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The Mental Health Series: Depression & Anxiety

It’s not something you ‘just get over.’

Depression and anxiety have become huge issues in collegiate culture. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health illnesses reported on college campuses. Millions of young adults struggle with anxiety disorders.

Anxiety and depression are commonly linked to one another, meaning that both illnesses often act hand-in-hand.

But first, what are the symptoms of depression and anxiety?

Depression is caused by an imbalance of serotonin in the brain, a biological chemical that affects mood, appetite, and sleep patterns—just to name a few. People suffering with depression often experience feelings of hopelessness or an inability to do everyday activities or things they once enjoyed.

Depression is different than ‘feeling sad.’ It is psychological and biological.

There are different kinds of depression, such as major depression and persistent depressive disorder. Major depression is when one experiences severe feelings of hopelessness and other symptoms of depression. Persistent depressive disorder is when these symptoms last for 2 or more years.

Another common form of depression experienced by students is called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. Seasonal affective disorder describes feelings of depression during the darker months, from about November to March or April.

Anxiety is characterized as an excessive stress reaction. People with anxiety often have difficulty in social situations or dealing with stress in a healthy manner. Individuals with anxiety can also suffer from other mental illnesses, such as substance addiction.

Panic disorder, which is a type of anxiety disorder, is when one experiences panic attacks. Panic attacks are usually described by feelings of dread or intense fear, elevated heart rate, quick breathing, sweating, dizziness, chest pain, and numbness in the hands, to name a few. Some people who experience panic attacks describe the feeling as one similar to a heart attack.

Both anxiety and depression can be treated with medications, usually anti-anxiety medications or anti-depressants. The best treatment plans usually include therapy or counseling as well.

People often have difficulty understanding depression and anxiety disorders and that they are disorders. There is a common misconception that those affected can easily ‘get over it’ or are ‘overreacting.’ These illnesses are serious.

People suffering with depression or anxiety have difficulty doing what may seem like the easiest tasks. The imbalanced chemicals in the brain make it feel physically impossible for them to act ‘normally.’ This can sometimes lead to suicide or suicidal ideation.

Some college campuses offer counseling resources through the health center. If you feel as though you could be suffering from symptoms of depression or anxiety, the health center is a great place to start. They can offer basic counseling sessions and give you coping strategies to help with the stress.

If symptoms of depression or anxiety become more severe or serious, to the point of having suicidal thoughts, there are several resources that can help. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255. The hotline is open and available 24-hours, seven days a week.

If one’s suicidal ideation is severe they may be admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Psychiatric hospitals have many helpful resources for suicidal individuals. They can prescribe anti-depressants and involve patients in one-on-one therapy sessions with a therapist or psychiatrist, and group therapy sessions with other individuals suffering from the same thing.

Psychiatric hospitals have a bad rep, but help individuals learn to cope and stabilize their chemical imbalances everyday.

To learn more about anxiety disorders and depression, you can visit the National Institute of Mental Health website and Anxiety and Depression Association of America website.

It is important to remember that individuals suffering from anxiety and depression are facing serious challenges all day, every day. They require support from their friends and family, and sometimes help from a professional therapist or psychiatrist.

So, offer help to those who need it and seek out help if you need it. There is always going to be someone there to help. 

Katie is a senior, and mass communications major on the advertising track with a minor in electronic media and film. Katie loves movies, especially Clue, but the full list is much longer! Her hobbies include writing, watching hilarious YouTube videos, listening to old '80s hits on repeat, and learning all about the hot new memes. 
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