Depression and Studying (7 ways to study better)

In today’s blog post, we take into account, ‘depression and studying’. We start by looking into the different causes of depression for school and college students. We then take an account of the effects of depression on the school and college students. We then divert focus on how depression creates a hindrance in the student’s academics and the different ways in which the students can ensure that depression does not lead to lowered academic performance.

Depression and Studying:

Depression is a mood disorder which is marked by periods of sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, crying spells, loss of sleep and appetite and feeling numb. These feelings and the burden of depression is likely to increase manifold if the individual also tries to cope with the academics. 

It is established that depression affects all the areas of functioning; that is emotional, cognitive. Behavioural and social. A part of these areas is the academic performance which is probably the worst affected due to depression. These two things may often get in each other’s way, making it difficult for the person to concentrate on any one aspect.

Causes of depression in students:

  • Relationships:

Teenage is often a new time for a person and is often the first contact with romantic relationships. Often breakups or problems with the relationships can push the person into depression. Depression, when initiated due to a breakup often leads to intrusive thoughts, sleep disturbances, loss of appetite. Studies show that about 43% of teenagers experience insomnia after a breakup. 

  • Living away from family:

Many students travel away from home to another city, state or country for better educational prospects. While the new place offers new opportunities, a new and better learning atmosphere and better exposure, it may also lead them to feel distances from their family and friends, emotionally and geographically. 

It is very natural for students to miss their families and friends, which is likely to be more so if the student now stays in a different country.

  • Feeling alone and isolated:

Because the students live independently in several circumstances, they may feel alone and isolated. This applied for school students as well as college students. A lot of school students also reside in boarding schools where there is a high possibility for them to feel lonely and isolated.

They are likely to feel more lonely, if they reside in a different culture altogether as they may have difficulty in adapting and adjusting to the new cultural norms.

  • Difficulty in school and college work:

Academics are getting more competitive and application based. This has not only increased the students’ knowledge base, but has also put them under additional stress of constant assignments, credit points, admission competitions, entrance exams etc. 

Heightened competition in every area of academics can become extremely stressful for the students. 

  • Worrying about finances:

Education has now become expensive, wherein people often take loans to fund their education. The students may often worry about the financial burden that may be caused due to the educational expenses. Additionally, they may also have the burden of paying off the student loans.

In terms of school children too, parents often have to worry about the finances as the schools are not getting more diverse and advanced and thereby there is an increase in the school fees as well as the other educational expenses. This may get stressful for the parents as well as the children.

  • Disturbed family dynamics:

Disturbance in the family system such as conflicts, manipulation, divorce, death of a family member, neglect, abuse or extreme form of authoritarian parenting can put excessive pressure on the child. The student is likely to face an emotional cut-off from the family and may isolate oneself. Such a family dynamic creates a susceptibility towards developing depression. 

Effects of depression on students:

  • Effect on academic performance:

Depression directly affects academic performance of the students. It leads to lowering of grades, increased absenteeism at  school/college and backlogs.

  • Substance abuse:

Studies suggest that school and college students who suffer from depression are more likely to engage in drug and alcohol abuse. They are also likely to smoke from an earlier age. It is also suggested that women, who are depressed are likely to engage in greater levels of alcohol abuse as compared to men. Further, increase in drug and alcohol consumption and smoking can lead to development of additions, which can further worsen the symptoms of depression.

  • Unsafe sexual behaviour:

Depression, combined with drug and alcohol abuse is likely to lead to unsafe sexual practices. This increases the chances of sexually transmitted diseases especially HIV/AIDS , unwanted and teenage pregnancies and abortions.

  • Self-harm and suicide:

Research shows that suicide is the leading cause of death of students between the age of 15 years to 24 years. Depression often pushes the individual towards suicidal ideations and suicidal behaviours. It also pushes them towards other forms of self-harm such as cutting the skin on the arms and legs, engaging in risky behaviours such as rash and rough driving, high adventure risky sports, unsafe sporting activities etc.

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How does depression create a hindrance in academic performance?

Studies have consistently shown that depression has a negative impact on the studies and the academic performance of the students. This happens primarily because the life and thoughts of college and school students often revolves around studies and academics. Because they spend a maximum amount of their time in spheres, academics are worst impacted.

Let us see how:

  • Lack of motivation:

Depression directly impacts the individual’s will to do anything. Similar situation is seen when depression hits students. There is a lack of motivation to carry out day-to-day activities, go to college, participate in extracurricular activities and sports.

Especially when depression is induced by excessive pressure in academics, such as constant tests, deadlines, projects and assignments, the student is likely to lose motivation to study, even though he or she may actually care about it.

Because there is a lack of motivation and a lack of interest in carrying out the academic responsibilities, the productivity suffers and academic performance takes a toll.  

  • Irritability and anger:

Some of the major symptoms of depression include anger and irritation. When depression triggers anger and irritation, the student may not be able to concentrate on the work at hand and may also get aggressive and destructive in severe cases. It also affects the teacher-student relationship, wherein, there are likely to be arguments between the student and the teacher. 

Anger and irritability may also trigger impulsive behaviour wherein, the student may completely give up on studying and other aspects of the academics. 

  • Fatigue:

Depression is associated with constant influx of intrusive thoughts, rumination, crying spells, numbness and isolation. These symptoms can take a toll on the mind and the body, because of which the student may feel sleepy, tired and lethargic all the time. This fatigue may create an obstacle in studies as the student may not be able to concentrate on the task at hand, may experience somatic symptoms such as headache, neck pain, stomach ache and pain in the limbs which may not allow them to focus on their studies. 

Fatigue may also lead the student to zone out because of which they may lose a track of their studies.

  • Concentration:

People with depression experience racing thoughts and are extremely vigilant to anything that may trigger them. The racing thoughts and vigilance often disrupts their concentration, and they may not be able to focus even on the most simple task at hand.

  • Sleep and appetite:

Depression first affects the sleep and appetite of the person. In case of sleep, the person may either experience insomnia or may sleep excessively. In addition, he may also have problems with maintaining sleep. In terms of the appetite, the person may either lose appetite or may engage in stress eating.

This can also happen with the students, where no sleep or excessive sleeping and appetite issues can lead to problems such as sleeping in the classes, low blood pressure and acid reflux, headaches, weight gain, constant fatigue and lethargy which can take a toll on their physical health as well, leaving them no energy to study and concentrate. 

Preventing depression from hampering academic performance:

  • Understanding that mental health is more important:

It is obvious that students have worked hard to reach up to the academic level where they are currently. However, it is important to understand that no amount of academic achievements will do any justice if the student’s mental health is not sound. 

This may sound difficult, but it is absolutely acceptable to take a break from academics in order to focus on one’s mental health. 

  • Setting smaller goals:

Academics can be demanding and depression can make it worse. One way of going about this can be setting smaller academic goals for oneself and trying to achieve them. Students may feel anger towards the self if they are not able to study or achieve their set goals for the day but it is important that one should not be harsh with the self as it would only worsen the condition and continue the cycle where the student will not be able to concentrate. 

  • Take breaks:

Depression can be overwhelming in itself and academic pressure can worsen it. Things can be made a little easy by taking frequent breaks and time outs. This can be accomplished in two ways. One, the student can either plan their breaks at fixed intervals such as a break after every one hour of study, or two, they can give themself a time out each time they feel they are losing their concentration due to rumination and intrusive thoughts. 

In the time out, the student can engage in square breathing and coping self-statements to get themselves back in action.

When it gets severe, they may also choose to take a mental health break for a day to calm themselves.

  • Planning:

Planning can go a long way in helping students with depression gain control over their actions and their life. Because a student with depression may take longer to study, especially for an exam or a test, appropriate planning can help in avoiding last minute stress and give adequate revision time. 

They can also incorporate breaks, time-outs and mental health days in the schedule.

  • Taking care of the self:

Apart from taking breaks, self care is also necessary. Self care can include engaging in mindful colouring, a slow walk in the garden, listening to music, cleaning the room, calling a loved one. 

There may be times when the only thing a person may want to do is sleep or just lie down, this is also a form of self care and should be undertaken whenever necessary.

  • Informing the school/college:

Dealing with the difficulties that depression brings can be relatively eased when there is support. This support can be achieved from the school and college professors and peers. This information can get the person certain leeways such as extra time in the exams, extension in the submission time, support from the peers to study in terms of motivation and actual help in studies.

  • Have a healthy diet and proper sleep:

A healthy and balanced diet along with proper sleep schedules can help alleviate fatigue and refresh the person. Food rich in vitamin D, Vitamin B6/B12, fatty acids and zinc can help the body deal with depression in a better way.

Having healthy sleep hygiene is also helpful. Putting away the electronic gadgets before bedtime, not reading and viewing disturbing content, having comfortable and clean bedding and being hydrated can help the body deal with depression in a better way. 

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Frequently Asked Question:

What percentage of students have symptoms of depression?

It is estimated that 20%-30% of adolescents have the symptoms of depression. Although it is assumed that adults are more likely to be depressed, the mean onset age of depression is 15 years.

How many students get depression from homework?

It has been observed that too much homework is associated with stress and depression. About 56% of students report experiencing stress due to homework, while a majority of students report stress during exams.

How does depression affect the academic performance of students?

If depression and anxiety go without treatment for a prolonged period of time, the risk students face is much higher which can lead to decrease in academic performance.

Can school stress cause mental illness?

School stress can affect attention, memory, emotional regulation, increase  physical and mental issues, as well as have an effect on heart, immune system, metabolism and hormones.

What age group has the highest rate of depression?

The prevalence of depression is higher among adult females (8.7%) compared to males (5.3%). 

Conclusion:

In today’s blog post, we took into account, ‘depression and studying’. We started by looking into the different causes of depression for school and college students. We then took an account of the effects of depression on the school and college students. We then diverted focus on how depression creates a hindrance in the student’s academics and the different ways in which the students can ensure that depression does not lead to lowered academic performance.

References:

https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/college-students#Diagnosing-and-treating-depression-in-college-students

https://infocenter.nimh.nih.gov/pubstatic/NIH%2012-4266/NIH%2012-4266.pdf

https://freespiritpublishingblog.com/2019/06/04/5-ways-depression-in-students-can-impact-learning/

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