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Depression is a medical condition that can affect a person’s ability to work, study, interact with people or take care of themselves. Many of us have felt sad or alone at some point. When sadness becomes too much to handle, or lingers for a long time, it may be a sign of depression. Depression is a medical condition that can affect people’s ability to work, study, interact with people or take care of themselves. It can be caused by imbalances in brain chemistry. But it can also be triggered by stress, poor nutrition, physical illness, personal loss, and school or relationship difficulties.

Not everyone experiences depression in the same way. Depressed people may appear withdrawn and despondent, or they may be aggressive and self-destructive. Some people may be depressed about a specific problem, while others feel deeply unhappy without knowing why. Sometimes, a depressed person may even appear “fine” to their friends and family. The common thread, however, is an overwhelming, persistent feeling of despair.

Depression affects about 19 million people in the United States every year. Depression can occur as a one-time incident during a time of distress, or it can recur throughout a person’s life. The first episode of depression often appears during the young adult years.

Signs and Symptoms

Depression isn’t always easy to spot. Some people primarily experience behavioral changes, some experience mostly emotional changes, and others mainly physical changes. Here are some warning signs that a person may be depressed:

  • Persistently sad, anxious, irritable or empty mood
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Significant change in appetite and/or weight
  • Overreaction to criticisms
  • Feeling unable to meet expectations
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness or guilt
  • Persistent physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive problems or chronic pain that do not respond to routine treatment
  • Substance abuse problems
  • Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts

Getting Help

The good news is that depression is highly treatable. There are many available methods to treat depression, including medication and/or counseling. Between 80 and 90% of people who are treated for depression experience significant improvement, and almost all individuals gain some relief from their symptoms. It’s important to realize that depression can last months, or even years, if left untreated. If you or someone you know may be depressed, contact your school’s health center. The health center can connect you with a therapist or group counseling.

People who are depressed sometimes think about suicide. It’s important to seek help immediately if you or someone you know is having these thoughts.

Please be sure to select your school above so we can provide you with information about resources and help on or near your campus.