The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Hilltop offers students depression counseling

College lifestyle can increase symptoms, says health center

Imagine waking up every morning for weeks on end and feeling as miserable as you ever have, knowing it won’t get much better over the course of the day.

Imagine losing interest in the things that used to bring you joy, and imagine feeling inexplicably sad or angry with those around you for no good reason.

Imagine feeling you and the world would be better of if you were dead.

This is what life is like for people suffering from clinical depression. Everyone at some time, for some reason, has “the blues,” or just a general disquiet, perhaps due to some tragic change in his or her life, such as the death of a loved one or the end of a long romantic relationship. Clinical depression is different.

“Depression is an illness, a chemical change in your body,” Dr. Juli Hobdy said, “it affects you on three levels: emotionally, cognitively, and physically.”

Hobdy works at the Memorial Health Center and sees many students suffering from depression. While it can often be difficult to see in oneself, there are symptoms one can spot in a loved one that may be suffering from depression.

“You can see a change in them,” Hobdy said, “they just lose interest in things, and they often withdraw from social interaction.”

Typically, those suffering from depression experience drastic changes in eating and sleeping habits, changes in mood, strong feelings of guilt or inadequacy, hopelessness, and even a lack in sexual desire.

The college life often increases the effects of these symptoms. A college student is away from home for perhaps the first time and dealing with a lot of new pressures, academically and socially.

“It is a difficult time,” Hobdy said. “College students are dealing with so much out of the family context.”

Hobdy also cautions that many of the lures of the typical college life can increase depression symptoms.

Alcohol, drugs and late nights may seem like an escape for anyone suffering from depression, but Hobdy said that, in the long term, these things play into the depression and usually make it worse.

Trying to help a friend or loved one to deal with depression can be a very delicate matter. A normal impulse might be to try and cheer up a depressed person or convince him that things aren’t as bad as they might seem. Hobdy cautions that this strategy might lead the depressed person to feel ashamed of his feelings and to isolate himself even further.

“Listen, but don’t judge,” Hobdy said. “Remind the person that depression is treatable, and, if need be, walk them over [to the Health Center].”

Therapy can be a very effective weapon against depression, according Hobdy said.

“It gives the person a safe place and someone to talk to so they’re not dealing with their perceived problems alone.”

Likewise, the support of friends and family can be very helpful in giving hope to a depressed person.

The result, however, relies largely on the efforts of the depressed person to get better. Hobdy suggests reducing alcohol intake, maintaining a proper diet and sleep regimen and physical activity. Ironically, the symptoms of depression make these changes harder to put in place.

“Fake it ’til you make it,” Hobdy said. “Your body reacts more strongly to chemical changes if you’re not keeping up a healthy lifestyle.”

Similarly, your body reacts positively if helpful changes are made to your lifestyle.

Those afflicted with depression can also draw on past experiences to try and battle the hopelessness that may overwhelm them.

“When you’re depressed, it’s easy to forget that you’ve been in a difficult situation before,” Hobdy said, “you can do what you did then to deal with the difficult situation facing you now.”

Among college students specifically, there might be the feeling that contacting one’s parents might be a sign of weakness or immaturity. Hobdy reminds her patients that their parents know them best and are usually best suited to help.

Hobdy said that it’s important to remember that clinical depression is a disease and, as such, it’s treatable. Before it can be treated however, the sufferer must recognize that he has the disease, and that he can’t deal with it without the help of professionals and, more importantly, the help of those who love him.

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