Worried About Depression?

What is it?

Everyone feels blue or sad once in a while. However, these feelings typically pass within a couple of days. When a person has depression, it interferes with his or her daily life and routine, such as going to work, studying, going to class, and relationships with family and friends. Depression causes pain for the person who has it and for those who care about him or her.

Depression can be very different in different people or in the same person over time. It is a common but serious. Treatment can help those with even the most severe depression to get better.

Symptoms

  • Ongoing sadness, anxiousness or empty feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Feeling irritable or restless
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies that were once enjoyable
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, or difficulty making decisions
  • Not able to go to sleep or stay asleep (insomnia); may wake in the middle of the night, or sleep all the time
  • Overeating or loss of appetite
  • Thoughts of suicide or making suicide attempts
  • Ongoing aches and pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not go away

What can I do about it?

  • Even in severe cases, depression is highly treatable. The most common treatments of depression are psychotherapy and medication. Psychotherapy offers people the opportunity to identify the factors that contribute to their depression and to deal effectively with the psychological, behavioral, interpersonal, and situational causes of their depression.
  • It is very important for people who may be struggling with depression to seek care from a licensed mental health professional that has training and experience in helping people.

Do you experience low mood only during the the late fall-winter months?
Then you may struggle with the winter blues or the official diagnosis, Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD). It is not uncommon for SAD to first emerge in traditional college-age students, with women at slightly higher for developing SAD. Those that live in the Northeast (Maine!) and have less exposure to the sun are especially impacted by this seasonal depression; 5-20% of those living in these areas show symptoms and those symptoms can have a significant impact on your personal and academic/professional functioning.

Symptoms are similar to those of depression above and may include: difficulty concentrating, low mood, decreased energy, anxiety and irritability, craving for carbohydrates, difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, thoughts of suicide, and decreased sex drive.

The good news is that there are things you can do to minimize the effects of seasonal depression:

  • Exercise – Increased aerobic exercise, particularly outdoors during daylight hours, can be useful in boosting energy and helping managing depressive symptoms.
  • Nutrition – Although you may be craving sugary foods (cookies, soda), focus on getting complex carbohydrates (whole grains, rice, pasta) and healthier sugars (fruit) to boost your energy.
  • Sleep – As much as possible, get to bed at a decent hour and wake at a decent hour. Late nights and sleeping in late do not help your body combat the effects of SAD. Also, naps, as wonderful as they can be, can also interfere with your sleep at night. Aim for 8 hours of sleep each night.
  • Light therapy – Using a special light box designed to mimic sunlight, individuals sit in front of the light box for 30-60 minutes a day. The greatest effect occurs when it is used in the morning. Clients of the Counseling Center may check out a light box to try for up to 2 weeks (as supplies last) and the Mind Spa (120 Memorial Union, open Tues-Fri 9am-2pm) has light boxes available for use onsite.
  • Medication – If your symptoms are so significant and unmanageable through some of the activities above, you may benefit from treatment with antidepressants. Schedule an appointment with one of our counselors to discuss this option.