Detecting depression difficult for students

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    By Allison Jones

    Everyone goes through periods of feeling sad, lonely or unhappy. Everyday events, and our reactions to them, sometimes interfere with our peace of mind.

    That’s all part of life.

    When such feelings linger for weeks or months, preventing a return to a healthy outlook on life, they could signal depression.

    Depression is a complex disorder that is not always easy to pinpoint, said Diane Spangler, associate professor of psychology and clinical psychologist.

    Research conducted by psychologists at Pfizer Inc. suggested an estimated 17.6 million people in the U.S. suffer from depression. 25 percent of all women and 12 percent of all men will experience major depression at some time in their lives.

    As college students, detecting depression is difficult since there are so many outside contributors, like school, social life and finances, said Kirk Dougher, assistant clinical professor of psychology at BYU’s Counseling and Career Center.

    Dougher said there is a difference between feeling down or sad and major depression.

    The frequency of the sad feelings and the level of intensity are indicators that there may be a problem, Dougher said.

    Feeling down is something just about everyone feels from time to time, Dougher said.

    Depression is much more intense than feeling blue, lasting a minimum of two straight weeks, Spangler said.

    “Depression often interferes with one’s ability to perform school work, socialize and sleep,” Spangler said.

    According to the Counseling and Career Center website, several theories about the causation of depression have been proposed and researched.

    Some causes may include stress, pressure to perform well, losses (death of a loved one or break-up of a relationship) and suppressed feelings of anger or guilt. Some people are genetically predisposed towards depression.

    Spangler said classic symptoms of depression may include consistently sad feelings, low motivation, difficulty concentrating, feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, social withdrawal, changes in sleep and appetite and thoughts of wanting to end or escape from one’s life.

    It is important to remember symptoms will vary from person to person and that everyone handles situations differently, Dougher said.

    Psychologists worldwide have noted several successful ways of handling and eventually overcoming depression.

    Dougher listed five things people can do to help with depression: regulate sleep, engage in pleasant activities, develop a consistent exercise regiment, serve others and talk to someone about your problems.

    Talking to someone, anyone, about your feelings and problems is very helpful because others can offer a different perspective and can offer emotional support, Dougher said.

    The Counseling and Career Center offers free personal counseling for full-time BYU students.

    Counselors can both assess and treat students who suspect they may be suffering from depression.

    Call 378-3035 or visit 1500 WSC for more information about depression or to see a counselor.

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