College offers new experiences and challenges. This can be exciting and it can also be stressful and make you, or someone you know, feel sad. But when "the blues" last for weeks, or interfere with academic or social functioning, it may be clinical depression. Clinical depression is a common, frequently unrecognized illness that can be effectively treated.
What are some of the symptoms of depression?
• Increased class absence for no apparent reason
• Social withdrawal
• Lack of appetite, not interested in eating or overeating,
• Insomnia or oversleeping
• Decrease in physical sex drive
• Restlessness or irritability
• Reduction in motivation, self-esteem, and self-confidence
• Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, guilt, or self-blame
• Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
• Thoughts of death or suicide
What Causes Depression?
Depression can affect anyone at anytime, but several factors can play a role including:
Things that happen in our lives - It is normal to feel depressed after a distressing event, such as bereavement, a divorce or losing a job. We may spend time over the next few weeks or months thinking and talking about it. After a while we seem to come to terms with what's happened. But some of us get stuck in a depressed mood, which doesn't seem to lift.
Circumstances - If we are alone, have no friends around, are stressed, have other worries or are physically run down, we are more likely to become depressed.
Biochemistry - abnormalities in two chemicals in the brain, serotonin and nor epinephrine, might contribute to symptoms of depression, including anxiety, irritability and fatigue.
Genes - Depression can run in families. If you have one parent who has become severely depressed, then you are about eight times more likely to become depressed yourself.
Personality - People with low self-esteem, who are easily overwhelmed by stress, or who are generally pessimistic appear to be vulnerable to stress.
Alcohol - Many people who drink too much alcohol become depressed. It often isn't clear as to which came first - the drinking or the depression. We know that people who drink too much are more likely to kill themselves than other people.
How is Depression Treated?
Depression is among the most treatable disorders, with between 80% and 90% of people with depression eventually responding well to treatment, and almost all people will gain some relief. It is important to get evaluated by a professional in order to determine the best possible treatment. This treatment may consist of a combination of:
Psychotherapy - Simply talking about your feelings can be helpful, however depressed you are. Counseling can help you to be clearer about how you feel about your life and other people.
Medication - Antidepressants may be prescribed to correct imbalances in the levels of chemicals in the brain. These medications are not sedatives, "uppers” or tranquilizers. Neither are they habit-forming.
Isn't depression just a form of weakness?
It can seem to other people that a person with depression has just 'given in', as if they have a choice in the matter. The fact is, there comes a point at which depression is much more like an illness than anything else. It can happen to the most determined of people, and calls for help, not criticism. It is not a sign of weakness - even powerful personalities can experience deep depression. Winston Churchill called it his "black dog."
How can I get some help?
WKU students are invited to schedule confidential counseling sessions with an experienced, caring counselor for help in coping with depression. The Counseling and Testing Center also provides consultation about how to help a friend or loved one who may be suffering from depression. Appointments can be made by stopping by the Counseling and Testing Center, by calling 745-3159, or send us an email.
Online Depression Screening Test from the National Mental Health Association
Tips on dealing with depression in college
What to do when a friend is depressed: Guide for Students
Coping with Depression - Menninger Clinic
Depression among college students rising - in USA Today