Sam Askew, Campus Carrier managing editor
It is midterm season, and that means headaches, anxiety and a whole lot of work. Many college students find themselves in a position in which they are suffering from mental health problems, yet they may not know about all the resources that are in place to help them. Berry College offers plenty of resources for mental health, but how do you know when you need to utilize them? While only a doctor can truly diagnose you, you can be on the lookout for symptoms and warning signs that may signal you need to schedule an appointment or take some other action.
Anxiety is a daily part of life. Many people are anxious about many different things. Stressful life events and health concerns or just a few of the events that can trigger anxiety. It is important, however, to distinguish between anxious behavior and an anxiety disorder. An anxiety disorder is characterized by persistent anxious behavior, even when there is nothing to be triggering it. A couple of the symptoms of a generalized anxiety disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), include feeling restless and being irritable.
While these are symptoms that people may experience everyday or know someone who experiences these every day, it is crucial to understand that it may not be an anxiety disorder. When you feel these types of symptoms, slow down and think about what is going on that may be triggering it. If you cannot identify a trigger, then it may be time to consult a licensed therapist or doctor. Berry College’s Counseling Center can help with anxiety symptoms or finding you someone to give you a proper confirmation or diagnosis. Just because you feel restless or sleepless one day, however, does not mean you have generalized anxiety disorder.
Depression is a beast that can affect every way you see and perceive the world around you. It is a very serious mood disorder and should be treated with great care. According to NIMH, in order to be classified as having depression, symptoms must be persistent for two weeks or more. This means you feeling sad one day about a failed relationship or bad grade does not mean you have depression. It means you are upset about a life event.
Depression comes in a few different forms with different symptoms to be on the look out for. Major depression includes symptoms, like mentioned earlier, for at least two weeks on a persistent basis that affect everyday life activities like eating, sleeping or interacting. Persistent depressive disorder includes symptoms that, while being less severe, last for at least two years. Perinatal depression revolves around having symptoms while being or immediately following pregnancy and birth. Seasonal affective disorder comes with the changes in seasons and can last as long as a season. Bipolar disorder is a form of depression that comes with swings in which one may have a depressive episode followed by a manic episode, which is categorized by elevated moods in which you may feel irritable or happy with an increased activity level.
Common symptoms of depression, coming from NIMH, include feeling sad, anxious or empty; feeling hopelessness; feeling irritable or restless; feeling guilty or worthless; loss of interest in hobbies; decreased energy; difficulty sleeping or waking up; suicidal thoughts. It is important to note that not everyone who has depression experiences each of these symptoms. Persistent symptoms combined with low mood are required for a diagnosis, but people who are only experiencing a few symptoms may also derive benefit from treatment. Again, the Counseling Center is the place to go if you are experiencing any symptoms of depression. If it is serious enough, consider contacting a licensed psychiatrist.
What can cause anxiety and depression? It is not an easily answered question. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), exact causes are not known. It is perhaps caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors. Among genetic causes, there are a few factors that may increase a person’s chances of having depression: experiencing a traumatic event such as abuse, loss of a loved one or financial problems; going through a major life change; having medical problems; taking certain medications that have depressed mood listed as a side effect (for medication questions, always consult your doctor); and using alcohol or drugs. According to the CDC, one in six adults will be diagnosed with depression at some point in their life. Also, over 15% of adults in the United States experienced symptoms of anxiety.
How do I cope with symptoms of anxiety and depression? There are a few ways to do this. According to Healthline, the first thing you should do is allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling. Do not beat yourself up for feeling a certain way. Anxiety and depression are medical conditions, they are not your fault. Secondly, you can do something you have control over. Anxiety and depression can produce a feeling of loss of control, so doing something that you know you can control will help regain that stability. Making your bed, taking a shower, or doing laundry are short tasks that may help to ground you.
Maintaining a routine will also go a long way to help prevent mental health issues. Keeping a solid sleep schedule will also be extremely beneficial. Sleep has a major part to play in the state of your mind, so prioritizing sleep can be very helpful. Eating right and having an exercise routine play a role in preventing mental health emergencies and symptoms. Take time to yourself. Do not spend all your time studying or wearing yourself down. Relax every now and again. Socialize, too. Spending time with good people raises our moods, so it can be good to call and chat with a friend or family member.
What do I do if I think I have depression or anxiety? Call the Berry College Counseling Center (706.236.2259) and set up an appointment with one of licensed counsellors. If they think that you show persistent symptoms, they may set you up with an appointment with a psychiatrist who can give you a diagnosis or medication. It is also important to understand that if you, or a loved one, is experiencing suicidal thoughts, contact 988, the Suicide Prevention Hotline. In the case of an emergency or a suicide attempt on campus, contact the Berry College Police (706.236.2262). If you are off-campus and a mental health emergency arises, contact 911.
While depression and anxiety show themselves in plenty of different ways, they do not have to be the center of your world. People overcome these things in a variety of different ways. The best thing you can do for yourself in regards to mental health is to know what resources you have at your disposal should a need arise. If you have mental health questions, do not wait to reach out. Call the Counseling Center and ask to speak with a counselor. They will get you an appointment set up and you can be on your way to making significant improvements to your overall health and safety as a college student.