It’s normal to have periods of sadness or feeling down here and there, but if you feel sad most of the time and it affects daily life, you may have depression. Depression is one of the most common mental health concerns affecting college students. Research shows that nearly 1 in 5 university students are affected with anxiety or depression. And it is one of the top reasons college students seek counseling.
There are a number of factors believed to contribute to the high prevalence of depression amongst college students. Excessive use of social media and mobile phone addiction can be a culprit, with virtual life competing with real life. Excessive social media use can also engender impaired social interactions and increased sense of isolation and loneliness. One study showed that students who engage in large amounts of using social media reported more dissatisfaction with their lives and depressed compared to those who played sports or were involved in inactivate activities. Other reasons may include profound homesickness, a family history of depression, breakups, financial stress brought about by the cost of college, dread of debt and fears of not getting a job after college. Of course, there are many other reasons for depression not listed here. Also, there are several different types of depression.
Symptoms of depression
Anyone can encounter symptoms of depression now and then. Depression is when symptoms are prolonged and affect everyday activities and interactions for a prolonged period of time. Some symptoms may include:
- Persistently sad, anxious, irritable or empty mood
- Loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities
- Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or guilt
- Social withdrawal
- Changes in energy levels
- Feeling unable to meet expectations
- Loss of sexual interest and desire
- Difficulty concentrating/ making decisions
- Neglecting one's appearance and hygiene
- Increased irritability
- Dissatisfaction with life in general
- Reduction in the ability to cope with stress
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Physical complaints such as headaches, muscle pain, stomach pain, or nausea
- Thoughts of suicide, increased thoughts of death or suicide attempts
- Substance abuse problems
Coping Strategies for Depression
- Establish a routine. Try to get up at your normal time and stick to your routine as much as possible. Not having a routine can impact eating and sleeping patterns
- Try to limit the amount of time you spend in front of a screen to help minimize feelings of stress, sadness and despair
- Try to find some pleasurable activity every day, even if it doesn't seem fun right now
- Get 7-9 hours of sleep each night, but be careful not to get too much!
- Take care of your body by eating healthy meals and try to engage in mild to moderate exercise
- Stay present and practice mindfulness
- Use journaling to write down experiences and feelings, or try a gratitude list
- Challenge your negative self-talk by acknowledging what is true, real, and observable, instead of making assumptions about a situation
- Develop a support system – put together a study group, set time with roommates for a weekly dinner date, join a campus club/organization that promotes community services and connection. Think about how you can stay connected with friends and family from back home
- Seek out professional assistance
Asking for help may seem like the hardest thing to do in the world, especially when you feel exhausted and hopeless. Regardless of your level or type of depression, speaking with a professional can help to determine what may be going on for you and a plan of attack for treating your symptoms.
How can I help someone who may be depressed?
Most people in emotional distress will list their friends as a significant social support. Being a good friend means reaching out and starting a conversation when you are concerned that a friend is depressed or struggling. How you approach someone who is depressed depends on how well you know them and what your relationship is like. If it is someone close to you, you might feel more comfortable having a direct, one-on-one conversation. If the person you are concerned about is someone you might not know very well, you might want to help by letting someone else know, like an RA, or someone at the Counseling Center. However you decide to help, your role as a friend is to provide support, and encouragement to reach out for professional help, not to try to provide clinical advice. Sometimes these conversations can feel awkward, uncomfortable or scary and you might not know what to say. Being there and listening can go a long way.
Here are some do’s and don’ts when talking to a friend who is depressed:
- Tell them you care
- Ask how you can help
- Offer to help
- Tell them they are not alone
- Let your friend know that reaching out for support is the first step toward feeling better, and it is okay to ask for help
- Be supportive
- Trust your instincts
- Tell an RA, Coach, or someone at the Counseling Center if you need guidance
- Minimize their feelings
- Dismiss their feelings
- Deny their feelings
- Compare how they feel to others
- Blame them or call them selfish
- Participate in activities with them that might exacerbate their mental health problems
- Feel like you are betraying your friend if you need to get someone else involved
Counseling Center Services
The good news is that depression is highly treatable and there are many available methods of treatment. The Counseling Center offers a range of services – click below for more information.
Individual therapy, Group therapy, and Workshops
Getting Unstuck: Depression Management is a popular Counseling Center workshop which provides coping skills for facing depressive symptoms.
If you are currently experiencing suicidal thoughts or are in crisis, please call 215.416.3337 to speak with the Drexel University On-Call Therapist, call Drexel Public Safety at 215.895.2222 or call 9-1-1.
The content provided here is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended for self-diagnosis or self-treatment, nor should it replace the consultation of a trained medical or mental health professional. Please note that outside links are not under our control, and we cannot guarantee the content contained on them.