This is the time of your life. Your future is bright. You have everything to look forward to. And, everyone seems to want to hear that you are having an incredibly awesome semester.
You do not want to disappoint your family. But, your roommate is annoying. Your friends really don’t “get” you. Classes are much harder than you ever imagined. And that history prof is wacked. You do not feel like yourself. In fact, you feel like you are sinking.
What Depression in College May Look Like
Depression and anxiety can take on many different forms. Eating disorders. Risky behavior, including heavy and/or binge drinking, cutting, heavy smoking and illegal drug use. You might be feeling so tired that every day you can’t wait to take a long afternoon nap… at 10 a.m. every day. Perhaps you find yourself crying frequently or irritable and angry. You might be feeling withdrawn and keeping to yourself. Your eating habits might have changed…eating too much or not at all because you are sick to your stomach.
Not surprisingly, these symptoms are not unusual in college students. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 44% of college students experience depression, but here’s the kicker: Nearly 75% of those students do not seek help.
Depression Can Be Hereditary
For anyone suffering from depression and/or anxiety, the world can begin to spin out of control pretty quickly. Everyone has bad days or even a horrible week. But when feelings of depression or anxiety start to take over it is time to take action. And keep in mind that depression and anxiety tend to run in families, so be aware that you are at a higher risk for experiencing a mental health issue.
Signs of Depression
You could be suffering from depression if…
- You are chronically feeling sad or hopeless
- You are choosing risky behavior to relieve feelings of hopelessness, such as heavy drinking, drugs or hurting yourself. If your friends or family are telling you that they are worried about you and you are shrugging it off, chances are you need to speak with a mental health professional for an assessment.
- You are experiencing thoughts of death or suicide
You could be dealing with anxiety if you…
- Have feelings of stress and apprehension
- Are irritable
- Have trouble concentrating
- Feel fearful
- Are feeling sweaty and dizzy, especially out of the blue
- Experience shortness of breath and/or have heart palpitations
- Have muscle pain and tension
- Experience headaches
- Frequently have an upset stomach or diarrhea
There is an old saying that if you identify the problem you are halfway to the solution. You do not have to figure out what is happening on your own. Be good to yourself and seek help from someone you trust. Some options: your parents, a close family member, a member of the clergy, a coach, or a friend. Your college has a counseling or health center with trained counselors who can help you find the right care, nearly all at no cost to you. These professionals are there to help you! I assure you, there is no problem they haven’t seen before. But, if you prefer, they can confidentially refer you to resources off campus as well.
If It is Your Friend Who Needs Help
If you are worried about someone you love, seek help to guide you through the situation and how to approach your loved one or friend. Do not be afraid to step in. It is not uncommon for someone who is dealing with moderate to severe depression to be in a state of hopelessness. They might not be able to seek help without encouragement, support and sometimes intervention.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America website (www.adaa.org) offers excellent information, including a valuable webinar series. For in-depth research go to this website. For news and resources sign up for the free newsletter “Triumph”. If appropriate, check out the webinar, How to Help Depressed and Suicidal Teenagers (September 8, 2016). Dr. Alec Miller describes treatments that exist for suicidal adolescents in both clinical and school settings.
An excellent overview of mental health in college students can be found at bestcolleges.com.
Internet sources can be quite helpful, but as always, be careful not to replace online information with a face-to-face meeting with a professional.