Signs of Depression Among College Students: An Insight

Page content

Initial Signs

Diana Hill, a doctoral intern at the US Davis Center for Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) suggests that a common factor among most college students afflicted by depression is multitasking. Right after high school, they have to meet many new challenges and embrace a new lifestyle; one with multiple demands that have to be met simultaneously, and some students fail to do so.

Some struggle to handle school, relationships, work, friends, extracurricular activities and family, all at the same time (Steiner, 2008). For starters, the stress of leaving a supporting home of parents to live an independent life away from family is a nerve-racking experience. This combined with a new competitive atmosphere at school, the stress of finding part time employment for pocket money or financing tuition fees (in some cases), work load and relationship difficulties can all trigger depression.

According to Hill, students at this stage, have not yet “fully” developed the coping skills that are required for dealing with a lifestyle that stressful. For this reason, if a student is often found irritable or generally unable to carry out their day-to-day activities because of overburden, consider these signs that may lead toward depression.

This theory can be supported in part by evidence in a report by the National Institute of Mental Health (2003); according to one student in the sophomore year at the University of Berkley, “When I took a part-time job and started living off-campus, my course work fell apart. I couldn’t concentrate or sleep, and I was always IRRITABLE and angry.” Another student gave a similar statement; one that highlights other signs of depression, “After two years of straight A’s, I couldn’t finish assignments anymore. I felt exhausted but couldn’t sleep, and drank A LOT. I couldn’t enjoy life like my friends did anymore."

Definite Symptoms

Typical signs of depression among college students include:

- A general feeling of hopelessness and sadness; with or without a particular reason

- Loss of interest in activities the student was once really “into”

- Weight fluctuation and unstable appetite

- Fatigue and disrupted sleep (either excessive sleep or insomnia)

- Not being able to concentrate, particularly on studies

- Feelings of low self-esteem and worthlessness

- Body pains without an apparent cause, such as back pain and headaches (Concordia University St. Paul Shield, 2011)

Don’t Ignore Other Signs

Recognizing even minor signs of depression among college students is important since they are often ruled out as usual stressors:

- Uncertainty about finances; particularly if parents aren’t supporting enough

- Poor sleeping habits aggravated by tough classes and work schedule

- Poor diet and lack of physical activities

- Drug abuse or binge drinking

- Not being able to fit in, lack of friends, and not being able to settle in with roommates


Alissa Steiner. (2008). UC Davis University of California. Depression in College Students. Retrieved from:

Concordia University St. Paul Shield. 2011. Counseling Documents. Depression and the College Student. Retrieved from:

National Institute of Mental Health. 2003. Depression and College Students: What do these students have in common? Retrieved from:

UCLA Today. 2011. _Campus Casts Wider Safety Net for Depressed Students._Retrieved from: