College Student Depression

College is seen as a fun and liberating period for most students, but this is not always the case. According to a recent study, 47% of college students suffer from depression or anxiety. The students find themselves in new social situations, a massive workload, and new surroundings to which they must adapt. These new challenges can often feel overwhelming, resulting in mental health issues like depression.

Depression is a medical condition that affects a person’s mood and how they function. Risk factors among college students include lifestyle changes, chronic stress, genetics, and others. Treatment involves medications or psychotherapy, or a combination of both.

What is Depression?

Depression or major depressive disorder (MDD), is a severe mood disorder characterized by feelings of sadness, irritability, hopelessness, and mood swings. The disorder is different from the typical mood disorders people experience from time to time. Depression is an ongoing issue that affects how someone feels, thinks, or acts.

Depression often persists even after changes in environment or circumstances, and the symptoms can be severe. To be diagnosed with major depressive disorder, symptoms must persist for at least two weeks and disrupt daily functioning. 

Signs of Depression in College Students

The signs and symptoms vary from mild to severe, but they last for at least two weeks. The symptoms of depression can vary from person to person. However, generally, college students struggling with depression will display common symptoms of the condition.

Common symptoms of depression include:

  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Unintentional weight loss or gain
  • Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
  • Loss of interest in things that once interested them, such as hobbies, sex or sports
  • Thoughts of suicide or death
  • Fatigue or constant low energy
  • Restlessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness or fixating on past mistakes or failures
  • Unexplained guilt can cause students to spiral
  • Unexplained pain independent of an injury

Patients must present the symptoms for two weeks or more and show decreased levels of functioning to be diagnosed with depression. For many people, depression is a chronic disorder that lasts for weeks, months, or even years.

In some students, symptoms of depression can become so hard to manage, leading to thoughts of death or suicide. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people between 15 -34. 

Risks of Depression Among College Students

The prevalence of depression is high among college students from developing and developed countries. Several factors can contribute to depression among college students. While these factors can increase the risk, there is no one cause for depression.


Students with a family history of depression are more likely to suffer from the disorder than those without. Research shows that depression increases by 2 to 3 times when a close family member has the disorder.

Having the depression gene doesn’t mean that someone will automatically have depression. However, it does mean they are more likely to have depression.

Lifestyle Changes

Studies show that regular physical activity, getting enough sleep, and eating healthy are enough to regulate depressive episodes. However, college life comprises cramming for exams, partying, late nights, and unhealthy eating habits, making it difficult to engage in a healthy lifestyle.

Isolation from Loved Ones

Students who don’t live close to their families or loved ones can have difficulty adjusting to the new environment. College students face an increased risk of loneliness as they try to find their place in a new environment. Loneliness is defined as feeling alone even when social contact is available.

Chronic Stress

Everyone experiences stress from time to time, and college students are no exception. Most of this stress comes from increased responsibilities, lack of time management, and uncertainty. Not knowing whether they will get jobs or how they will live can be too much for them.

Research shows that the impacts of stress on college students result in mental health problems, including depression. Stressful life events cause an individual’s behaviors and emotional responses, which could raise the risks of depression.

History of Trauma

College students who have experienced trauma or abuse before have a likelihood of experiencing depression in college. History of trauma coupled with changes in the environment and new social settings increase the risk of depression.

Help for College Student Depression

Lifetime mental health illness begins by age 24 in 75% of cases. Early intervention is necessary to prevent college depression. However, treating college depression is hard when the students are away or reluctant to visit the college’s health centers.

Getting help can also be challenging since only 21% of two-year colleges offer mental health services. Those who offer mental health help have limited services; however, they can offer contact information of professionals who can help them more.

Psychotherapy for Depression

Talk therapy involves discussing depression and related problems with a mental health professional. There are different types of talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioral or interpersonal therapy. Talk therapy can be conducted one-on-one or in a group setting.

After going through regular sessions, the student can:

  • Find better ways to deal with issues and challenges
  • Regain a sense of control
  • Adjust to the new changes
  • Set realistic goals for their lives
  • Learn ways to identify bad choices or unhealthy behavior and make necessary changes

Medications for Depression

Medicines that treat severe depression include antidepressant medications like SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) or SNRIs (serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors). Medication management is used on an as-needed basis and determined based on diagnosis and symptoms.  The clinical team and patient can determine whether medications will be utilized in the treatment plan. 

Get Help for Depression During College in Orange County, CA

College is a stressful and challenging environment for many young people. Students can find it hard to seek help when facing symptoms of depression. With a new environment and new changes, depression symptoms may begin to arise and affect daily functioning. 

If you or a college student you love is struggling with depression, reach out to Enhance Health Group in Orange County, CA today. Our team can answer any questions you may have and give you a better understanding of our depression treatment program.