Depression and Anxiety
College is undeniably a difficult transition time for anyone entering college and cadets at VMI are no exception. While cadets are trained at VMI to exhibit strength and honor, they are often confused in thinking that showing signs of stress, emotional turmoil, anxiety, depression or any other mental health concern are equal to weakness. This is a false assumption.
Roommate conflicts, academic tension and stress, social insecurities and other similar concerns are normal and part of the human experience. It is important, however, to recognize the signs of significant episodes of depression or anxiety when they do occur and to know how to proceed and ask for help.
Depression About Depression
Clinical depression is categorized as a mood disorder which interferes with everyday life for weeks or longer. It affects more than 20 million people in the United States (nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/depression.html). Feelings of sadness, loss, loneliness, frustration or anger categorize this disorder. Many people experience these emotions at some point in their lives, but it is the persistence and interference that categorize clinical depression differently than simply feeling blue.
Did you know… There are three main categories of depressive disorders – Major Depression, Dysthymia, and bipolar disorder - and all of these can be concurrent with anxiety disorders.
Effects / Symptoms of Depression
Major Depression presents with a distorted self-view consistent of multiple symptoms consistent of:
- Indifference towards pleasurable activities
- Weight gain or lossSleep interruptions (either too much or too little sleep)
- Loss of energy and enthusiasm
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Thoughts of death, suicide, or harm to yourself or others
- Apathy towards academics or extracurricular activities
- Depression can present as anger and discouragement rather than sadness in some individuals.
Depression typically occurs between 15-30 years of age, the age range of the majority of VMI Cadets. It can be a result of multiple factors including genetic predisposition, environmental triggers, psychological health, and neurobiological alterations including the function of neurochemicals and hormones. While these factors are present, depression can develop in individuals without these elements.
- Depression may be present in conjunction with the following incidences:
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Certain medical conditions or medications
- Inconsistent sleep patterns
- Stressful life events
- Failing a class
- Death in the family
- Breaking up with a boyfriend/girlfriend
- Assimilation to VMI lifestyle for RATS
- Social isolation
Anxiety DisordersWhat are anxiety disorders?
Anxiety disorders are characterized by a persistent and often worsening sense of fearfulness and uncertainty. Anxiety disorders, as opposed to mild episodic anxiety, often persist at least 6 months and will likely increase in severity without proper treatment. This type of anxiety is generally co-occurring with other physical or mental illnesses, including alcohol/substance abuse.
While anxiety disorders are all clustered under an irrational fear, each type of anxiety disorder has its own unique set of symptoms. There are various types of Anxiety Disorders, such as:
- Panic Disorders
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (ODC)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Social Phobia (or social anxiety disorder)
- Specific phobias
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Effects and Symptoms of Anxiety
The overarching symptom of general anxiety disorder (GAD) is a constant, chronic, and unsubstantiated worry. Often this worry is about family, health, money, or work/school, though it does not have to be about these subjects specifically. The worry is present daily and possibly lasts all day every day. This type of anxiety is persistent enough to disrupt daily activity, academic performance, and relationships.
Physical symptoms may include:
- Muscle Tension
- Inability to fall asleep or to settle down
- Edginess or irritability
- Gastrointestinal discomfort or diarrhea
Anxiety Statistics and Trends
Anxiety disorders are highly treatable yet only a third of those affected will seek treatment. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (www.adaa.org), affecting 40 million adults in the United States ages 18 and older (18% of the U.S. population).
Mindfulness can be particularly helpful in decreasing anxiety. The practice of mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally. This site allows you to explore mindfulness practices with a guide. It can be helpful for decreasing stress, anxiety, depression, or persistent thoughts. Please explore this site and be guided through proper mindfulness techniques. Get Some Headspace