I remember all the fun I had as a college student. It’s a phase of life that every one of us looks up to before our college life and looks back upon afterward. But for some, it’s not always a fond memory to remember.
Sometimes, college experiences can turn ugly, and it can affect your overall life. One of the worst things that can happen to you in this beautiful phase is Depression.
Depression in college students is a grave and sadly very critical issue that’s widespread across all the institutes around the globe.
In this competitive age, it’s crucial for students, parents, and teachers to understand what depression is, how to spot it, and how you can deal with it.
What is Depression?
Depression is different from occasional stress, tension, and sadness that all students usually go through in there student life.
It’s normal to feel stressed during an exam, or sad during a breakup. But if you think that your mood is continuously low or your self-confidence is dropping or has dropped significantly over a period or that you are losing interest in activities that your life, you probably might have depression.
Depression is a severe mental health disorder affecting 264 million people worldwide, as per WHO. It’s the stigma of being associated as a mental health illness that most cases of depression go unreported.
Depression is a grave illness, but it’s familiar, and it’s treatable.
Effects of stress on college students
Depression in college students is a common occurrence now. Over 16 percent of students have reported that their academic performance has been significantly affected due to depression.
As per a study conducted by American College Health (ACH – NCHA) in 2017, over 39 percent of students reported that they couldn’t function well in school due to depression.
Depression affects not only the academics of the students but also impacts their social life. Depression can lead to restlessness, loneliness, and even suicide.
Causes of stress in students
Students can be depressed at a young age as well, but college students are more prone to stress and depression.
College is a phase when students explore new cultures, lifestyles, friends, roommates, and a lot of new experiences. While a lot of times this can be a pleasant experience, sometimes it might be difficult.
Also, academic stress in college students is frequent. Some students, on repeated failure in academics, feel pressured and drop in confidence. All of these can be causes of stress in students.
There are a lot of studies linking depression to one’s genes, and some students might be more prone to depression than others due to their genetic makeup. But they need a stressor that activates the depression, and often the college environment acts like one.
A college is a place where students usually don’t find support. At home, students find reassurance, structure, and help, but at college, they have to be self-reliant. Do not underestimate this change.
The college lifestyle that is lack of sleep, high academic pressure, alcohol and substance abuse, and non-nutritional food, can turn out to be the significant stressor that leads to stress and depression.
Another reason why college students are so affected is that if depressed people surround you, you are prone to be depressed yourself.
How to spot depression in college students?
How can you know that if you or someone you know is going through depression? Detecting depression can be hard, but It’s possible if you lookout for the signs.
Feeling sad after academic failure or breakup is normal, but if your sadness is prolonged and doesn’t subside even after days at a time, then it might be an indicator of depression.
Troubles with concentration and focus
Students experiencing depression often feel distracted continuously and find it hard to concentrate and focus on their studies.
Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
If you have suddenly lost interest in the activities or hobbies you once enjoyed a lot, then it might be a sign of depression. Depression makes everything feel less critical and also drops your confidence.
Constant Body Pain
Occasional body pain or headache is usual in a student’s life. But if your problems are persistent, or you need over the counter medicines more than often, then this might be an indicator of depression.
Trouble with Sleep
Students with Depression often complain of difficulty in sleeping and nightmares. Insomnia is a sign of depression.
Difficulty in getting out of bed
Though this is common among all students, if the feeling of low confidence or fear of facing the world urges to stay in bed, then it can be a sign of depression.
Depression is the most common cause of suicide. Often the people going through depression feel like the world is better off without them or that the only solution to their problems is suicide.
If you are ever feeling suicidal or see someone having suicidal thoughts, don’t hesitate and get help immediately. If you are in India, you can find help here – Aasra Helpline.
Stress management tips for college students
Treating depression in college students is not convenient due to the stigma associated with mental health disorders. Though seeing a counselor or seeking professional help is the best solution, more than often, it’s either not accessible to students or challenging to convince them to seek such aid.
Here are some stress management tips for college students, that might help with depression:
Tip 1: Get enough sleep
One of the easiest and best ways to tackle depression is to get proper sleep. Not the number of hours, but the quality is what defines good sleep.
Sleep helps prevent the majority of mental health disorders, including depression, and increases your ability to concentrate and focus.
Tip 2: Hang out with Friends
Connecting socially and maintaining a pleasant social life is the key to avoid depressions.
Loneliness can also lead to depression. Hanging out with friends can reduce stress and make your life enjoyable.
Tip 3: Exercise and move
Exercise helps reduce stress and makes you feel motivated by releasing endorphins. Working out can also serve as a distraction from negative thoughts.
Though any form of exercise is fine, Yoga is known to have great results with depression and stress.
Tip 4: Time Management to reduce academic stress
Academic stress is a significant factor leading to depression in college students.
Time management is an effective way to reduce academic stress and pressure. Read our article on time management to learn some proven methods that will help you – Time Management for College Students.
Tip 5: Avoid Alcohol and substance abuse
Drugs and alcohol can increase your depression, and you must avoid them at any cost. Both of them might feel helpful and lucrative to students feeling depressed but cause severe mental health issues.
Tip 6: Practice Concentration Exercises
Students going through depression usually find it difficult to concentrate and focus. It often leads to irritation and frustration, which in turn intensifies their depression even more.
To break out of this cycle, practice exercises that help improve your concentration and focusing ability. Read our article on How to Improve Concentration for students to know more about such activities.
Tip 7: Spend time in Nature
There is a lot of evidence that backs the claim that Eco Therapy or Nature Therapy helps with the reduction in stress and depression. Spending time in nature is relaxing and takes away negative thoughts and feelings, which helps improve mental health.
Tip 8: Learn to say NO
In College life, students are often under pressure to say yes to everything. It can be friends asking you to try alcohol or smoking, or college fraternities asking you for participation in extracurriculars, or classmates asking you to join a study group.
All of this can be overwhelming, and unknowingly lead you to depression. Learn to say no, when things get difficult for you.
Tip 9: Spend time with Pets
It is the most fun way to beat depression. Pet Therapy is known to work wonders with students facing depression. Interacting with pet animals can increase your empathy, reduce stress, and improve your overall mental health.
Tip 10: Build an effective Support System
It’s critical to have someone with whom you can discuss your problems and keep a check of your mental health. Find a few friends whom you can trust, and make it a constant habit to share your issues with them regularly. Also, make time to listen to their problems and help them out whenever they need it.
Building a support system is one of the best ways to avoid depression and keep check of your mental health.
Though depression is a severe illness, it’s important to remember that it’s ordinary, and it’s treatable. To be able to spot depression, you need to be on the lookout for its signs. Prolonged Sadness, disturbed sleep, a drop in self-confidence, and suicidal thoughts are the most common symptoms of depression.
The only thing more exhausting than being depressed is pretending that you’re not.Anonymous
If you face depression, the best solution is to seek counseling or medical help. Even if you cannot access that, getting help from your friends and making lifestyle changes like getting better sleep, exercising, avoiding alcohol, and practicing time management can help you a lot.
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