Defining Depression

Most likely, everyone will experience a difficult period at some point in their life. Whether it is feeling overwhelmed in school, struggling with finances, family problems or identity issues. As you deal with these changes and adjustments you may feel depressed for an obvious or no apparent reason at all. At times, these feelings of depression may become overwhelming, intense and prolonged. Daily functioning may feel heavy, often filled with negative self-talk. Depression may prevent you from going to class or spending time with friends and family. You may feel like there is no hope and have thoughts of hurting yourself. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months or longer.

As challenging as life may feel right now, you are not alone. Depression is the most treatable mental health concern.

Take a mental health screening

Defining Depression:

Depression symptoms include: 

Depression triggers include: 

  • Loss of interest or pleasure, even from activities that used to feel good
  • Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood
  • Helplessness and/or hopelessness
  • Feelings of self blame and/or guilt
  • Feeling worthless
  • Feeling physically, emotionally and mentally tired, lethargic, or exhausted
  • Easily irritated and seeing everything in a negative light
  • Changes in sleeping (sleeping longer hours, waking up frequently, unable to fall asleep)
  • Loss of or increase in appetite
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches or stomachaches
  • Academic difficulties due to inability to concentrate study or attend classes


  • Loss of a loved one
  • Leaving home and transitioning to a new environment
  • Struggles with academics or internships
  • Family conflicts
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Biological Factors (Depression is hereditary) or hormonal imbalance
  • Reactions to certain medications
  • Future concerns (“meaning of life” questions or uncertainty about future)
  • Environmental circumstances
  • Please note: These are only a few examples of why someone may become depressed.  This list is not comprehensive.

Tips for Understanding Your Depression:

  1. Walk your dogBe kind to yourself and give yourself a break from stressful situations.
  2. Exercise and spend time outdoors. Exercise suggestion: even walking is great! The times when you do not feel like exercising may be when you need it the most.
  3. Take one day at a time.
  4. Journaling or painting works for some people to help in expressing their feelings.Painting
  5. Talk and reach out to a loved one. Everyone goes through hard times during the course of their life. If you are experiencing one of those times, it is ok to ask for help. Let your friend know what you need: “I just need you to listen right now and not give advice.” Or “I just need to cry right now and for you to hug me. You don’t need to say anything.”
  6. Attempt to accomplish small goals as opposed to trying to do everything at once.
  7. Say no to requests and do not overly commit until the depression has lifted.
  8. Work to develop a balanced diet. Junk food, caffeine, alcohol, drugs and cigarettes can have a negative impact on your mood.
  9. Develop stress management and time management skills. These will be helpful in lowering your stress and keeping Talk with a friendyourself from feeling overwhelmed.
  10. Try to engage in activities that you have found pleasurable in the past even if you do not enjoy them right now.

What if trying to manage my depression on my own isn’t working?

Reach out. Ask for support and help!

Many students who are dealing with depression may find it difficult to get themselves going and find it helpful to talk with a counselor to get the support they need to move past their “stuck” point. If your depressive feelings are happening often, you feel overwhelmed or you are having thoughts of suicide please do not hesitate to ask for help.

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According to the 2016 USD Student Health Survey, 12% of USD Students (and 16.1 Million people nationwide) report depression as a factor affecting their individual academic performance, however those that sought help from the USD Counseling Center found depression more manageable. Depression can get better with help.

The Counseling Center is a confidential resource open Monday – Friday 8:30am-5pm, with extended hours until 6pm on Wednesday during fall and spring semesters. The easiest way to secure an initial consultation is by making a same- or next-day appointment via the Wellness Portal. Students can also call or come by the Counseling Center to arrange for an appointment.

Contact the USD Counseling Center

I need to talk with someone now and the Counseling Center is closed!

If you have an urgent matter or are having thoughts of suicide and the Counseling Center is closed, you can speak with a counselor after-hours by calling the Counseling Center at 619-260-4655, then press ‘1’ to be connected to the counselor on call.