Depression in College Students: Red Flags
Why you can trust Lightfully Behavioral Health?

Lightfully’s professional culture is designed to keep everyone connected, motivated and nutured. Why is this so important? We believe the way we treat our employees is how we show up for clients – through encouragement, honesty, and compassion.

Clinically Reviewed 
Reading Time: 4 minutes

The 2023 Healthy Minds Study reports that 41% of the college students they surveyed had a positive depression screening. Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a condition also known as depression. It’s characterized by persistent low mood and the loss of interest in routine activities. It can significantly decrease the quality of a person’s life, especially someone in college who needs to be motivated to effectively complete their often overwhelming coursework. Depression can also make it difficult to maintain a healthy social life, which is a large component of the college lifestyle.

MDD in college students can take many forms. But it is always important to address. Some college students may display more obvious symptoms; others’ symptoms may go under the radar. Here’s what you should know about the less obvious symptoms of depression that can be easily missed.

Symptoms of depression in college students

Early detection of MDD symptoms can start you on the path of intervention and effective treatment. Research has shown that people who receive the right treatment in a timely manner often experience faster relief from symptoms and overall improved well-being. However, some not-so-obvious symptoms can be missed in college students with this disorder. Here are some red flags to be aware of:

  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns — One of the first signs of depression in college students that can be easy to miss is changes in sleeping or eating. People with depression may experience a range of physical symptoms. They may have insomnia (difficulty falling asleep or staying sleeping) or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping or a desire to sleep more than usual). They might also experience changes in appetite, resulting in weight gain or loss.
  • Withdrawal from friendships or activities/hobbies — Depression is an isolating mental health condition. The symptoms can pull you away from your friends. One of the core symptoms of depression is anhedonia. This refers to a loss of interest or pleasure in activities that used to be enjoyable. Another symptom is persistent fatigue, which can make certain activities and social interactions exhausting. People with depression may also experience feelings of guilt, leading them to think of themselves as a burden.
  • Academic challenges — Depression symptoms can negatively impact an individual’s academic performance in many ways. It can impact cognitive functions and make it difficult for individuals to concentrate. A person may also struggle to retain information or complete tasks. Lack of motivation resulting from fatigue and overwhelming feelings of worthlessness or inadequacy can also contribute to a student’s inability to perform well in school.

Managing symptoms of depression in college

Have you noticed several signs of depression in yourself or someone you know at college? Consider these options for seeking help and providing support: 

  • Complete a self-assessment — You can take a free online assessment or simply take a moment to reflect on your feelings and behaviors. If you’ve been experiencing persistent sadness, changes in sleep or appetite, lack of interest in activities or feelings of hopelessness, it may be time to seek help.
  • Reach out to people you trust — Support from loved ones is crucial to any mental health journey. Try to share your feelings with a trusted friend, family member or roommate. Opening up about your struggles with depression can provide you with emotional support. It can help you feel heard as well as get a helping hand in finding resources. It also helps to normalize conversations about mental health.
  • Utilize on-campus mental health resources —Most colleges and universities offer counseling and other mental health services for students at no cost. Contact your campus counseling center to find out what resources are available on campus. They’ll help you schedule an appointment with a mental health professional.
  • Be persistent, and keep an open mind — If the first therapist you meet doesn’t align with your needs, keep looking. If therapy alone isn’t helping you to effectively manage your symptoms, it’s OK to consider other options, such as oral antidepressants or outpatient care. You deserve to be fully present in whatever kind of life you choose. Don’t let temporary frustrations derail your progress or make you feel defeated.
  • Start a Virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (vIOP) — It’s possible that you’ve worked through other depression treatment options but haven’t experienced significant improvement in your symptoms. It may be time to consider intensive care. Virtual Intensive Outpatient Programs can provide students with access to intensive mental health care, such as daily programming and group sessions through a computer, phone or tablet. They’re a great option for college students who are dipping their toes into therapy for the first time. 

Lightfully U: Virtual mental health services for college students

Depression isn’t something you can simply avoid, “outgrow” or overcome by sheer force of will. If you’re a college student in California struggling to cope with depression, meet Lightfully U.

This virtual outpatient program was intentionally designed to accommodate the unique mental health needs and diverse schedules of college and university students. You should be able to receive care without leaving school. The framework of Lightfully U consists of evidence-based, clearly defined, data-driven and whole-person-centered care. All clients enrolled in Lightfully U’s virtual program can expect:

  • Flexible access to evidence-based mental health care
  • Personalized treatment tailored to meet your individual needs
  • Weekly process-based therapy sessions
  • Family therapy sessions
  • Group sessions
  • Care delivered by licensed clinical therapists
  • Learn skills and coping strategies
  • Medication management
  • Same-day admission available
  • Ongoing support even after you’ve completed treatment

When you’re ready to take an assessment for your depression symptoms, visit the Contact Us page. If you’re in need of quick treatment, you can have access to same-day Lightfully U admissions.

Connect with Admissions

Related Content