College is an exciting time when people are faced with new challenges and experiences. For many, it is the beginning of many new life transitions where they may face new responsibilities, harder academic challenges, and bigger life decisions. Major changes are occurring in both their family and social lives as well. Siblings who you could always count on are no longer just across the hall and close friends who were always there to hang out with in high school may have decided to go to a school clear across the country. All of these changes occurring at once can be overwhelming and the emotional impact of them can leave a person feeling a little down. While occasionally feeling a little sad is completely normal, prolong feelings of loneliness and hopelessness can be symptoms of depression.
Symptoms of depression can include a generally depressed mood and a loss of interest or pleasure in activities that one once enjoyed. When a person is depressed, they may experience difficulty concentrating, feelings of hopelessness, changes in their eating habits, fatigue and irritability, and even thoughts of suicide. If you have experienced these types of symptoms in college you are not alone. In the Fall of 2009, 29.6 percent of students said that within the last 12 months they felt "so depressed that it was difficult to function," according to the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment. Within the last 12 months 56.1 percent of students reported that they had felt very lonely, 45.9 percent felt helpless, and 60.2 percent very sad.
If you are experiencing these types of symptoms and have noticed that they have interfered with your daily life, it is important that you take it upon yourself to seek help. Remember that with close family and friends far away, there are not as many people around you who may be able to able to alert you of the changes in your behavior and encourage you to seek help. Even though many students in the study reported feeling symptoms of depression within the past 12 months, only 9.2 percent were diagnosed or treated by a professional. It is important that students seek help earlier rather than later before depression starts to interfere with their education. When it came to academic performance, 11.1 percent of students reported that depression was a significant factor in why they received a lower grade on an exam or project, received a lower grade in a course, received an incomplete or dropped a course, or experienced a significant disruption in thesis, dissertation, research, or practicum work.