While "college depression" is not an official diagnosis, developing depression is not uncommon among college students. When your student is home for the holidays, they may be exhibiting signs of depression, including excessive sleeping, changes in appetite, low mood, and a loss of interest in activities once previously enjoyed. Your student's grade report may come as a surprise, especially if the grades are significantly lower than what you are used to seeing.
When it comes time to return to school, your student may tell you they would rather stay home - school is not what they thought it would be, they have no friends, they don't know what to do with their life. How do you know whether this is just "homesickness" or something else?
College students face many life stressors: adjusting to living away from home, academic demands, living with roommates, building new friendships, managing time and money, and more. How the student reacts to such changes can give you clues on what might be going on.
Students who are "homesick" may miss their family and friends, but will rebound quickly after checking in with those they miss or after a brief visit home. Talking with family and friends usually leads to appropriate problem-solving and the student feeling better about their situation.
Students with depression have symptoms that persist and interfere with normal activities, such as:
These symptoms result in students who are more likely to have impaired academic performance, smoke, and engage in risky behaviors such as drinking excessively, using substances, and having unprotected sex.
If you suspect your college student is depressed, here are some tips to address it:
Left untreated, depression can get worse and lead to substance abuse, risky behaviors, and even suicide. If treated appropriately, depression can be overcome, and your student can have a successful college experience.