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Depression in College Students

What You Probably Didn’t Know about Depression in College Students

Depression could loosely be defined as a state of desperation that is at a level that can interfere with the normal functioning of an individual. It affects how one feels, eats, sleeps and behaves. It is especially common in college students due to various factors. Depression in college students is, however, a condition that is in most cases left untreated due to the stigma attached to mental illnesses.


Causes of Depression in College Students

There are a number of factors that can contribute to depression in students which is clinically termed as depression.

  1. Academic pressure: Current curriculum and measures of academic success put intense pressure on a student.
  2. Inadequate social adaptation: excessive coddling of a child when they are growing up aimed at protecting them from negative experiences and feelings make them lack resiliency skills. These children have difficulty coping and rely heavily on their parents for all forms of support. This makes it hard for them to adjust to the demanding college life.
  3. Feeling of inadequacy: This is more common with students who come from unstable homes. Breakdown in the family structures have formed insecure foundations for the children thus resulting into young adults who are unsure of themselves. The unpredictability of what the students can call home makes them vulnerable to such feelings.
  4. Disorientation: When a student joins college he finds himself unable to keep to the habits and behaviors that he had formed for himself. He therefore losses a sense of self and in the process gets disoriented.
  5. Inability to adopt to change: For the first time entrants into college, it comes with many firsts, which include friends, roommates, culture, setting, etc. These instant changes become overwhelming and cause depression in students.
  6. Inadequate sleep: in an effort to complete assignments, most students will sleep late and wake up early. The inadequate sleep over a period of time will cause depression.
  7. Break ups: this is most common with college girls most of whom had experienced neglect during their childhood. The feeling of betrayal that they get after an unprepared break up causes them immense emotional pain.
  8. Rapid growth of technology: The endless access to information and constant exposure that the college students have, results to unhealthy social comparisons. The students don’t spend enough time in the natural world and have a hard time relating to it.


There are signs to look out for when it comes to depression in students. Most of the signs mimic other conditions or could be considered normal in their mild state. It would therefore take a keen parent, relative, friend or tutor to point out these symptoms in a student and suggest or initiate help.

  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities: For a student who was previously outgoing and interested in particular activities to suddenly lose interest, it calls for concern.
  • Slowing down, looking fatigued and with decreased energy.
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty in falling asleep decisions is another common sign of depression in college students.
  • Being persistently sad and having anxious moments. This is a form of sadness that is distinguishable from the ordinary sadness that people feel.
  • Irritability: This is a feeling of agitation that occurs when someone is provoked even by the most minor things.
  • Apathy: when a student is in this state, he normally lacks interest for things that others find exciting.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Changes in personal hygiene
  • Persistent physical symptoms such as muscle pain or headaches
  • Difficulty in concentration, remembering and making.
  • Feelings of hopelessness


When depression in college students is left untreated there is the tendency of over indulgence in alcohol and other drugs as the out let of coping with the emotional pain. Engaging in risky behavior like unsafe sex is also common. A student can also drop out of college in order to escape the challenges of college life.


Suicidal thoughts also creep in and in extreme cases, the student ends up committing suicide. Signs of a student who is contemplating suicide include:

  1. Talking a lot about wanting to die
  2. Talking about being a bother to others
  3. Acting with anxiety and seeming agitated
  4. Having extreme mood swings
  5. Giving away things that they treasured
  6. Talking about taking revenge
  7. Sleeping too much or too little
  8. Finding out ways of killing themselves and probably arming themselves.


Treatment and Management of Depression in College Students


  • Antidepressants: A doctor can prescribe antidepressants if he thinks they are the best form of treatment for the student. It’s necessary for its usage to be monitored for possible side effects and change in dosage
  • Talk therapies: It is recommended for the student to talk to a counselor. This could be a psychiatrist, a psychologist or a social worker. Here a student will be talked into thinking positively about himself. He is also made to rebuild his confidence. Talk therapies are given as per the student’s issue and extent of depression.
  • Exercises: relaxation techniques can ease tension of the entire body system.
  • Eating healthy diet: a balanced diet improves the general body feeling and provides all the necessary nutrients needed for the proper functioning of the systems.
  • Getting enough rest: consistent sleeping patterns can help in getting enough rest.
  • Spending time with supportive family members and student support groups.
  • Having fun with friends is a good way of quickening recovery from depression.
  • Organizing tasks in an easy to do manner reduces the pressure as opposed to doing many things at a time.
  • Avoiding the use of alcohol.

Depression can be managed through the proper care and treatment. Waiting for it to clear on its own might not work, and could lead to other medical conditions. It can also greatly affect a student’s social and academic life. It’s therefore important to seek medical help as soon as signs of depression are detected.


Delay in taking a step could result to death, at worst. While binge drinking and over indulgence in other drugs and sex could lead to greater health risks than the depression itself.


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