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Antidepressant use, depression common amongst college students

2/19/08

At one time or another, most college students feel like they can’t get out of bed or don’t want to go to class. Not being able to do these things because of depression, however, is a different story.

Depression is not largely uncommon, especially on college campuses and one of the ways to combat it is the use of antidepressants.

“They’re a good, safe class of drugs,” Dr. Karen Pfost, professor of psychology, said.

“[Antidepressants] can be useful for a variety of different problems,” Dr. James Terfruchte, staff psychiatrist at Student Health Services, said.

“They can treat depression, dysthymia and a variety of anxiety disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Bulimia.”
  2/19/08

At one time or another, most college students feel like they can’t get out of bed or don’t want to go to class. Not being able to do these things because of depression, however, is a different story.

Depression is not largely uncommon, especially on college campuses and one of the ways to combat it is the use of antidepressants.

“They’re a good, safe class of drugs,” Dr. Karen Pfost, professor of psychology, said.

“[Antidepressants] can be useful for a variety of different problems,” Dr. James Terfruchte, staff psychiatrist at Student Health Services, said.

“They can treat depression, dysthymia and a variety of anxiety disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Bulimia.”

“They’re non-addictive, unlike anti-anxiety medications,” Pfost said.

“You don’t build up a tolerance to them like you can with anti-anxiety meds.”

While antidepressants can be useful for a variety of different problems, they are mainly used to combat depression.

According to Terfruchte, Major Depressive Disorder is characterized by a depressed mood and/or diminished interest or pleasure and four or more of the main seven symptoms associated with depression.

These symptoms include significant weight loss or gain, insomnia or hypersomnia, psychomotor agitation or retardation, fatigue or energy loss, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt, decreased concentration or indecisiveness and thoughts of suicide.

Also, for college students, Terfruchte said not being able to go to class, sleep or get out of bed, having low motivation and being overly critical of oneself are other signs of depression.

“You won’t see immediate relief from antidepressants,” Pfost said. “They usually take two to four weeks to become effective.”

Antidepressants have side effects and disadvantages like any drug, but they are relatively safe.

“With the current popular ones, there are even fewer side effects,” Pfost said. “Another advantage of SSRIs is they have very low lethality. They’re a wonderful choice for people with suicide potential.”

SSRI stands for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor and are a class of antidepressants.

“The primary downside to [antidepressants] is matching people to antidepressants,” Pfost said. “It is sort of trial and error.”

Also, Pfost said, antidepressants may not allow people to learn coping skills and life lessons they might have otherwise learned without the help of medication.

According to Terfruchte, other side effects of SSRIs include nausea, diarrhea, heartburn, decreased libido, delayed orgasm, headache, insomnia and somnolence-a state of sleepiness or drowsiness.

Besides antidepressants, there are other ways to combat depression. Exercise is as good as antidepressants, Pfost said.

According to Terfruchte, therapy or counseling can help patients learn coping skills, relaxation skills and learn how to appropriately interpret life events. These skills can help diminish and prevent depression, Terfruchte said.

Non-biological factors can cause depression as well. Terfruchte said students could experience more stress at different times of the year and situational depression can result.

The lack of sunlight during the winter months can also lead to depression. Terfruchte said there is certainly evidence showing there is more depression in the winter.

This condition, called Seasonal Affective Disorder, usually goes away with better weather according to Pfost.

“The basic premise [of Seasonal Affective Disorder] is that it is related to day length,” Terfruchte said.

While college students are not at a high risk for developing such things as prostate cancer, mental disorders such as depression can hit at any time and college students should be aware.

“In contrast to other diseases which tend to develop later in life, mental and emotional disorders disproportionately affect people at a younger age,” Terfruchte said.


By: Tony Andracki, Daily Vidette Staff

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