Depression

What is depression?

Depression is characterized by feelings of sadness and hopelessness as well as loss of interest or pleasure in ordinary activities that lasts for two weeks or more. It may also involve feeling irritable, guilty, or worthless. Other symptoms might include difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, and changes in appetite and weight. Depression is often brought on by a combination of stressors and difficulty coping with these stressors. In some cases depression can also be, in part, biologically based.

“…depression is more than just feeling down and it can have an impact on many aspects of your life…”


The effects of depression

Everyone experiences changes in their mood and it is normal to have days where you feel sad or blue. However, depression is more than just feeling down and it can have an impact on many aspects of your life, including your ability to meet your academic goals.

The symptoms of depression can interfere with your ability to perform at your best and can make it difficult for you to fully participate in your community, including the campus community. You may struggle with simple daily activities and feel reluctant to reach out for support.

Signs and symptoms of depression

Depression signs and symptoms include:

  • difficulties with concentration and retaining information
  • loss of energy
  • loss of motivation, pleasure, or interest
  • trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much
  • poor appetite or overeating
  • increased restlessness or irritability
  • physical complaints in the absence of an identified cause
  • feelings of hopelessness
  • thoughts that you are worthless
  • thoughts of suicide

Causes of depression

There are many factors that can make a person more susceptible to depression. These include1:

  • physical illness
  • some medications
  • stress
  • biochemical imbalances in the brain, hormones, or immune system
  • a pre-disposition towards a negative life view
  • family history

1 Canadian Mental Health Association (2013), Facts about Depression and Bipolar Disorder

What can I do for myself right now?

How to manage your mood

Taking care of yourself is especially important when your mood is low. Some of these strategies may help you manage your mood.

  • Set small, specific, and realistic goals

When your mood is low you are more likely to feel overwhelmed by your responsibilities. By prioritizing what needs to be done and setting clear, doable goals, you will maximize your likelihood of success. Meeting your goals has a positive impact on your mood.

  • Develop a healthy lifestyle and practice self-care

When your mood is low it is especially important to pay attention to maintaining a balance of regular exercise, healthy eating, and adequate sleep (seven to nine hours a night). Having fun is also important. Regular activities that you enjoy go a long way to managing your mood.

  • Avoid alcohol and drugs

Alcohol or drugs can be tempting when your mood is low. However, using alcohol or other substances as a coping strategy can exacerbate a low mood and make problems worse in the long run.

  • Challenge negative thinking with self-supportive thoughts

How you feel and how you act depends to a large degree on how you think. When your mood is low, you tend to view situations through a negative lens.

Developing and repeating realistic self-supportive thoughts (such as “everyone makes mistakes”) can help you to counter negative thinking and regain a more balanced perspective.

  • Connect socially and reach out for support

Staying connected with supportive friends and family makes you less vulnerable to depression, enhances your self-esteem, and helps you to recover from episodes of low mood faster. When you are feeling down, talk to people who care about you.

"Staying connected with supportive friends and family makes you less vulnerable to depression, enhances your self-esteem, and helps you to recover from episodes of low mood faster."


What if I’m depressed?

If your mood is persistently low and you are experiencing many of the symptoms of depression or having suicidal thoughts, it is very important to talk with a mental health professional. Help is available.

What other students are saying about depression