College health surveys show that approximately 40% of college student nationwide, experience depression. Depression is one of the top presenting concerns of MSU students seeking services here at CPS. Depression is a mood disorder that affects how people feel, think, and behave. Depression may be a temporary sadness following a death, divorce, transition, or loss, or it may be a longer-lasting experience that interferes with relationships, school, and recreation. Depression can also seem to come from "out of the blue" with no clear precipitant.
Self-help and coping strategies can be useful to manage symptoms, but keep in mind that this may not be enough and seeking professional help is recommended.
- Feeling sad, depressed, or tearful for the majority of the day nearly every day;
- Difficulty functioning in various roles or daily activities (work, school, relationships);
- Increased/decreased appetite;
- Disrupted sleep (not being able to fall asleep, sleeping too much, waking up throughout the night, waking early in the morning before the alarm);
- Increased irritability;
- Fatigue, lethargy, or low energy;
- Intense feeling of hopelessness, worthlessness, or guilt;
- Difficulty concentrating, focusing, or remembering;
- Weight loss or weight gain;
- Social withdrawal or isolation;
- Increased use of drugs/alcohol;
- Pessimism or worry;
- Inability to enjoy the activities or hobbies that you would normally enjoy;
- Recurring suicidal thoughts.
Remember that most people usually experience the above symptoms at various times throughout their lives, and it doesn't necessarily mean that they're depressed. It may be "depression" when many symptoms occur at the same time, when they last for a long period of time, and when they are frequent and intense.
Coping with depression takes action and involves engaging in a series of small, productive steps throughout your day that positively influence mood. But for those experiencing depression, these small steps can seem insurmountable and exhausting. That is the catch-22 of recovery from depression—the things that will likely help improve your mood, are exactly those things that feel the most difficult. Often taking that first step (like going for a walk or attending your first class of the day) creates momentum leading to other helpful steps (like meeting a friend at Miller for lunch) that serve to ultimately boost your mood.
Reach out and stay connected—social withdrawal and isolation are common symptoms of depression.
- Challenge yourself to reach out to others and engage socially.
- Reach out to people you trust and who care about you.
- Keep up with your usual social activities, even when you don’t feel like it.
- Offer support and guidance to someone else in need—helping others by volunteering, listening to a friend, etc. can boost your mood even more than reaching out to others for support.
Do things you enjoy, or things you used to enjoy--Pushing yourself to do something that you typically enjoy when you are not depressed can be difficult and may not immediately improve your mood; however, the more you do this, the more likely it is that you will begin to feel more energetic and positive.
- Remind yourself of those things that you used to like to do
- Try a new activity—there are a lot of activities you can try through the fitness center or the outdoor program. Pick one and try! montana.edu/getfit/
Support your health
- Try to get around 8 hours of sleep. Depression can make us sleep too much or too little, which then negatively impacts how we feel and function during the day.
- Move your body! Exercise is something you can do right now and gain immediate positive effects (it will also help you sleep better at night!). Do whatever kind of exercise you enjoy—you don’t have to go out and run 5 miles everyday—walking, weightlifting, swimming, hiking, or cycling are all helpful. Do it with friends to add even more mood-boosting potential.
- Eat regular, healthy meals. Depression impacts our appetite, making us not feel hungry, or alternatively, triggering intense cravings for carbohydrate-filled, high sugar “comfort” foods. Schedule times to eat and stick to those times! Grab a banana, bagel, or cereal bar to eat if you aren’t that hungry.
Get some sunshine—Sunlight can help increase serotonin levels and boost our mood. Try to aim for at least 15 minutes of time in the sun each day.
- Study outside during one of our sunny fall or spring days
- Exercise outdoors to get the benefit of both sun and exercise
- Look into a light therapy box to get the benefits of sun during our long winter months. Medical Services rents boxes to students or you can buy one online.
Challenge your negative thinking—How we perceive events in our lives influences how we feel. If we are always assuming the worst will happen or negatively evaluating our behaviors, we will feel more depressed and/or anxious. Check in with yourself to see how you are interpreting things and ask yourself if such statements are true (e.g., Is it true that no one likes you? Are you truly always making mistakes?).
Seek professional help—talking to a trained mental health provider or medical practitioner can be helpful when the self-care strategies above are not helping or when depression is persistent and unremitting. Seeking outside help is not a sign of weakness. Relief and support often result from talking to someone outside of your usual support-network.
(adapted from HelpGuide.org)
Myth: People who are depressed just need to get over it.
Fact: People often feel depressed because they don't talk about things, talking about it can help them feel better and learn new ways to cope with their feelings.
Myth: Depression will just go away by itself
Fact: While some depressive feelings are temporary, depression will not likely spontaneously go away. Counseling can help explore things an individual might be able to do to help cope with their depression.
Myth: Depression isn't a real illness.
Fact: Depression is a very real illness and it's OK to seek treatment. Those with a broken arm or diabetes seek medical treatment without judgment, and those with depression should have the right to feel equally comfortable getting help.
Myth: Only weak or crazy people get depressed.
Fact: 15 million Americans can't be wrong: depression can happen to anyone.
Myth: Only women get depressed.
Fact: Men also experience depression, but may not seek help or report it for fear of being seen as "weak". Depression can happen to anyone regardless of gender, and feeling depressed doesn't mean that you are weak, ineffective, or less masculine.
Myth: If I go for counseling I'll be put on medication.
Fact: Many people experience relief through counseling alone and do not take medication. The choice to take medication is yours. If you decide to do so it's important to know that it's not "addictive", that it's not a "crutch", and you probably won't be on it for the rest of your life. Antidepressant medication is not an "upper" or false mood enhancer, but a way to help lift some of the symptoms of depression to help improve the quality of your functioning. Those with heart disease or high blood pressure take medication to help their symptoms; those with depression have the right to take medication to help theirs as well.