You know that these college years can be complicated and demanding. Deep down, you are not quite sure of who you are, what you want to be, or whether the choices you make from day to day are the best decisions.
Sometimes the many changes and pressures you are facing threaten to overwhelm you. So it isn't surprising that from time to time you or one of your friends feel "down" or discouraged.
But what about those times when a friend's activity and outlook on life stay "down" for weeks and begin to affect your relationship? If you know someone like this, your friend might be suffering from depression. As a friend, you can help.
Learn More About Depression
What is depression?
Depression is more than the blues or the blahs; it is more than the normal, everyday ups and downs. When that "down" mood, along with other symptoms, lasts for more than a couple of weeks, the condition may be clinical depression. Clinical depression is a serious health problem that affects the total person. In addition to feelings, it can change behavior, physical health and appearance, academic performance, and the ability to handle everyday decisions and pressures.
What causes clinical depression?
We do not yet know all the causes of depression, but there seem to be biological and emotional factors that may increase the likelihood that an individual will develop a depressive disorder. Research over the past decade strongly suggests a genetic link to depressive disorders. Bad life experiences and certain personality patterns such as low self-esteem or extreme pessimism about can increase chances of becoming depressed.
How common is it?
Clinical depression is a lot more common than most people think. It affects 10 million Americans every year. One-fourth of all women and one-eighth of all men will suffer at least one episode or occurrence of depression during their lifetimes. Approximately three to five percent of the teen population experiences clinical depression every year. That means among 100 people, four could be clinically depressed.
ls it serious?
Depression can be very serious. It has been linked to poor school performance, alcohol and drug abuse, and suicide. In the last 25 years, the rate of suicide among teenagers and young adults has increased dramatically.
Are all depressive disorders alike?
There are various forms or types of depression. Some people experience only one episode of depression in their whole life, but many have several recurrences. Some depressive episodes begin suddenly for no apparent reason, while others can be associated with a life situation. Sometimes people who are depressed cannot perform even the simplest daily activities - like getting out of bed or getting dressed; others go through the motions, but it is clear they are not acting or thinking as usual. Some people suffer from bipolar depression in which their moods cycle between two extremes - from the depths of despair to frenzied heights of activity or grandiose ideas about their own competence.
Can it be treated?
Yes, depression is treatable. Between 80 and 90 percent of people with depression - even the most serious forms - can be helped. Symptoms can be relieved quickly with psychological counseling, medication, or a combination of both. The most important step toward treating depression - and sometimes the most difficult - is asking for help.
Does talking about depression only makes it worse?
Talking through feelings may help a friend recognize the need for professional help. By showing friendship and concern, and giving uncritical support, you can encourage your friend to talk to his or her parents or spouse or another trusted person, like a professor or clergy about getting treatment. If your friend is reluctant to ask for help, you can talk to someone for him or her - that's what a real friend can do.
Know the Symptoms
Check the following list if you notice a friend with any of these symptoms persisting longer than two weeks.
Does your friend express feelings of:
- Sadness or emptiness?
- Hopelessness, pessimism, or guilt?
- Helplessness or worthlessness?
Does your friend seem:
- Unable to make decisions?
- Unable to concentrate and remember?
- To have lost interest or pleasure in ordinary activities - like sports or talking on the phone?
- To have more problems at work or school and with relationships?
Does your friend complain of:
- Loss of energy and drive - a "slowed down feeling"?
- Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting up?
- Appetite changes that lead to weight loss or gain?
- Headaches, stomach aches, or backaches?
Has your friend's behavior changed suddenly so that he or she:
- Is restless or more irritable?
- Wants to be alone most of the time?
- Has started cutting classes or dropped hobbies and activities?
- Drinks more alcohol?
Has your friend talked about:
- Suicide - or has he or she attempted suicide?
Find Someone Who Can Help
If you checked several of the boxes, a friend may need help. Don't assume that someone else is taking care of the problem. Negative thinking, inappropriate behavior, or physical changes need to be reversed as quickly as possible. Not only does treatment lessen the severity of depression, treatment also may reduce the length of time your friend is depressed and may prevent additional bouts of depression.
If a friend shows many symptoms of depression, you can listen and encourage him or her to seek help. If you friend doesn't do so quickly, talk to a psychologist or mental health professional - especially is your friend mentions suicide. Here are some resources that can help.