Depression in College:
Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Depression in college students is fairly common. Over half of all students have encountered some sort of depression. Knowing the symptoms and causes of depression will help guide you (or someone you know) to treating and overcoming it.

College depression statistics show that young people rarely seek out medical assistance due to feelings of embarrassment - however, students who learn how to deal with depression see an increase in their grades, their social life, and their ambitions in school and professional life.

College Student Depression Symptoms

Lack of Motivation - Being depressed leads to feeling drained, "down-and-out", and unmotivated to do just about anything. A common depression symptom is losing the will to try, and in college this can be very disrupting.

Social Recluse - When someone is depressed, they may feel the need for a lot of alone time. They do not want to spend the energy thinking of conversations, participating in social activities, or meeting new people.

Low Self-Esteem - Depression often creates a negative self image. You may feel you are not smart enough or not able to complete your school-work.

Other Depression Symptoms:

  • Poor Sleeping Habits

  • Poor Eating Habits

  • Excessive Alcohol/Drug Use (especially while alone)

  • A Change in Appetite

  • Thoughts of "Running Away"/Suicide (extreme cases)

  • Generally Feeling "Sad"

Causes of Depression in College Students

Dissatisfaction of Lifestyle - Many college student lose interest in attending school; some of us want to get out and start making a living, others don't want to take boring class after boring class, and there are some who think college is a waste of time. All of these factors can lead someone into depression due to a dissatisfaction of their lifestyle.

Feeling Alone - Many traditional students leave home and may soon learn that they do not want to live alone. They may be having trouble making new friends, along with missing old ones. It could be that you are surrounded by people whom you do not feel you belong with.

Having Financial Obligations - The traditional student may develop depression in college because they are faced with financial responsibilities they didn't have when they lived at home. Adult students may find pressure supporting a family while attending school instead of working. Overwhelming financial obligations may cause serious depression.

Overwhelming Responsibilities - Full time college studies takes many hours of work. Homework, studying, and in-seat lectures/labs takes more time than one would think. If you have too many other obligations other than coursework (family, job, sports, friends, etc.), then you may start to feel depression as you fall behind.

**These are only a few examples. There are many causes of depression to which only a professional counselor can diagnose.**

College Depression Statistics

  • 85% of colleges in North America report an increase in the past 5 years in students with severe psychological problems
    -Robert Gallagher, University of Pittsburgh, 2001

  • Nearly 30% of college students report feeling "so depressed that it was difficult to function" at some time in the past year
    - ACHA/NCHA, 2009

  • 6.4% of students "seriously considered suicide" in the past 12 months
    -NCHA, 2011

How to Overcome Depression in College

Health - Physical activity and good eating habits have been shown to lower the effects of depression. Push yourself to the limit each time you exercise - doing so will not only get you into shape, but will also help your confidence levels. Learn to eat more fruits/vegetables and less greasy, fatty, sugary foods for every meal.

Counseling - Many students may be "put off" when thinking about counseling for depression treatment. Counselors specializing in depression may help you find a way to alleviate or cure your condition altogether. Many schools have counseling services free of charge to students.

Medication - Sometimes seen as a last resort, medication can be taken to offset the effects of depression in college. If you feel there are no other alternatives, contact your doctor to see what options you qualify for. Depression medications can be taken at a lower dose at first, then ramping up to the desired amount.

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