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Depression Common Among College Students
Exponent article by Dr. Brian Kassar
Counseling & Psychological Services
Approximately 15 million people in the United States suffer from depression, and college students are among them. Depression is a mood disturbance that affects how people feel, think, and behave, and it can impact school, work, and relationships.
People experience depression in different ways, but there are some general symptoms that characterize depression. Some emotional symptoms include prolonged sadness, crying spells, irritability, social withdrawal, and feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or worthlessness. Physical symptoms can include fatigue, lack of energy, lethargy, changes in sleep or appetite, restlessness, or decreased sex drive. Finally, some intellectual or cognitive symptoms include pessimism, guilt, excessive worry, difficulty concentrating or remembering, difficulty finding enjoyment from life or activities, and thoughts about death or suicide.
It is important to note that almost everyone experiences some of these at one time or another. The difference with depression is that these symptoms exist concurrently, intensely, and for a prolonged period of time.
There are different beliefs about what “causes” depression. For some people, unresolved feelings from past experiences such as trauma, abuse, loss, or family dynamics can contribute to depression. Holding in feelings, especially anger and sadness, can lead to depression, as can interpersonal difficulties in relationships or feeling disempowered. Substance use, particularly alcohol use, also plays a part in exacerbating depression.
For some, depression may be caused by an imbalance in the chemical messengers in the brain called “neurotransmitters.” This is one theory of depression, and anti-depressant medications may help restore “balance” to the neurotransmitters and alleviate some symptoms of depression. It is best to utilize medication in conjunction with counseling in order to address the non-chemical contributors to depression, such as holding in feelings or resolving interpersonal issues. Medication is not for everyone, and not everyone who is seeks treatment for depression is prescribed a medication.
Depression is a very real disorder and people often feel embarrassed, ashamed, or “weak” for seeking help. Depression is not “just a frame of mind” or something people can “get over.” Such attitudes don’t exist for those with heart disease or diabetes, yet they do for depression and often interfere with many people seeking help for fear of being judged or criticized. Depression is a highly treatable condition, and seeking help for it is crucial, especially if there are any thoughts about suicide.
If you feel you may be suffering from depression or would like to learn more, contact Counseling & Psychological Services in 211 Swingle Hall, 994-4531, or visit their website at www.montana.edu/wwwcc. A website, www.allaboutdepression.com also offers information about depression.