Depression in College Students

For many students, college is a wonderful time.  Making new friends, having new and exciting experiences, and gaining a feeling of independence and control over the direction of life make the college experience a unique period, a bubble of time where you’re not a kid anymore but not quite an adult.  For others, college comes with sadness and depression and if they’re lucky, they can get out of bed to attend a class or two. 

Depression in college students is a growing problem.  In the 2016-2017 school year, over 39% of college students felt so depressed it affected their ability to function.  At a time when most students are enjoying new experiences, students who suffer from depression are barely getting by.  It isn’t always obvious why a student may be experiencing depression. It can be caused by genetics, the environment a person grew up in, biochemistry, or it could be caused by what the student may be currently experiencing in college.  

Being at college away from home can be a difficult transition.  Feeling homesick and lonely can certainly be a huge contributor to depression.  Put the financial and academic stress that comes along with college in the mix and feelings of depression aren’t all that surprising.  For some, drugs and alcohol are part of the college experience as a way to cut loose and have fun but they can actually make symptoms of depression worse.  

Social media has been shown to contribute to the rise in depression and anxiety in young adults.  Connecting with people on social media like Instagram and Snapchat isn’t the same as connecting with them in person and people aren’t developing empathy for other people.  High use of social media can disrupt sleep habits as well as interfere with getting regular exercise, all things that help people ease symptoms of depression.  

What To Look For

If you or a classmate are exhibiting some or all of these symptoms, it may be time to seek help:

  • Sadness that won’t go away
  • Wanting to stay in bed
  • Insomnia
  • Difficulty focusing 
  • Lack of interest
  • Disconnected from feelings
  • Feeling of guilt
  • Feeling like everything would be better without you/suicidal thoughts

All college campuses have a health center for students that can help them get in touch with a counselor and many campuses have a separate counseling center for students who may need mental help.  NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness may have a chapter on campus too.  

Treatments

Depression is treated in different ways.  If your depression is caused by homesickness, improving your mental health may be as simple as getting involved in some campus activities where you may make some friends.  Maybe you need to take a break from social media and be with real people. Avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting enough sleep, exercising, eating right, and getting outside in fresh air may be enough to get you out of a depressive period.

Psychotherapy is usually the first line of treatment and if the depression is mild, it may be all that is needed.  However, for many, it’s a much more serious situation, Major Depressive Disorder and medication may be recommended.  Antidepressants are used to help the body treat a chemical imbalance. They vary in how they function and what may work great for one person may not work at all for another so often a patient must try several different ones until they find something, sometimes a combination of drugs that will work.  

When medication alone doesn’t help, there is another option:  Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. TMS  uses electromagnetic coils to direct magnetic fields to the prefrontal cortex of the brain.  It is a non-invasive treatment creates magnetic fields that stimulate neurotransmitters into doing the job they were originally meant to do.  After a 4-6 week therapy, the patient can experience a lengthy relief from the symptoms of Depression. It may not work for everyone but TMS has proven to be an effective treatment for Depression with a 50% success rate.

College can be a wonderful time.  If you feel you are experiencing depression, reach out and get the help you need.  If you are being treated for depression and your medications aren’t working, call GatewayTMS at (314) 909-8487 and see if TMS is right for you.  

GatewayTMS is one of the leading providers of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for the treatment of depression in the St. Louis area.  We use the Neurostar TMS procedure and strive to give patients who have failed to find relief with antidepressants a solution that can provide them with relief from their symptoms of depression.