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College can be a very exciting and awaited time in young people’s lives. For many, it is their first time away from home, away from their parents’ watching eyes, and sharing their living space with other students. Oh, what a time to be alive! So, why are college students more vulnerable to depression?

As one said, with great power comes great responsibility. Being by yourself means having the freedom to do what you want when you want. But it also means taking care of yourself, keeping track of your daily obligations, and managing your money. So, it is quite understandable to have a hard time adjusting to all these changes.

You might also feel homesick, lonely, and somewhat lost about figuring out things yourself. There are a lot of new experiences to juggle. Between classes, parties, making friends, losing sleep, and maybe not eating all that well, your health can begin to crack.

Depression in College

Whether or not you have been previously depressed, college can act as a catalyst for various mental health problems, like depression and anxiety. All the demands and changes that come with it can be very stress-inducing and make it particularly challenging to adjust to this new environment.

Recent studies by the American College Health Association (ACHA) revealed that 30% of college students feel so depressed that it’s nearly impossible to function. With the aggravated effects of the pandemic, college students were significantly affected by depression, both psychologically and physically.

You should know that it’s normal to feel sad and down every once in a while. However, if these feelings persist over time and start affecting your daily routine, you should talk to a mental health professional.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression in College

There is no specific diagnosis for depression in college students, although there are some warning signs we can associate with college life. These can include:

  • Group of students at University working together on their laptops. This represents students being informed and aware of depression symptoms.Missing classes or academic responsibilities;
  • Feeling sad and anxious;
  • Drinking or/and using drugs;
  • Isolate from family, friends, and relationships;
  • Dropping grades, or missing assignments deadlines;
  • Sleeping a lot, or not sleeping well;
  • Experiencing irritability, frustration, or anger outbursts;
  • Neglecting hygiene and self-care.

It’s important to pay attention to signs of depression in college years since this is when symptoms tend to first develop. Many college students suffer from depression without seeking help. They may feel embarrassed or even guilty about not enjoying what many advertise as “the greatest time of our lives”.

When depression is left unchecked, it can get worse and lead to suicidal thoughts and actions. It is estimated that 2-15% of people who have major depression die by suicide. So, getting help and learning how to cope with depression in college is crucial.

5 Tips from a Psychologist About Coping with Depression in College

1. Plan your day carefully

Two students smiling and talking over a school folder. This represents someone in the Baltimore area who is planning and taking actions to overcome depression.Making a daily plan with the activities you want to complete can help you prioritize and focus on what you need to do. The satisfaction you get from accomplishing something you worked for can help you feel more in control and connected with your own life.

Let go of unrealistic and unhealthy goals and expectations. You won’t do it all at once, and you don’t have to do it alone. Don’t overlook the steps you take to improve, no matter how small they may seem to you.

Also, allow yourself to experience college life outside of the classroom and outside of the campus. Get outside and explore different surroundings, hobbies, and possibilities.

2. Make time for what gives you joy

Do you have a past hobby you used to enjoy? That could be a good place to start. Or maybe explore other activities you always wanted to try. It may be sports, volunteering, a college club, or whatever interests you.

These activities can help you meet new people with similar interests, get out of your comfort zone and break the negative cycle.

3. Get closer to friends and family

For many, college means being away from friends and family. To start a new chapter in a place where we don’t know anyone. It can feel quite overwhelming. However, staying connected with those who matter while working on making new friends is crucial to your mental health and well-being.

Having strong and supportive connections can make all the difference when you’re dealing with depression. If the people in your life aren’t close by, they’re just a WhatsApp away. Also, a new friend that is going through the same experience can feel a lot like home.

4. Take care of yourself: mind and body

Two students happily running together. This represents the positive impact of doing exercise on depression and mental health.With all the changes and demands you need to cover, you might end up neglecting your self-care. Your academic and social life are priorities but don’t forget to take care of your fundamental needs, like exercising, sleeping, and eating healthy.

Exercise has a lot of mental health benefits, including reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. Especially for college students, it can improve memory and rational thinking.

Sure, college life is not best known for eating healthy and sleeping early. However, adding a few nutritious foods to your diet and ensuring you get enough sleep can positively impact your mental and physical health.

5. Talk to a professional

If you think you might be struggling with depression, college is a great time to seek help. Depression treatment tends to be more effective the earlier it starts. So, the sooner you talk with a professional about your symptoms, the better are the chances to recover fully and prevent future episodes of depression.

You don’t have to go through it alone. Our trained and licensed professionals can help you understand what is contributing to your symptoms of depression and work with you to best address these issues.

Counseling for College Students’ Depression in Baltimore, MD

Two students sitting outside on the University campus working together and talking. This represents someone on the Baltimore area who is talking to a friend about finding a therapist for depression.Do you have a college friend that is suffering from depression? Or maybe you have been struggling with negative thoughts and feelings? The best way to cope is to talk about what is going on.

Our therapists at New Connections will help you explore your depressive symptoms and start a path toward feeling better. Reach out to us! We are here to answer all your doubts and concerns.

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About the Author:

Cathy Sullivan-Windt

Psychologist (Ph.D.) & Owner

Cathy is a licensed counseling psychologist with almost 20 years of experience. She specializes in women’s counseling, anxiety treatment, sexual assault recovery, life transitions, and relationship issues.

In her free time, she enjoys spending time in nature, traveling, reading, and being with her family and friends.

Read More About Cathy

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