symptoms of depression in college students

7 Alarming Symptoms of Depression in College Students

Writen By: Faiza Saifur
Reviewed By: Huma Khan
Publish Date: August 18, 2023

So you are wondering how to spot symptoms of depression in college students. Well, we have got you. Recent studies have unveiled alarming statistics that depict the prevalence of mental health challenges among college-goers. In 2018, over 63% of college students reported experiencing debilitating anxiety, while nearly 42% confessed to grappling with depression so profound that it hindered their ability to function effectively over the past year. 

A concerning aspect of depression in college students is the prevalence of suicidal ideation. In a study conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), it was found that approximately 11% of college students had seriously considered suicide.

Research suggests that around 50% of college students will experience a depressive episode during their college years.

Females tend to have higher rates of depression in college compared to males. Research has shown that female college students are more likely to experience depression and seek help for mental health issues.

Astonishingly, many of these individuals were not familiar with depression’s relentless grip before stepping foot on campus, leaving them unprepared and uncertain of how to cope with their newfound struggles.

In this article, we will shed light on the symptoms of depression in college students. From behavioral changes and academic decline to social withdrawal and emotional distress, we will explore the subtle yet critical indicators that demand our attention and concern.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Depression is a significant concern among college students, with a considerable percentage experiencing symptoms of depression during their enrollment.
  1. The prevalence of depression in college students has been on the rise in recent years, with a substantial number of students reporting overwhelming anxiety and symptoms of depression.
  1. Depression can have a profound impact on academic performance, leading to lower GPAs and challenges in attending classes and completing assignments.
  1. Despite the high prevalence, many college students do not seek help for their mental health issues, often due to barriers such as stigma and limited access to mental health services.
  1. Recognizing the symptoms of depression in college students and being proactive in providing support can make a significant difference in their well-being and help prevent potential tragedies.
  1. Creating an empathetic and understanding campus environment that values mental well-being is crucial to addressing depression among college students.

Symptoms of Depression in College Students.

Depression in college students may manifest in a few distinct ways that aren’t immediately apparent.

For instance, a depressed student who was previously rather social may suddenly stop meeting up with friends. This can be a sign of depression if it happens frequently.

Big assignments or final examinations may undoubtedly make students anxious. But if you can’t stop worrying even after the test or deadline has passed, it could be wise to consider if you might be suffering from depression or an anxiety condition.

If you frequently experience any of the following symptoms, persistently for 2 weeks, you may be depressed.

  1. Negative feelings.

Expressing unpleasant sensations or emotions is one of the early symptoms of depression in college students. Someone can confess that they are unhappy, nervous, or numb, or they might say that they are under greater stress than normal. Others might not voice their emotions, but it could be clear that they are sadder, angry, or frustrated than in the past. For instance, they can have a bad temper, engage in less conversation and everyday activities, or have unexpected outbursts.

Many times, those who suffer from depression are unable to pinpoint the source of their sadness or the exact moment it started. Also, it’s probable that if you press them with additional “why” or “when” queries, they will shut down and get avoidant.

  1. Uneven eating and sleeping patterns

If you observe your buddy or roommate closely, you could spot some strange eating patterns. Do they frequently miss meals? When they are pressured, do they eat? Eating too little or too much are both indicators of depression.

People’s sleep patterns are also impacted by depression. For instance, although another person with depression could battle with sleeplessness, your roommate who is experiencing symptoms of depression may frequently sleep for more than 10 hours every night.

  1. Lack of willingness to Engage in Volunteer Activity

When you’re in college, hobbies are a terrific chance to discover your interests and relax. Yet, depressed students might not be interested in partaking in past interests. They could also shy away from gatherings with friends and other social situations.

This general lack of interest is a symptom  of depression in college students and frequently feeds further emotions of melancholy, loneliness, and isolation.

  1. Unjustified Guilt

Anyone from diverse backgrounds and settings can suffer from depression; its causes are not always clear-cut. Sadly, this may make students who “have it good” yet still experience sadness feel guilty.

Students may spiral as a result of these thoughts because they believe that they are a burden or that they are “incomplete,” which can exacerbate symptoms. Consequently, it’s crucial to be on the lookout for self-deprecating thoughts and guilt pangs.

  1. Constant Pain

Without any injury, depression may result in undiagnosed pain, chronic sickness, and suffering. Potential red flags include muscle pain and joint discomfort in the shoulders, neck, back, and chest.

Therefore, if these symptoms are severe and cause a lot of agony, they are straightforward to identify. Nonetheless, you can go weeks without detecting your roommate’s aches and pains if they are ignoring you or are just very excellent at masking their genuine emotions.

  1. Suicidal ideation. 

Suicidal ideation, which refers to thoughts of death or a desire to end one’s life, can indeed be a symptom of depression in college students and in individuals of any age group. It’s a serious concern that requires immediate attention and professional help.

  1. Poor concentration and weak memory

Depression among college students can make it hard to focus and remember things. They might find it tough to pay attention during classes or remember important dates or talks. Their thinking might also slow down, making it difficult to come up with ideas or make decisions. This can affect problem-solving and the ability to learn. Sometimes, they struggle to decide what to do. Remembering information, whether for tests or assignments, can become a challenge too. These difficulties aren’t because of laziness; they’re real symptoms of depression. If you or someone you know is dealing with these problems along with other signs of depression.

If you are a college student suffering from Depression, here are some Tips for you.

Hey there, students! College life can be a rollercoaster, but with a few savvy moves, you can rock it. Here are some tips to help you navigate the journey:

  • Stay Organized: Get yourself a planner or use digital tools to keep track of assignments, deadlines, and important dates. Staying organized reduces stress and helps you stay on top of your game.
  • Time Management: Master the art of time management. Break down big tasks into smaller chunks and tackle them one at a time. Consider techniques like the Pomodoro method (work for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break) to boost productivity.
  • Balanced Lifestyle: Sure, studying is crucial, but so is taking care of yourself. Prioritize sleep, eat well, and make time for exercise or activities you enjoy. A healthy body fuels a healthy mind.
  • Reach Out for Help: Don’t be shy about asking questions or seeking help when you need it. Whether it’s a confusing concept or personal struggles, there are professors, advisors, and counselors ready to lend a hand.
  • Get Involved: Join clubs, organizations, or events that align with your interests. It’s a great way to make friends, network, and build a well-rounded college experience.
  • Smart Study Habits: Mix up your study routine. Try different locations, group study sessions, or teaching the material to someone else. Variety can make learning more effective and engaging.
  • Embrace Failure: Mistakes happen; they’re part of the learning process. Don’t let setbacks discourage you. Learn from them, adjust your strategy, and keep pushing forward.
  • Build Relationships: Connect with your peers and professors. Forming study groups, asking questions in class, and attending office hours can help you build a strong support network.
  • Manage Stress: College can get overwhelming, but you’ve got this. Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or going for a walk to manage stress.
  • Stay Curious: Keep your love for learning alive. Explore topics that intrigue you, even if they’re not directly related to your major. A curious mind leads to a fulfilling college experience.
  • Budget Wisely: Money management is a valuable skill. Create a budget, track your expenses, and look for ways to save money on textbooks, meals, and entertainment.
  • Stay Open-Minded: College is a melting pot of ideas and cultures. Embrace diversity, challenge your perspectives, and be open to new experiences.

Remember, college is about growth, exploration, and finding your path. Keep these tips in your back pocket, and you’ll be well on your way to acing the college adventure!

What are the causes of depression in college students?

The causes of depression in college students are multifaceted and often complex. While every individual’s experience is unique, several common factors contribute to the onset of depression during this period:

  • Sexual Assault and Harassment:

Sexual assault and harassment incidents on college campuses can cause severe mental trauma, sending affected individuals into a depressive or anxious state.

  • Discrimination and Prejudice:

Experiences of marginalization, poor self-esteem, and depression can result from discrimination based on traits including ethnic background, gender, sexual preference, or religion.

  • Bullying: 

Peer harassment, including bullying and cyberbullying, may have serious emotional effects, including feelings of isolation and shame that can worsen depressive symptoms.

  • Uncertain Future: 

Anxiety about the future might be brought on by the unpredictability of post-college plans, employment options, and life after graduation. Feelings of pessimism and melancholy may be exacerbated by this uncertainty.

  • Academic Competition and Underperformance: 

Because of the high competition among students, skills and accomplishments may be constantly compared, which can breed feelings of inadequacy and set off depressive episodes.

  • Transitions and Adjustments: 

The transition from high school to college brings significant changes in lifestyle, social circles, and independence. These adjustments can be overwhelming and trigger feelings of anxiety and depression.

  • Social Isolation: 

College life can be socially demanding, and some students may find it challenging to build new friendships or feel isolated from their support systems.

  • Financial Stress: 

College expenses, tuition fees, and financial responsibilities can be a significant burden on students, leading to anxiety and depressive symptoms.

  • Family Expectations: 

Family expectations and pressure to succeed academically can create added stress, especially if students feel they must meet specific goals or follow specific career paths.

  • Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms: 

Some students may turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as excessive alcohol or drug use to deal with stress, which can worsen depression.

  • History of Mental Health Issues: 

Students with a history of mental health challenges or a family history of depression may be more susceptible to experiencing depression during college.

  • Sleep Problems: 

Irregular sleep patterns and sleep deprivation are common among college students, and these sleep disturbances can contribute to depression.

  • Traumatic Events: 

Traumatic experiences, such as loss, relationship difficulties, or major life changes, can trigger or exacerbate depression.

  • Limited Access to Mental Health Services: 

Some students may face barriers to accessing mental health resources, which can delay or prevent necessary support and treatment.

Treatment Approaches.

The treatment of depression in college students typically involves a combination of therapies and support. Each student’s treatment plan may vary based on the severity of their depression, their individual needs, and the resources available. Here are some common approaches to treating depression in college students:

1. Psychotherapy (Talk Therapy):

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and other forms of talk therapy are often effective in treating depression. A trained therapist helps the student identify negative thought patterns and behaviors and teaches them coping strategies to manage depressive symptoms.

2. Medication: 

In some cases, a healthcare professional may prescribe antidepressant medications to help alleviate symptoms of depression. These medications should always be prescribed and monitored by a qualified healthcare provider.

3. Support Groups: 

Participating in support groups or group therapy sessions can be beneficial for college students with depression. Connecting with others who share similar experiences can reduce feelings of isolation and provide valuable emotional support.

4. Campus Counseling Services: 

Many colleges and universities offer on-campus counseling services where students can access mental health support from trained professionals. These services may include individual counseling, group therapy, and crisis intervention.

5. Self-Care and Lifestyle Changes: 

Encouraging healthy habits such as regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and sufficient sleep can have a positive impact on mental well-being.

6. Mindfulness and Meditation: 

Practices like mindfulness and meditation can help reduce stress and improve emotional regulation.

7. Peer Support and Social Connections: 

Encouraging students to maintain social connections and spend time with friends and family can provide emotional support during difficult times.

8. Academic Accommodations: 

If depression significantly impacts academic performance, students may explore academic accommodations with their college’s disability or student services office.

9. Family Involvement: 

In some cases, involving family members in therapy sessions can be beneficial, as they can offer additional support and understanding.

10. Continued Monitoring and Follow-Up: 

Regular check-ins with mental health professionals are essential to monitor progress, adjust treatment plans if needed, and prevent relapses.

Guidelines for Parents

Hey there, parents! When it comes to supporting your college-bound kiddos, there are a few things you can do to make their journey smoother. 

  • First off, staying connected is key. Shoot them a text, give them a call, or hop on a video chat every now and then. It helps them feel that comforting connection to home.
  • Establish a setting where your child feels at ease talking about their emotions and difficulties. Remember, listening is a superpower. When your kids talk about stuff, just be there to listen—no judging.
  • Even though you want to get engaged, respect their limits and privacy. Don’t press them to share more information than they feel comfortable doing so.  If you spot changes like mood swings, falling grades, or withdrawal, it might be a sign they need a bit of extra support.
  • Find out more about depression, its signs, and possible cures. Your understanding of your child’s experience will improve your ability to support them.
  • Suggest consulting a mental health expert for assistance if they have persistent depression symptoms. If necessary, offer to go with them to appointments and assist them in finding a therapist or counselor.
  • Encourage them to take care of themselves – you know, the basics like sleep, eating well, and getting a little exercise. Self-care is important, so model it for your kids by taking care of yourself. This might serve as a good example of how to deal with stress and emotions. 
  • Plus, remind them that it’s okay to ask for help when they need it. If they’re facing academic or personal challenges, point them towards resources on campus like counseling services.
  • Take it seriously if your youngster discusses suicidal or self-harm ideas. Remain with them, take away any tools they could use to hurt themselves, and get help right away.
  • Healing requires time. Even if development seems to be taking a while, be patient and encouraging. Celebrate modest accomplishments and reassure others.
  • Even while you want the best for your child, refrain from placing pressure on them in their academics or decision-making. Prioritize their health over their academic performance.
  • Lastly, let them spread their wings. College is all about learning independence, so give them the space to make their own decisions and learn from ’em. It’s all part of the growing process!

Guidelines for Teachers:

  • Hey, teachers, you’re like the guiding stars for these college adventurers. Creating a comfy and supportive classroom is a big deal. Make sure students know they can open up and ask for help when they need it.
  • Be the friendly face with open office hours. Let your students know they can swing by for a chat about anything – from coursework to life stuff. And speaking of coursework, try not to pile on the assignments all at once. We know they’re juggling a lot.
  • Flexibility is a heroic move. Life happens, so be understanding if a student needs a little extra time or a bit of leeway due to unexpected bumps.
  • Help them tap into campus resources too! Let them in on the secret of counseling services, tutoring centers, and any workshops that can give them that extra boost.
  • Keep an eye out for signs that a student might be struggling. Maybe they seem down or disconnected, or their grades are slipping. Be that caring voice who can guide them to the help they need.
  • If a student confesses that they are depressed, respect their privacy and only tell the necessary staff members of this knowledge. 
  • Check in with them from time to time to see how they’re performing. This action can demonstrate your sincere concern for their good. 
  • Depending on their emotional state at the moment, modify your expectations. Without overwhelming them, encourage effort.
  • Give them constructive feedback that emphasizes their improvements and strong points. Stay away from harsh criticism and pressure.
  • If necessary, give extensions for assignments or suggest taking breaks during lectures. Stress can be reduced with breaks.
  • For students who are depressed, take into consideration lenient attendance regulations. Recognize that it can be difficult to attend class on certain days. 
  • Be aware that their development may be slow. As they manage their emotional and intellectual hurdles, be patient with them and offer support.
  • Keep in mind to create a fantastic and welcoming environment where everyone feels welcome. That truly alters everything.

By working together, parents and teachers can give college students the support they need to thrive during this exciting and challenging time in their lives. You’ve got this!

Wrapping up!

The prevalence of anxiety and sadness among college students has significantly grown since the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic. According to a recent survey, serious distress affected more than 77% of college students. The early detection and treatment of depression can be aided by parents and students being aware of the risk factors and symptoms.