If you have any concerns about your risk for suicide, or someone you care about, please give us a call at (619) 594-5220 or the San Diego Access and Crisis Line at (888) 724-7240. We also have a larger section dedicated specifically to suicide. To learn more, please click here.
WHAT IS DEPRESSION?
Everyone feels sad sometimes. There may be times when someone feels down or sad for a more extended period of time, and with additional symptoms, which could be a depressive episode. Sometimes there may be a life event, or series of events, that triggers depression, while there may be other times when a depressive episode appears to develop for no reason. Depression impacts people of all walks of life and can be debilitating.
There are many factors that may lead to college students experiencing depression. College is a time of transition and change, which can lead to people feeling more down and depressed than they previously experienced.
Some people do not experience depressed mood specifically, but simply find that they no longer enjoy activities they previously took pleasure in (called anhedonia). Many people also experience depression for the first time between ages 18-25, meaning many college students may be at higher risk for depression than others.
Depression may also include thoughts of suicide. Suicidal thoughts are quite common in general, but can bring a significant amount of shame to the person experiencing them. We have a whole page dedicated to learning more about suicidal thoughts and risk factors. We encourage to you check it out to learn more.
SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION
For at least two weeks, more often than not you must experience one or both of the following:
- Depressed mood
- Loss of interest or inability to take pleasure in activities you used to enjoy.
This is not a comprehensive list of symptoms, but the following are some of the more common symptoms of depression.
- Weight loss
- Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
- Feeling restless
- Feeling “slowed down”
- Fatigue/loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness or frequent/excessive guilt
- Difficulty concentrating
- Thoughts of death, including suicidal thoughts
GENERAL COPING STRATEGIES FOR DEPRESSION
One thing that can be very helpful to identify for depression is to determine what you have control over versus what you do not. Depending on how you assess a situation can then determine what you do next.
Often, when people feel depressed, they feel as if they have little or no control over what happens to them (whether it is true or not). If there is something present that you have control over, you may see if there is a way to address it as well as focus on coping with it. However, if there is something that you have no control over, you may instead opt to focus on managing your emotions surrounding the difficult situation.
To learn more, visit our section on control vs no control.
Identifying what your most effective personal coping skills are can be one of the best strategies for coping with emotional distress. For depression, there may be activities that you engage in that help you feel more accomplished or you simply enjoy more.
When people are depressed, they also may be less likely to be active, thus more active activities can be particularly helpful. Some common coping strategies for depression are exercise, talking to a supportive friend or family member, or listening to music.
There are more aspects to identifying what coping strategies work for you and to learn more about coping, follow this link.
Journaling in various forms can be a particularly effective way to cope with depression. This may include:
- Writing your thoughts down daily and saving them
- Writing your thoughts and erasing them immediately
- Recording yourself discussing your thoughts.
The most important part is finding a way to get your thoughts out, not necessarily that you find a way to go back and see them again (hence the idea that you can erase or not save the document).
When people are depressed, they may experience shame about feeling this way and to have their thoughts be expressed can take some of the power away from them. This is also a great opportunity for those that enjoy expressing themselves artistically to use their preferred platform, whether it is music, painting, poetry, or many more, as a means to express what they are feeling.
For more information about journaling, visit our journaling page.
We are constantly narrating our personal experience and are often not accurate to what exactly is taking place. The tone of our narration, which is based on many factors, can directly influence our emotions.
For example, if we are running late and there is unexpected traffic, tell ourselves “Oh no, not again. Nothing ever goes my way”.
Simply having that thought can lead to feeling more depressed, meaning that it is based on your interpretation of the events as opposed to the events them selves. Self talk can play an important role in how we experience our emotions, so please feel free to check out our page dedicated to it.
Motivation can be one of the first things to go when people feel depressed. It is important to continue to take care of yourself when feeling down and there can be ways to be successful with this. First, if there is a large task, break it into smaller tasks.
For example, if you have a lot of homework due in the upcoming future, sort by each assignment, then break each assignment into smaller, more manageable pieces.
Another way to increase motivation, is to set small goals that increase the chances that you will complete a task you want to complete.
For example, if you are having a difficult time motivating yourself to go outside to go for a run, identify which step will make it likely you will go.
Here is a list of steps in order:
- Getting out of bed (does not increase chances, may return to bed)
- Getting dressed in workout clothes (does not really increase the chances, may stay at home in workout clothes
- Walking out your front door in your workout clothes (you think this is likely, you cannot remember a time that you were dressed to go for a run, walked out your front door, but did not start your run)
Your new goal is to get dressed and walk out your front door. This may feel more manageable and increase the chance that you will then go for a run.
FOUR SPECIFIC STRATEGIES TO TRY TODAY
- If you are curious about learning more about your depression, you may find it helpful to take one of our 8 mental health screening tools.
- We also developed a COPE stress test to further guide you as well.
ADDITIONAL LINKS AND SUPPORT
- ULifeline is a nice resource for information on college mental health
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) provides a helpful overview on depression and getting support
- Visit our section on Self Care Strategies and Skills to learn about additional ways of coping with depression
- Explore our popular mental health apps section to see if there is an app that can support you