Being depressed is different from feeling sad or being in a bad mood occasionally (or when there is a good reason for these feelings, like a loss or a setback). Depression is more persistent and lasts longer than do temporary moods, it usually involves some physical changes, and it hurts your ability to function at school, work, or in relationships. According to the American Psychiatric Association, an episode of major depression includes at least two weeks when you feel a depressed mood (sad, empty, or hopeless) for most of the day nearly every day and/or a lack interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities, even those you used to like. Other things that distinguish depression from normal mood fluctuations include the following:
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt that are inappropriate to the situation.
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions.
- Sleeping too much or not being able to sleep.
- Fatigue or loss of energy.
- Unintended weight loss or gain or increases or decreases in appetite.
- Others can see that you are speeded up or slowed down.
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, planning how you would kill yourself, or attempting suicide.
If you are depressed, you may feel like you are carrying a dark cloud around with you, such that you can only see the negative in situations and in yourself. You might interpret everything people say to you as conveying judgment or dislike, even when the conversation is actually positive or neutral. You may begin neglecting tasks and responsibilities at school, at work, or at home—the list may begin to pile up. Then you might feel overwhelmed by all things you have put off doing. This may result in you feeling guilty or thinking that you are ineffective or even a failure. All of these thoughts and feelings are likely to make you feel increasingly worse.
Every year, around 7% of Americans have a depressive episode, and the rates are even higher for those between the ages of 18 and 29 and for females. It is also quite common to experience multiple depressive episodes and recoveries over the course of your life. However, the vast majority of people recover from an episode of depression within 12 months of the onset of symptoms.
There are many things you can do if you are feeling depressed. There are resources available for self-help, including books such as Mind Over Moodor The Mindful Way Through Depressionand online resources such as talks and tips. You can also get help from a professional. Your physician or a psychiatrist can prescribe medication that has helped many people recover. A mental health provider, like a psychologist, counselor, or social worker, can provide therapy, which works well on its own or in conjunction with medication.
The most important things you should know are that feeling depressed is pretty common for college students and that there is help available on campus! Connect with a mental health professional at any of the following locations:
- Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS): 313-577-3398
- Counseling and Testing Center, College of Education: 313-577-1681
- WSU Psychology Clinic: 313-577-2840