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Sun, Aug. 18

Column: Stress, depression must be differentiated to be treated

If you are feeling overwhelmed by stress, you are not alone; it's practically a fact of life on college campuses. A poll conducted by mtvU and the Associated Press in the spring of 2009 reported that 85% of students say they experience stress on a daily basis. Stress is good if it motivates you, but it's bad if it wears you down. Many factors can contribute to the stress you experience, and this stress can cause changes in your body that affect your overall physical, mental and emotional health.

Depression is more serious and long-lasting than stress and requires a different kind of help. In a 2010 survey by the American College Health Association, 28 percent of college students reported feeling so depressed at some point that they had trouble functioning, and 8 percent sought treatment for depression.

The good news is that depression is a highly treatable condition. However, it's not something you can snap out of by yourself, so it's important to get help. How do you tell the difference between stress and depression? Both can affect you in similar ways, but there are key differences. Symptoms of depression can be much more intense. They last at least two weeks. Depression causes powerful mood changes, such as painful sadness and despair. You may feel exhausted and unable to act.

Here are common signs of stress and depression. Which fits you best?

Common signs of stress: Trouble sleeping; Feeling overwhelmed; Problems with memory; Problems concentrating; Change in eating habits; Feeling nervous or anxious; Feeling angry, irritable or easily frustrated; Feeling burned out from studying or schoolwork; Feeling that you can't overcome difficulties in your life; Trouble functioning in class or in your personal life.

Common signs of depression: Withdrawing from other people; Feeling sad and hopeless; Lack of energy, enthusiasm and motivation; Trouble making decisions; Being restless, agitated and irritable; Eating more or less than usual; Sleeping more or less than usual; Trouble concentrating; Trouble with memory; Feeling bad about yourself or feeling guilty; Anger and rage; Feeling that you can't overcome difficulties in your life; Trouble functioning in your class or in your personal life; and Thoughts of suicide.

Mental Health America, which provided the above information, also offers tips for reducing stress and getting help for depression - available at www.mentalhealthamerica.net.

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