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July 23, 2020 • read
How to cope with depression in college
Student life is an exciting time. You’re forming new friendships, learning new things, and working towards a big goal. Plus, for lots of students, college or university is the first time you’re living on your own without family. Even though those experiences are great, managing so many new things at once can feel overwhelming. It’s little wonder that so many students in university and college experience stress.
Students in college and university are developing depression at startlingly high rates. In fact, 75% of mental health challenges first appear before you turn 25. That’s why it’s important to know the warning signs of depression in college and university students. Depression is often episodic, meaning not everyone with depression has it for the rest of their life. With the right support, it’s possible to manage school work while making strides against depression. The first step is learning the causes and symptoms.
Causes of depression in college and university students
There are lots of new stressors in college and university that can build up and make you feel overwhelmed. Depression and anxiety in college students are unfortunately both very common. In 2016, 46% of post-secondary students in one survey reported feeling too depressed to function. This could look different for everyone. Some students withdraw from friends and social activities. Others don’t have the mental clarity to focus on schoolwork.
During the freshman year, depression is especially common. That’s because you’re getting into a new routine that has altered sleep, eating, and exercise rhythms. Those three things are essential for the maintenance of good mental health. So, when those routines are unbalanced it can increase emotional problems in university and college students.
You may not feel stressed out by the same things as other students you know. Everyone is different. If you’re feeling down, here are a few common causes for depression that might be contributing:
The link between depression and grades is straightforward. The more you worry about doing well in school, the more stress builds up. It’s great to be motivated to succeed, but it’s equally important to be kind to yourself. If you’re dedicated to your studies, failing classes because of depression is the last thing you want. Prioritizing your mental health can actually get you closer to your goals, rather than putting too much pressure on yourself.
70% of college students are stressed about their finances. Tuition fees and textbooks are expensive. Plus, you might be managing money on your own for the first time. Learning to properly manage money is a lifelong journey, so it’s okay if you’re not doing it perfectly from the start. Here are some tips to help students become at ease with their finances.
Drugs and alcohol
So much of the post-secondary experience is about socializing. You might find yourself in a location where alcohol is being served. Managing your intake of alcohol is important, especially if you’re having mental health troubles. Millions of university-aged Canadians report heavy drinking. Alcohol and drug use can contribute to low mood. With all the other pressures of school, it’s understandable that substance misuse could lead to depression in college and university students.
Symptoms of depression in university and college students
Being depressed isn’t the same as regular sadness. When you’re depressed, you feel deeply sad every day for two weeks or more. Another typical symptom is losing interest in things that usually excite you or make you happy.
How can you tell if you’re experiencing depression at university? Here’s what to look for:
- Feeling sad or close to tears.
- Feeling hopeless.
- No interest in doing things you usually like.
- Loss of appetite.
- Feeling guilty for no clear reason.
- Weight loss.
- Feeling irritable.
- Trouble controlling emotions, emotional outbursts.
- Finding it hard to think clearly or remember things.
- Sleep problems, like sleeping too much or too little.
- Feeling restless or anxious.
- Unexplained aches or pains.
- Thinking about death or suicide.
Depression after college or university
People often feel anxious or depressed even after their post-secondary days are over. If you were having trouble with your mental health in college, be sure to continue monitoring your health after graduation. Post college depression symptoms are the same as the ones above. But this time, the depression may be brought on by leaving behind friends and routines you built during school. Just like at the start of college, the transition to your new life after graduation is tough for some people.
Getting the help you need
Especially for college and university freshmen, depression is common. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a serious illness. If you’re depressed, therapy can help lift your mood and turn around negative thought patterns. Don’t wait until you’re withdrawing from school due to depression to find support. It’s important to build strong habits that boost your mental health from the start of your college adventure.
You can start by talking to people you trust like family and friends. Every campus has mental health resources, too. We know talking about depression can be scary. There are guides for explaining depression to your parents if that’s something you need help with.
If you’re experiencing depression in university or college, there are health risks that could have long-term consequences. Our therapists can help you learn how to deal with depression in college in a healthy way. That way you’ll get the most out of your college experience, while staying mentally balanced.