Dealing with Depression

Depression is different from normal sadness in that it interferes with your day to day life – your ability to work, study, eat, sleep, or have fun. Some depressed people don’t feel sad but may feel empty, angry, aggressive, restless or apathetic.

Depression comes in many forms:

  • Major depression: characterized by the inability to enjoy life and experience pleasure. Left untreated, it typically lasts 6 months. It is common for major depression to be a recurring disorder.
  • Dysthymia: a type of chronic “low-grade” depression. More days than not, you feel mildly depressed, although you may have brief periods of a normal mood. These symptoms last for around two years.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): characterized by feelings of depression that are more prominent during the fall or winter when overcast days are frequent and sunlight is limited.
  • Bipolar Disorder: Though there are two different kinds of Bipolar disorder (I and II), both are generally characterized by cycling mood changes. Episodes of depression alternate with manic episodes, which can include impulsive behavior, hyperactivity, rapid speech, and little to no sleep. Typically, the switch from one mood extreme to the other is gradual.

  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Sleep changes
  • Anger or irritability
  • Loss of energy
  • Self-loathing
  • Reckless behavior
  • Concentration problems
  • Unexplained aches and pains

Common causes and risk factors for depression include:

  • Loneliness
  • Lack of social support
  • Recent stressful life experiences
  • Family history of depression
  • Marital or relationship problems
  • Financial strain
  • Early childhood trauma or abuse
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Unemployment or underemployment
  • Health problems or chronic pain

Warning signs of suicide with depression:

  • A sudden switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy
  • Talking or thinking about death
  • Making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless
  • Saying things like “It would be better if I wasn’t here” or “I want out”
  • Clinical depression (deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating) that gets worse
  • Having a “death wish” or tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving through red lights
  • Losing interest in things one used to care about
  • Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, or changing a will
  • Talking about suicide

It is important to seek help through a friend or a counselor if you feel depressed. A counselor can offer you ways to cope as well as prescribe any treatments that he or she sees fit.

Depression carries a high risk of suicide. Anyone who expresses suicidal thoughts or intentions should be taken very, very seriously. Do not hesitate to contact safety net resources on campus or call a suicide hotline (see below).

People who suffer from depression cannot just “pull themselves together” and get better — they need treatment. The good news is that depression is among the most treatable of mental disorders. Treatment usually involves cognitive behavior therapy, antidepressant medication, or a combination of the two.

  • Cognitive behavior therapy: Cognitive behavior therapy can help you to identify unhealthy, negative beliefs and behaviors and replace them with healthy, positive ones.
  • Antidepressants: Antidepressants include many types of antidepressants and other mood stabilizers. They can help lift one’s mood and ease the feelings of sadness and hopelessness.

You’ll need to work with your doctor to find the depression treatment that is most effective with the fewest side effects.

The Counseling and Psychiatric Services office on-campus is a great place to get started. A counselor can help diagnose your condition and help facilitate treatment. Your primary care physician may also be helpful.

Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS)
One Darnall Hall
(202) 687-6985

Georgetown Emergency Response Medical Service (GERMS)
Village C West 206
(202) 687-4357
Emergency Medical Services:

Student Health Center
Darnall Hall Ground Floor
To make an appt: (202) 687-2200
After hours clinician on-call: (202) 444-7243

Chaplain in Residence
On-Call, 24-hour pager
(202) 668-3195

Health Education Services
1437 37th St NW, Poulton Hall Suite 101
(202) 687-8949

1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)
1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)

Resources: Depression Symptoms & Warning Signs