Depression in College Students
By: Kylie Bustad

College can be a dramatic change for any young adult. There is the stress of a new place, new people, classes and homework, and being away from family and old friends. Many times the stress from the classes and activities or even the feeling of loneliness can become too much and can lead to depression. I have seen the impact depression can have on a person and that is why I chose this topic. It is important for people to understand the signs and effects depression can have on people.

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The technical definition of depression is a severe despondency and dejection, typically felt over a period of time and accompanied by feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy. In other words it is a medical illness that can cause a constant feeling of sadness or lack of interest and can affect how that person feels, behaves, and thinks. Depression is common in everyone and usually fades after awhile, but people with clinical depression have a hard time going through with their daily activities and life in general (Nordqvist, 2013).

Why is depression common in so many people though? No one is quite sure how many people are affected, but it has become more common in the United States and United Kingdom over the past decades. Studies have been conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health showing several interesting facts:
  • 6.7% of American adults had depressive illness over the past 12 months
  • 30.4% of those cases had severe symptoms
  • Women are 70% more likely to have depressive symptoms during their life (Nordqvist, 2013)
With that being said, there are a few reasons why women are more prone to depression than men. The first is that women have more fluctuating hormone levels, which are increased around the time of childbirth and menopause. During these times there is an increased risk of depression being developed. A psychological explantation is that women tend to think and worry more and instead of reacting to the stress the with anger like men sometimes do, women start to develop depression. The last explanation is that unlike men, women will seek out help and actually get diagnosis for depression (Burton, 2012). There have been many studies to show how many college students are affected by depression. It is said that students transitioning into their new life at college can face many changes that may lead to depression. These can include: living by yourself for the first time, adapting to new schedules and bigger workloads, money and then new relationships (Mayo Clinic Staff). Here is a graph showing how many students are suffering from depression and discussed there problems with a doctor in 2011:


College students have many changes happening in such a short amount of time that it is very common for them to suffer from depression while in school. The next question many people wonder is what are the different types of depression people may suffer from? One of the main types is major depression or clinical depression which is what prevents people from functioning normally. It can interfere with the persons ability to sleep, work, eat, and enjoy activities that they once found pleasurable. One of the main symptoms for clinical depression is a depressed mood or loss of interest almost daily for at least two weeks straight. Then there is what is called chronic depression. This is a less severe version and doesn't usually disable the person. During chronic depression, the person is affected by a depressed mood for two or more years. The last type is what is know as "regular" depression which is called, atypical depression. People affected by this tend to have symptoms such as overeating, oversleeping, fatigue, and extreme sensitivity (Goldberg, 2012).
These are the most common forms of depression, but everyone can react differently to their type of depression. The most common symptoms of depression include:
  • constant feeling of sadness
  • irritability
  • levels of energy lower
  • sleeping and eating patterns can be disturbed
  • suicidal thoughts may occur and even acted out (Nordqvist, 2013).

Is there any known cause to depression? No one has found one true cause to why someone can be affected by depression, but there are many factors that contribute to the symptoms. Some of these factors can be anything from a persons problem-solving capabilities, decision-making styles, perceptions of control, quality of relationships, and many others (Yapko, 2007). People have also been trying to figure out in genetics have anything to do with people dealing with depression. Michael Yapko states that it has more to do with the mood of the family and the surroundings then the actually genetics of the family. The interactions people may receive from there families have a large impact on how they may view themselves or the world around them. If someones family is always saying they can't do anything right, then they will keep that idea with them whether in school, a job, or relationships (Yapko, 2007). Another theory of what may cause depression comes from the Harvard Health Publications. They say that depression is causes by the level of one chemical in the body being too low or too high, but instead it is several chemicals working both inside and outside of the nerve cells. As stated, "there are millions, even billions, of chemical reactions that make up the dynamic system that is responsible for your mood, perceptions, and how you experience life" (Harvard Health Publications).

There are many different ways people can find treatment for their depression. The two main types are medications and therapy. The medications people are prescribed are called antidepressants which help stabilize the neurotransmitters in the brain so they function normally. SSRI's (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors and SNRI's (norepinephrine re-uptake inhibitors) are the most popular antidepressants today because they have fewer side-effects. Prozac, celexa, and zoloft are the newest versions of SSRI's while effexor and cymbalta are similar but are SNRI's. Antidepressants take time to work which is why many people pair them with psychotherapy. During therapy, the patient can discuss problems they are facing and their feelings toward themselves, the ones close to them, or what is happening. The therapist is trying to improve the mental health of the patient by either altering their negative way of thinking or behaving or helping the patient through uneasy situations (Nordqvist, 2013). As stated before, many people use both medication and therapy sessions to overcome depression as shown in these graphs:



There was also a study showing the statistics of college students in the fall of 2011 about how many were suffering from depression or had depressed thoughts.


Even though there seems to many ways to help people who are suffering from depression, there are still so many people that can't seem to recover from their depressed moods. The way to overcome depression is to do what seems most difficult. People who are dealing with depression usually believe that they can't get out of bed to go eat or see friends and family, but just performing those small actions can help. First, people need to start with small goals and slowly build on from there. A few of the main things that have shown improvement for people have been talking to friends and family or joining a support group, taking care of a pet, exercising once a day, participating in the activities that they once enjoyed, regain healthy eating habits, and practice relaxation techniques (Smith, 2013). I feel that the more research we do to understand a true cause of depression, the closer we are to helping people overcome there depressed states. Depression effects college students all over the world which is why I find it so important. Students go through a lot during college and suffering from depression doesn't make any of that easier. The more we understand why depression effects some while not everyone, the more information we can find to help those who need it.

Overview Video:


Burton, Neel. (2012). The 7 Reasons Why Depression is More Common in Women. Psychology Today: Hide and Seek. Retrieved from:

Goldberg, Joseph. (2012). Types of Depression. WebMD: Depression Health Center. Retrieved from:

Harvard Health Publications. (2013). What Causes Depression?. Harvard Health Publications: Harvard Medical School. Retrieved from:

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2013). College Depression: What Parents Need to Know. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Retrieved from:

Nordqvist, Christian. (2013). What is Depression?. Medical News Today. Retrieved from:

Smith, Melinda. Segal, Robert. Segal, Jeanne. (2013). Dealing with Depression. Help Guide: Non-Profit Resource. Retrieved from:

Yapko, Michael. (2007). What Causes Depression?. Psychology Today. Retrieved from: