Recognizing and Coping with Depression
Depression is a term that can be used in a variety of ways. Everyone feels down at times, but it may be a passing feeling of the blues. These brief feelings of being down are common and may not be clinical depression. Clinical depression, on the other hand, usually lasts longer, and can be more severe than the "blues." Students can be vulnerable to depression due to the many stressors associated with college. Dealing with family, friends, schoolwork, extra-curricular activities, and intimate relationships can cause one to feel overwhelmed, which can lead to depression.
Clinical depression is not just a passing mood. It affects everyday life where patterns are disrupted, sleeping habits are affected, and/or one may not feel like getting out of the bed in the morning. Some people may be depressed, but do not recognize the symptoms. Therefore, a person can be clinically depressed for years without treatment.
There are different types of depression including major depression, dysthymia (persistent minor depression), bipolar disorder (extreme highs and lows), and seasonal affective disorder (feeling depressed at a certain time every year). The good news is depression is treatable and help is available through Jacksonville State University's Counseling Services.
There is not one main factor that causes depression, and causes will be different from person to person. Sometimes that cause may be known, like the death of a loved one, the termination of a relationship, doing poorly in a class, or not being selected for an organization you had your heart set on. Other times one may not be aware of the cause and, therefore, may not seek help. It can be confusing to students when they suddenly no longer feel like doing things that once brought them joy. Whether the cause is known or not, help is available.
Sometimes there may not be just one cause, but a variety of reasons for depression. Some reasons are environmental, such as a small living space, roommate conflicts, financial issues, sexual assault, lack of free time, or too much free time. Other reasons are cognitive. For example, feeling worthless and lazy, poor self image, and feelings of inferiority. Still other reasons are interpersonal in nature such as death, fights with parents, anger that has been building up inside or a break-up.
Conflict of spirituality is a common area for college students to experience confusion that may lead to depression. When one questions certain aspects of their faith they may feel extreme guilt. They may have a hard time understanding it is a natural part of maturation to question authority and that it is a healthy process to question and learn more about their faith. Usually depression first appears around the age of 18-22. Since college students fall into that category, it is important to be aware of the signs of depression.
Signs and Symptoms
Common symptoms of depression:
- Changes in eating and/or sleeping patterns
- Avoidance of friends and family members
- Not taking care of one's personal appearance
- Suicidal thoughts
- Lack of interest in usual hobbies and activities
- Loss of concentration
- Increased drug or alcohol use
- Changes in personality
- No concern with responsibilities or deadlines
- Frequent crying spells
Different people have different experiences with depression; therefore symptoms differ from person to person. Also, these symptoms may not be related to depression at all, but to other issues the person is dealing with at the time.
Helping Yourself or a Friend
Some suggestions for coping with depression include:
- Eat healthy and exercise
- Set aside some fun personal time each day
- Set small goals and work toward them
- Surround yourself with positive people to depend on
- Allow enough time to sleep
- Avoid known stressors
- Allow yourself to experience emotions, whatever they are
- Give yourself permission to say no
- Nurture yourself
- Seek professional help. Even if you do not view the situation as a crisis, professional help is available to listen and help you through the situation
Just as no two persons will experience depression the same way, there is no perfect formula for helping someone that is depressed. Always consult with a professional if there is any question about depression.
Counseling Services, located at 147 Trustee Circle, has counselors available if you or a friend are dealing with depression. For more information please call (256) 782-5475.
Courtesy of Mississippi State University