Study Shows Depression Common Among College Students
Students are feeling more overwhelmed than 15 years ago
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"You want to know how I feel, sometimes?" Robert Zambrosa asked as he reached into his backpack to retrieve a notebook and a pen. He slid the paper over and said, "Here it is in a nutshell."

It read: "Little angel go away, the devil has my ear today, I'll never hear a word you say. He promised I would find a little solace and some piece of mind, whatever just as long as I don't feel so desperate and ravenous. Weak and powerless."

"They are lyrics from a song by A Perfect Circle," ¯ he related. "It's a little melodramatic, I know, but I guess that could be expected of me."

Zambrosa, 22, is an English major at a Bay Area college. It was his wish not to disclose the school he attends. Ever since high school, his friends told him that he had a bit of a pessimistic disposition.

"They teased me for it and got upset with me sometimes," explained Zambrosa, "But I would end up coming around and that would be the end of it."

For the last three years, Zambrosa has had a hard time “coming around.” His family and friends noticed this and he reluctantly went to see a counselor at a local health clinic. He was diagnosed with having general anxiety disorder (GAD) with lapses of depression.

Zambrosa is one of 19 million American adults and college students that are affected with anxiety, depression or a combination of both. According to the National Mental Health Association (NMHA), 10 percent of college students have been diagnosed with depression and 7 percent reported experiencing some kind of anxiety disorder. A recent UCLA survey showed that college students are feeling more overwhelmed than 15 years ago.

More than 30 percent of college freshman and 38 percent of college women reported feeling overwhelmed most of the time. The NHMA Web site states that both anxiety and depression are more likely to affect women.

Samantha Black is one of those women affected. Two years ago, Black, a 24-year-old Kinesiology major at a local state university (she too did not want to disclose the name of her school) was assaulted in a mall parking lot. She went to counseling for months in an effort to put the experience behind her. Four months of sleepless nights and time off of school resulted in Black being able to go to the mall again, but a problem still lingered within in her.

I went back to school because I wanted to get on track with my studies but also because I thought it would keep me busy," said Black.

It turned out that school kept her too busy. She found the workload more overwhelming than ever and stress mounted to the point where she would cry while she was doing homework and more than once she rushed out of class in the middle of a lecture. She also started to experience sudden panic attacks.

"I had never felt so stressed before," Black said. "All I wanted to do was sleep and try to forget about the work I had to do. I became unmotivated and lethargic. I was also turning into a huge cry baby."

Black, like Zambrosa, was encouraged by her family to go and see a counselor. After some months she was diagnosed with GAD.

“An experienced mental health professional generally makes a diagnosis by talking with you,” said Ruth Montag, the director of the NHMA resource center. “Through various conversations they look for key signals that help them determine if the client is affected by GAD or depression.”

Some of those key signals are an exaggerated state of worry and/or a state of fear that an individual is constantly under. Mental health professionals often find that the worry or fear cannot be pinpointed or it’s unfounded, said Montag. Often for a person affected with GAD, even the thought of getting through the day provokes anxiety.

Indicators for depression are an irritable mood for most of the day and nearly every day, a loss of interest or pleasure in activities, a sudden change in weight and an inability to sleep or sleeping too much.

Many of the above symptoms were evident in both Zambrosa and Black. After being diagnosed, they were scheduled for more counseling sessions in their respective clinics and were advised to exercise, keep away from alcohol, to practice relaxation techniques and were prescribed antidepressants.

Since both GAD and depression are thought to derive from traumatic experiences or chemical imbalances, forms of antidepressants are targeted to balance out a person’s levels of serotonin and other mood-altering chemicals in the human body.

“There are supposed to be tons of side effects including sexual impotence,” said Zambrosa, raising his eyebrows. “I got to take them though.”

SF State offers counseling and psychological services in room 208 of the Student Services building. Counselors declined to comment about the work they have been doing but the receptionist did say that they have lots of students going into the office.

Both Zambrosa and Black stressed the point that being affected by GAD and depression doesn’t make up who they are. Sure they have their times when “they freak themselves and other people out,” but they don’t want to let those episodes define them.

“I do my best to handle it,” said Black. “Most of the time I’m fine and you couldn’t tell that I suffer from anxiety. Plus, we’re all a little depressed sometimes, I think. I better stop talking about it though before I stress myself out too much,” she said laughing.

For more information on depression and anxiety visit the National Mental Health Association’s Web site at nmha.org or visit the Counseling and Psychological Services office in room 208 of the Student Services building.

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