Psychiatric Partners LLC. We provide specialized mental health services for children, adolescents, and their families in the Chicago, Evanston, Lake Forest, and surrounding areas.