Depression is more than just feeling blue or the usual ups and downs of everyday living. It is a major problem in our society, on college campuses and elsewhere. The latest statistics show that over 22 million people suffer from depression in the United States. It is a very treatable condition. However, if left untreated, the symptoms may worsen and ultimately be more resistant to treatment. Most depressions are not something that you can simply “snap out of”. It is often this very notion of feeling “down or blue” and unable to get yourself out of the slump that alerts people to the possibility that there is more going on that requires intervention.
Some of the most common symptoms include: a prolonged sense of sadness or moodiness, irritability or anger, anxiety, difficulty sleeping which may include sleeping too much, having difficulty falling asleep, early morning awakening, etc.; loss of appetite or an increase in appetite; difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, lack of desire or motivation to engage in usually pleasurable activities, social withdrawal, chronic worry, feelings of despair, hopelessness and possibly thoughts of suicide. If someone is experiencing feelings of hopelessness and thoughts of suicide they need immediate attention. If any of the other symptoms have persisted for more than two weeks on a fairly consistent basis, then counseling is strongly recommended. The Counseling Center can help you sort out what may be going on and provide appropriate help.
All the causes of depression are not known, however, there are biological and emotional factors that can increase the likelihood that someone might develop depression. Research has shown that there is a genetic component to depression and that it does run in families. Certain life events may trigger a depressive episode such as losses and separations like deaths, moving away, divorce, romantic break-ups, sexual, physical or emotional abuse, chronic illnesses, abuse of alcohol and drugs. There are also certain medical conditions and medications that can also cause a depression such as thyroid disorders, diabetes, and some others. An unrecognized depression can lead to poor academic and work performance. Students may at times find that they do not have the energy or motivation to attend classes, or they may find it difficult to concentrate or focus on their work
Not all depressions are alike. Some people may experience one single episode of depression while others may have several re-occurrences. Sometimes the depression may begin suddenly with no apparent cause, whiles others may stem from a specific stress or life event. Sometimes it seems like even simple decisions are difficult to make or like you are just going through the motions. Some people may suffer from dramatic changes in their mood, shifting from the extremes of despair to elevated activity and grandiose ideas about abilities, which are often typical of a bipolar disorder. Again it is very treatable with different forms of talk therapy, medication and/or a combination of both.
Most people don’t recognize the symptoms of depression therefore they often do not suspect they are depressed and do not ask for help. Have you noticed the following in yourself (or someone you care about)?
- Do you have feelings of: sadness or emptiness, hopelessness, pessimism, guilt/shame, helplessness or worthlessness?
- Do you seem to have difficulties making decisions, concentrating or remembering things, negative thoughts, a loss of motivation or interest in usual activities or are you having difficulties in school, work, in your significant relationships?
- Do you complain about difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or problems getting up, problems with appetite, significant weight gain or loss, low energy, chronic headaches, backaches or other physical complaints?
- Have there been sudden changes in your behavior: Increased irritability, anger, physical restlessness, tearfulness, hypersensitivity, social withdrawal or isolation, cutting classes, avoiding favorite activities, increased drinking or use of drugs or have you talked about or thought about death?
If you responded yes to several of these questions call or email the Counseling Center and you might be surprised how just a little talk can help.
Treatment can lessen the severity and possibly reduce the duration of a depressive episode or prevent another serious episode. Remember the first step toward feeling better is to ask for help.