Psychology professor Dr. Lauren B. Alloy is the principal investigator at Temple’s Mood and Cognition Lab, where she and her colleagues completed a 14-year study concerning instances of clinical depression in college freshmen.
Alloy and her team found that freshmen who came in with very negative cognition styles were more likely than upperclassmen to develop major depressive disorder, something I myself experienced three years ago.
Clinical depression is a mood disorder that’s characterized by depressed mood, lack of interest in activities normally enjoyed, changes in one’s weight or sleep, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness and guilt, difficulty concentrating and thoughts of death or suicide, all of which lasting for longer than two weeks.
Depression is a serious and daunting disease that can affect anyone, at any time, for any reason. It affects approximately 9.9 million American adults, about 5 percent of the United States population aged 18 and older in a given year, according to the Mental Illness Research Association.
“The rates of depression in college students are actually pretty high and are especially high freshman year,” Alloy said. “[Those] who have very negative thinking patterns…are much more vulnerable to depression.”
I was two weeks into my freshman year when depression struck. I had just received a C on my first test in basic math, after already failing to complete a homework assignment. And I had another test looming. I felt as though my life, and the world, were crashing.
Those who treat every bad day, embarrassing moment, or failed test like the end of the world are more susceptible to depression, Alloy said. Each negative event that occurs makes the affected person feel “deficient or flawed in some way,” she added.
No one can live a life without negative experiences. But for freshmen who aren’t always prepared to cope with the difficult ups and downs of adjusting to college life, seemingly minor problems can turn into endless feelings of horrible despair, which can amount to one very heavy burden.
“[Some] interpret those negative events in the worst possible way, leading them to become hopeless about the future and leading to depression,” Alloy said.
It took time and professional counseling for me to learn to accept life’s misfortunes. Three years later, I’ve learned it’s the way one reacts to failure that shapes him – both personally and professionally – not the failure itself.
So freshmen, expect your experiences, along with your emotions, to run the gamut this coming year. Feelings of inadequacy may cross your mind as you are presented with setbacks and on occasion, failures. But try to keep your cool, and remember: you’re not alone.
Tom Rowan Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.