Stress, depression go hand-in-hand

Maintaining a high grade point average, staying involved in extra-curricular activities, working, having a social life and being away from home can become a strain.

This strain causes many students to say they are too stressed or depressed.

“I have always been in control of things, and for the first time I felt as though I were not in control,” said Carissa Hodges, 21, a sophomore FSU nutrition student from Boca Raton.

According to the National Mental Health Association, many students feel this way. Most are stressed, but very few are diagnosed with depression.

“Stress is a state of mind caused by pressure or strain, and depression is a psychological and biological problem caused by a chemical imbalance,” said Terrell Freeman, coordinator of student affairs at FAMU’s Counseling Center for Human Development.

Freeman said students become stressed because of a stressor.

He lists being given the run-around, not being sure of the best major, not knowing financial aid policies, having weak study habits and poor time management skills as being the most common stressors for students.

“These stressors can cause a decrease in self-esteem, concentration, focus, motivation and productivity,” Freeman said.

Freeman said some of these side effects could be avoided, depending on the type of stressor you have.

On the other hand, there are self-created stressors that students must hold themselves responsible for. To eliminate this type of stressor Freeman said students should be organized, disciplined, task-oriented and punctual.

“There is a stressor that can’t be avoided because it is caused by other individuals or situations beyond one’s control,” Freeman said.

“For these type of stressors, stress relaxers- such as breathing techniques, exercise, taking a warm bath and meditating – are recommended.”

Exercises and tips used to treat stress are not always useful in treating depression.

Treatment for depression includes taking medications or talking to a counselor or psychiatrist.

“It is hard for students to realize or accept their depression,” Freeman said. “Most students don’t even know because they don’t go in for evaluation and they do not know how to diagnose themselves.”

According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression is a persistent sad mood or loss of interest or pleasure in activities.

Some of the symptoms are changes in appetite or weight, changes in sleep patterns, restlessness, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, chronic aches and pains, digestive problems, and recurring thoughts of death or suicide. If five or more of these symptoms continue for two weeks or longer, the APA suggests seeking professional help.

Hodges said she had all the symptoms of depression but was never diagnosed.

“I would cry all the time,” Hodges said. “And if someone asked me what was wrong, I would always tell them I don’t know.”

Hodges said her crying continued for weeks. Sometimes she would cry all day and never get out of bed.

“When I did get up, it was to eat, shower and then get right back in bed,” said Hodges.

She recalls putting on 20 pounds and watching her grades slip.

Eventually Hodges withdrew from school and went back home for the semester.

For more information on stress or depression, contact FAMU’s Center for Human Development at 599-3145.