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Did You Know?

Depression is more than feeling sad. It is normal to feel sadness or grief when a loved one dies, if you lose your job, you fail an exam, or a relationship ends. But sadness and depression are not the same. While feelings of sadness will decrease in time, depression can last for months or years without treatment. Depression is a long-lasting, often recurring illness that can have disabling effects on your mood, behavior, thinking, and health. It is not a “bad day” or a weakness in character.

Nearly 1 in 10 Americans each year experience depression. It affects men and women, young and old, and people of all races, cultures, and incomes, and each person differently. While depression can be serious, it is a highly treatable medical condition; 80–90% of those with depression can be successfully treated. However, depression often goes unrecognized by those who have it, by their families and friends, and even by their physicians.

How Do You Know if a Person Has Depression?

There are two main symptoms of depression:

  • Feelings of sadness, irritability or anxiety that won't go away.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities and hobbies once enjoyed, which lasts for more than two weeks.

Other signs and symptoms include:

  • Sleeping too much, or not being able to sleep.
  • Trouble falling asleep, waking up too early in the morning, bad dreams, or oversleeping.
  • Eating too much or too little; weight changes.
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism.
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness.
  • Excessive crying or excessive feelings of wanting to cry.
  • Loss of sex drive.
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, or feeling “slowed down”.
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions; slowed thinking.
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts.
  • Restlessness, irritability, or angry outbursts.
  • Increased drinking, cigarette smoking, or using prescription or other drugs.
  • Persistent physical symptoms, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain, which do not respond to routine treatment.

It Takes Courage to Ask for Help

Depression is painful for the depressed individual and can disrupt the life of others who care or are involved. Admitting depression can be embarrassing or seen as personal weakness. Support from family and friends plays an important role in successful treatment. Often times, the feelings and behaviors that are part of depression make it especially difficult to admit depressive symptoms or ask for help. It is important to remember that depression is a real, treatable illness and is nothing to be ashamed about.

If you are feeling depressed, tell someone about your symptoms. Speak with a friend, a family member, a doctor, nurse, psychologist, social worker, or employee assistance professional. The University of Michigan Counseling Centers can put you in touch with a mental health professional. Asking for help takes courage, but it can make all the difference.

* NOTE: Links on this web site to external web sites are for informational purposes only, and do not constitute an endorsement by MiTalk, Counseling and Psychological Services or the University of Michigan.

*The American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA), 2009

How to help yourself

Depressive disorders can be exhausting, making one feel worthless, helpless, and hopeless. It is important to realize that intense negative feelings are part of and often magnified by depression and do not accurately reflect actual circumstances. Making the decision to seek treatment is half the battle. Rest assured that negative thinking fades as treatment begins to take effect.

In the meantime:

  • Engage in mild exercise. Go to a movie or a ballgame. Participate in religious, social, or other activities.
  • Set realistic goals and assume a reasonable amount of responsibility.
  • Break large tasks into small ones, set some priorities, and do what you can as you can.
  • Try to be with other people and to confide in someone; it is usually better than being alone and secretive.
  • Participate in activities that may make you feel better, things that you used to do for fun, even if it doesn’t seem like fun now..
  • Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately. Feeling better takes time. Often during treatment of depression, sleep and appetite will begin to improve before depressed mood lifts.
  • Postpone important decisions. Before deciding to make a significant transition — change jobs, get married or divorced — discuss it with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
  • Do not expect to “snap out of” a depression. But do expect to feel a little better day by day.
  • Remember, more realistic thinking will replace the negative thinking as your depression responds to treatment.
  • Let your family and friends help you.

How to help a friend

While college can be stressful and everyone will at some moment feel “down and discouraged,” when a friend or family member's activity and outlook on life stays “down” for weeks and begins to affect your relationship, they might be suffering from depression. Know that you can help.


What is helpful...

  • Being sensitive — noticing what effect your words and actions have on the person.
  • Be natural, be yourself.
  • Looking after your own needs.
  • Most importantly, educate yourself!

What is not helpful...

  • Telling or forcing someone to “Snap out of it!”.
  • Trying to draw someone out of depression by persuasion, contrived cheerfulness or funny jokes.
  • Correcting destructive, illogical, pessimistic viewpoints.