She didn’t want to get out of bed anymore. She stopped showing up for things. She lost her appetite. She had a hard time sleeping.
“I felt bad because I didn’t understand why I was doing those things,” said Liz, a junior who asked that her last name not be used for confidentiality reasons. “Once it starts it snowballs and gets out of control,” she said.
Liz didn’t know it, but she was suffering from depression.
“I was at the point for a while that I thought nothing was wrong with me,” she said.
It wasn’t until her friends confronted her that she did something about her problem. She went to see a counselor.
“He opened my eyes to the physical symptoms I was experiencing,” said Liz. “It was proof that I had a problem and I had to fix it . he helped me realize I basically shut myself off to all emotion. I was really numb to everything.”
Her counselor diagnosed her with depression. Liz began taking antidepressants and seeing the counselor on a weekly basis.
“Slowly I got back on my feet,” she said.
The Women’s Resource Center recently hosted a meeting on women and depression as part of their “Taboo Topics” discussion series.
“I support the idea because there’s a lot of information that says that more women than men are depressed,” said Beth Martin, coordinator of the Women’s Resource Center. “I wanted to explore the issue from a socio-cultural perspective.”
Some form of depression affects over 19 million Americans each year, according to a nonprofit health Internet database called Colorado Health Site. One in three women and one in 10 men will experience depression in their lifetime, according to Janis Mallon, senior clinical psychologist for University Counseling Services.
“It’s very rare that anyone will be unaffected,” said Mallon.
She said there are a variety of factors that contribute to depression, but college students are particularly at risk. Mallon estimates that 25 percent of the students who use University Counseling Services have some degree of depression and two-thirds of them are women. She attributes the high number of college students who experience depression to many of the stresses involved in being a student.
“Being in a new environment can be an upsetting experience,” said Mallon. “Many students are away from their homes and familiar supports for the first time.” These are all factors that can lead to clinical depression, according to Mallon.
There are a variety of symptoms that depressed people experience.
“In general, people have lost the sense of being able to go through life and get any satisfaction,” said Mallon. She said that a loss of appetite, sleep problems, and loss of energy are common symptoms.
Suicidal thoughts are also common. In the 12 years that she has worked as a counselor for the University, Mallon has never heard of a student committing suicide, though there have been some attempts.
“Suicide is the biggest risk,” she said. “It’s common for someone who is depressed to think life isn’t worth living.”
Six to eight students attended last Wednesday’s meeting to discuss their personal experience with depression or family or friends who may be affected.
“We talked about how women are brought up to be caretakers,” said Martin. “For some women, they put themselves last and can neglect their own needs.” The group also discussed the role of anger in depression.
“I had heard depression described as anger turned inward and it made a lot of sense to me,” said Martin, who is also diagnosed with clinical depression. “Women are socialized to express anger inwardly as opposed to men.”
Martin believes that social factors such as this play a large role in the higher incidence of depression among women.
Mallon said that such environmental factors likely play a role in depression. She said there’s also some evidence that there are biological causes as well.
“It’s important for people to know depression isn’t something that’s your fault, or that you’re weak if you have it,” said Mallon.
Treatments are different for everyone depending on the level of depression, according to Mallon. Some people need medication, while others tend to use counseling. Many use a combination of the two.
“There’s a very good success rate in treatment,” said Mallon.
University Counseling Services generally offers up to 12 counseling sessions to students at no cost. In some cases it also makes referrals to outside counseling services.
Mallon said all counseling sessions with University Counseling Services are confidential.
News Editor Steve Peoples can be contacted at [email protected]
MINOR DEPRESSION SYMPTOMS
Overeating, or poor appetite
Difficulty sleeping, or wanting to sleep all the time
Feeling one never has enough energy
Chronic low self-esteem, pessimism or sadness
MAJOR DEPRESSION SYMPTOMS
Loss of pleasure in activities one used to enjoy
Significant weight loss or gain
Feeling worthless or guilty
Hopelessness, thinking things will never get better
A sense of being overwhelmed by sadness or of “going crazy”
Hard to explain, sometimes frightening, physical symptoms
Thoughts of death or suicide