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17 College Women Get Real About Depression

A recent UCLA study found that the emotional health of incoming students is at its lowest point in the last 30 years. They also found out in their study – where they asked 153,000 students to assess their mental health – that nearly 10% of students said they felt frequently depressed.

To take a look at the personal experiences collegiettes have had with depression, we spoke to 17 college women about it.

“I’ve struggled with depression from as early as middle school, but I was only officially diagnosed by a professional about a year ago after finally being able to put myself into therapy. I decided to get help because my symptoms became exponentially worse after moving away to attend university, and I was afraid for my health. I believe this was largely due to the unexpected increase in stress I was under and because I was suddenly very far away from my support group, making me feel hopeless and isolated. I find that maintaining communication with people who love me, keeping up on my physical health (sleeping enough, exercising), and taking time out of my week to enjoy non-academic activities like painting, playing pool, going out, and kayaking help. It is still a difficult uphill battle, however.”

-Ashley, University of Florida Class of 2016

“I felt really depressed during my junior year of college. I failed a class for the first time and really struggled with an identity crisis. Our generation is so keen on defining ourselves by our academics, and we often find that we are lost without good grades. When my grades slipped, I felt like I didn’t know who I was. My identity has always been ‘good student’. Who am I without my good grades? I coped by using my campus’s counseling resources. It was very difficult to get through and I still struggle with maintaining a positive attitude. I am doing my best every day to find other aspects of my life and my personality to define myself by. Grades are important, but I’m trying not to let them be everything.”

-Kaley, University of South Florida Class of 2017

“I’ve had depression for most of my life, and it’s more active at certain times than others. I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Dysthymic Depression at a very young age and have been in therapy for a lot of my life. Sometimes it is directly caused by upsetting events in my life, and other times it just hits me for seemingly no reason at all. I had a few months when it was particularly bad one summer, and I tried to put hope and positivity into getting better that fall semester, but I ended up not spending enough time on self-care and was pretty depressed through most of the semester. It’s hard because treating depression is all about self-care, but for me, part of being depressed is not feeling as if I can/need to/deserve to take the time to do things that make me happy.”

-Rachel, University of Massachusetts Amherst Class of 2017

RELATED: Depression in College & How to Deal

“I have definitely felt depressed since I’ve started college. It started a couple of months after my freshman year. I was finally getting the hang of things but was experiencing feelings of emptiness because I missed home — not my actual house just the comfort and safety my ‘home’ provided me. I was diagnosed with depression and took a semester off to get myself back together; I didn’t want my second semester grades to be affected. I went to therapy every week and started doing the things I l loved again to get myself happy, like reading, working out, spending time outside and not alone. I think I just couldn’t find my niche that first year but have come back sophomore year better than ever and happy that I took that break. I feel refreshed and ready for anything.”

-Cori, San Diego State University Class of 2018

“I have struggled with anxiety and depression ever since I can remember, and going to college has proved to be no different. While I am often able to keep myself busy with classes and extracurriculars, I still experience periods where I isolate myself from my friends, have trouble motivating myself to get out of bed, lose interest in things that used to make me happy, and experience intense sadness and pain that causes feelings of hopelessness. However, it is possible to live with depression and succeed in college. Seek out resources on campus or at home so you can get proper treatment, surround yourself with people who love and support you, and remember that you are not alone and even though it may seem like it, this suffering will not last forever.”

-Helmi, The University of Alabama Class of 2018

“I had experienced mild depression before college. I was diagnosed and started anti-depressants but became sick from the side effects so I had to stop taking them. I cope by exercising and using a light box to help with seasonal affective disorder. I felt that feeling alone in college and dealing with stressful situations was a trigger for these feelings.”

Nicole, SUNY New Paltz Class of 2016

“Of course I have experienced some level of depression since starting college. Movies, TV and even family hype up college to be the ‘best four years of your life’ and that’s just so much pressure. When I first moved in, I expected instant friends, parties and an easy transition but I was so wrong. The homesickness was real and it felt like I was the only one dealing with it. It wasn’t until the end of the first semester that I realized depression and anxiety in freshmen is unbelievably common and almost expected. It’s something no one tells you about or talks about. I had experienced some mild levels of depression and anxiety before college so I was probably predisposed to it. In order to cope with it, I just really tried harder to get out of my dorm and develop a steady routine. Something as simple as going to the Student Center for a half hour was helpful. I also started utilizing the on-campus counselors. They are there for a reason, right? It was helpful to talk to someone who reassured me that I was not alone and everything I was feeling was normal. I was diagnosed with tendencies of anxiety and depression, but not formally diagnosed. These feelings were triggered by homesickness and stress. My immediate coping reaction is to throw myself into academic work and extracurriculars, so I was never taking time for myself. I think going back to campus for the spring semester will be much easier now that I’m established, but it’s definitely a learning process.”

-Caroline, St. Michael’s College Class of 2019

“I’ve had clinical depression since childhood, and I definitely have had episodes at college. Coping with depression has become fairly normal for me, and I actually tend to recover easier at school than at home. I tend to curl up with my roommate, as she is understanding and supportive, but sometimes, I just have to turn on all the lights and play some music. It took me a while to understand that it’s okay for me to be a little less productive when I’m feeling down. The changing of seasons is a big trigger for me, especially the transition from fall to winter; it is particularly hard to deal with early sunsets and long nights.”

-Annika, Gettysburg College Class of 2018

RELATED: Are Social Media Making You Depressed?

“The first time I’ve ever experienced anything akin to depression was in college. My sophomore year has been full of ‘trials and tribulations’, from a demanding course load to the various clubs I’m involved with. I started feeling worn out, fatigued, lost my appetite, didn’t get much sleep, and was suddenly less enthusiastic about everything: my hobbies, spending time with friends, even my future. Stress was definitely the trigger. Overall, even today, I am still managing these feelings and have found that the best way to combat them is to take a break; just stop everything you’re doing that’s causing so much stress, and talk to a neighbor, read a book, call up your mom. Being around people and reengaging with friends and family has helped me so much. And as usual, laughter is always the best medicine!”

-Laura, University of Connecticut Class of 2018

“I’ve suspected I was depressed since high school. I’ve always had self-esteem and anxiety issues, and even frequent thoughts of suicide. I finally made the decision to see a college counselor after my first term, which was really rough for me. To this day, I don’t know if I was actually clinically depressed, but I do know that getting counseling was the best decision I ever made. I’m so much happier and more optimistic now. I would definitely advise anyone to take advantage of the mental health resources their college has to offer and to not feel ashamed of having to ask for help.”

-Emilie, UC Davis Class of 2017

“I have been battling depression since my junior year of high school. The main cause was an abusive high school relationship that left me emotionally and mentally scarred. It took friends, therapy, and a small amount of medication, but it has gotten much better in the past two years. Coming to college and forming a strong, close group of friends has benefited me immensely. Some of them don’t even know how much I appreciate having them, but nonetheless, they play a strong role in my recovery.”

-Amanda, West Virginia Wesleyan College Class of 2019

“I have experienced a pretty serious increase in my anxiety since starting college, and the occasional flare-up of depression comes with that. I cope with it all by practicing excellent self-care: a healthy diet supplemented with the occasional bite (or seven) of cookie dough, lots of hot baths, and a bedtime yoga practice that makes me look forward to making it through another day.”

-Olivia, University of North Carolina Wilmington Class of 2018

“I have suffered with depression since before coming to college (I was diagnosed at 14) but financial stress of paying for school and the cost of living have increased these feelings and triggered anxiety attacks rather frequently. I have since started seeing both a therapist and a nurse practitioner in order to use both counseling and medication as treatments to cope with it.”

-Cieara, Boise State University Class of 2018

RELATED: How to Deal with Stress & Anxiety in Your 20s

“Going off to college was the first time I experienced depression and I self-diagnosed myself because of my mood and how I was feeling. I think being in a new environment triggered my depression. Growing up in a small town, you pretty much know everyone and at USFSP I didn’t know anyone. It was the first time I had to make new friends and it was hard. It was like I forgot how to socialize and make friends. I eventually coped with my depression by getting active on campus, joining different club and organizations helped me to become confident again and make new friends.”

-Tamiracle, USF St. Petersburg Class of 2017

“I self-diagnosed myself as depressed during my first year of college. It was not an emotion I had experienced before, so at first I felt very helpless. Being alone was a trigger for my feelings, so the top thing that helped me cope with the feelings of emptiness was joining organizations and interacting with new people. I think it’s normal for freshman to feel a little depressed and jilted from time-to-time; entering college is a huge step, and you’re leaving behind a huge chapter in your life. However, if you branch out and join different groups, you will soon be surrounded by a plethora of people that can help you out and add a little more brightness to your day!”

-Orooj, University of North Texas Class of 2018

“I’ve had depression for most of my life but I was only diagnosed in college by a therapist on campus. Ever since I was put on Prozac and started seeing a therapist regularly I’ve found my depression and anxiety to be easier to deal with. It’s still difficult and the depression gets to me sometimes. Usually I just have to power through it but when it’s really bad I’ll skip class or avoid my friends. Then I feel worse about myself because I feel like I should be able to just get over and live normally. I know that depression is fairly common but that doesn’t make me feel any better about it.”

-Hannah, Framingham State University Class of 2017

“Everyone feels sad sometimes. That’s part of life. It’s not healthy to keep those feelings bottled inside all the time. I’ve felt depression before college as well as during and I self diagnosed my feelings. I no longer feel depression often and it took me a long time to get where I am today. I’ve experienced things in my 19 years of life that some people may never experience, like loss of many loved ones, serious surgery and health problems, moving from place to place, etc. What keeps me positive and motivated is the fact that people with the ugliest pasts tend to create the most beautiful futures. And that’s exactly what college is for, preparation for a bright future.”

-Kathryn, SUNY Oneonta Class of 2018

Cara Sprunk has been the Managing Editor of Her Campus since fall 2009. She is a 2010 graduate of Cornell University where she majored in American Studies with a concentration in cultural studies. At Cornell Cara served as the Assistant Editor of Red Letter Daze, the weekend supplement to the Cornell Daily Sun where she also wrote for the news and arts section and blogged about pop culture. In her free time Cara enjoys reading, shopping, going to the movies, exploring and writing.