Every student will have the experience of feeling down or sad from time to time. It is normal to experience a range of different moods and to occasionally “feel blue.” However, negative feelings that extend beyond a few days and into weeks, or that interfere with the ability to function and interact with others may be signs of a depressive episode. It can be difficult to recognize depression because symptoms may happen gradually, or one may misconstrue depressed feelings as evidence of personal failure. Self-blame and feelings of worthlessness are common symptoms of depression and may stand in the way of seeking help. Often, a roommate, friend or family member may notice a problem before the person who is suffering realizes they are depressed.
PREVALENCE OF DEPRESSION
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is one of the leading causes of disability in the U.S. and worldwide.
SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION
- feeling down or depressed much of the day
- lack of interest or pleasure in daily activities
- social withdrawal
- loss of appetite, overeating, or digestive problems
- excessive sleeping, insomnia, or early morning awakening
- loss of sexual desire
- physical complaints, such as headache, backache, or other unexplained pain/discomfort
- physical agitation or restlessness
- chronic fatigue, loss of energy, or lack of motivation
- feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, guilt, or self-blame
- difficulty concentrating, impaired memory, indecisiveness, or confusion
- neglect of physical appearance or hygiene
- irritability or rapid mood change
- thoughts of death or suicide
CAUSES AND TREATMENT OF DEPRESSION
Depression may result from a combination of factors, including life stressors, personality factors, family or interpersonal problems, or brain biochemical imbalances. Because some medical conditions, such as thyroid dysfunction, can contribute to depression, it is important to have a medical check-up to rule out an underlying physical cause. Often, a depressive episode can be linked to a loss or transition, such as a move or separation or a romantic relationship ending. In college, for example, the challenges of adjusting as a freshman or the stresses of senior year are common contributors to a depressive episode. A person is most vulnerable to depression when there is a perceived lack of support from others, or when they feel unable to express important feelings to loved ones.
Depression may be treated with therapy, medication, or a combination of both. Anti-depressant medication is likely to be recommended when depression is moderate to severe, or when symptoms don’t resolve with psychotherapy.
HOW TO COPE WITH DEPRESSION
- Practice self-care, including getting adequate rest, nutrition, and exercise.
- Express your feelings to trusted friends or family members.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs. Using substances may provide some temporary relief, but ultimately adds to depressed feelings.
- Remind yourself that you are suffering from depression, not a personality defect or other weakness. Recognize that many people experience depression at some time in their lives and that depression can be useful in pointing out problems that need attention. By addressing these underlying concerns, you will ultimately become a healthier person.
- Address problems you have been avoiding; recognizing that avoidance makes problems even worse.
- Seek help from a professional.
HOW TO GET HELP
Free, confidential counseling is available at the University Counseling Center, 206 Health Services Building, 610-519-4050.
- Anxiety and Depression Screening
- Depression: Mental Health American Depression Screening
- Depression: PsyCom 3 Minute Depression Test
For informational purposes only, the University Counseling Center offers access to online, anonymous Self-Assessment Tools. These resources are provided by third-parties unaffiliated with Villanova and the results are not shared with the University. These screenings are not a substitute for a complete evaluation by a qualified mental health professional. For personal assistance, please call the Counseling Center at 610-519-4050 for an appointment.