Today’s blog post focuses on the ‘Post College Depression symptoms’ that is experienced by many college students. We start the discussion by understanding post college depression in detail, which will be followed by the main reasons for the occurrence of post college depression. This will be followed by a brief overview of the symptoms of post college depression. Lastly, we take a look at the various ways of dealing with the condition.
College life is one of the most cherished memories in every person’s life. Although, during the college years, the person may feel that they want to get done with the all-nighters, finish the assignments as soon as possible, get out of the grind and start earning, they still look back at their college days and cherish it.
Leaving the college means leaving the friends, the schedule, a fixed way of functioning for something entirely new and unknown. While the new life has a charm of its own, many students do experience a major set back once the college ends, that us; they may experience post college depression.
Post College Depression symptoms:
A number of post college depression symptoms can be seen in students that they may have difficulty coping with such as:
- Abnormally negative perspective towards life
- Decreased motivation to get out of bed and in motivating oneself for getting a job or moving ahead
- A general sense of hopelessness
- A possible substance abuse as a coping mechanism
- Loneliness due to lack of connection with friends
- Realisation that life may not be aligned with one’s passions
- Feeling extremely disorganised along with wasting time and procrastination
- Too much time on social media
- Irritability and mood swings
- Constantly seeking reassurance and support
- Feeling of the life being at a standstill
- Social and occupational functioning is hampered.
What is post college depression?
Post college depression or post graduate depression is a form of mood disorder that is usually seen in college students after their college life and graduation is over. This terminology may not be found in the psychiatric books or journals, but an extensive body of research suggests that post college depression very much exists and it does have an impact on the students.
There are four main reasons why post college depression symptoms may be experienced:
- Pressure to obtain a job:
The next obvious step for most students after college is to get a job in their field of study and interest. However, getting a job is not as easy as it sounds. For some people it may be seen in terms of not getting the job that they want, some may not fit the requirements for the job, some may not have adequate experience and for some, it may be just a series of rejections before they end up a job of their choice.
While applying for the job, the person is usually on his or her own, that is they have to make their own decisions and structure their own life from now on. This can be stressful as the college offered a life that was preplanned and the person did not have to do much in it.
- Leaving behind the college:
College life is associated with countless memories, friends, events, fun and new experiences. Leaving all behind to start a life that might be more challenging can be overwhelming for the students. A sense of emptiness can be experienced.
Further, college offers a very safe and a protected atmosphere for one to grow and flourish and hence leaving behind the protected atmosphere can be stressful.
- Losing a sense of identity:
According to Dr. Matt Glowaik, by the time the person graduates, he or she has spent almost twenty years as a student and therefore being a student has become a part of their identity and they relate to the identity. Leaving college can mean a loss of this identity as the person may not have any anchor that they can now identify with. They may not be able to define who they are anymore and that may affect their mental health.
- Quarter life crisis:
The period after post graduation can also often be accompanied by the ‘quarter life crisis’ which usually occurs in the mid 20s where the person may not be able to understand the purpose of their lives and may not have a clear direction and life goals. This quarter life crisis may sometimes be accompanied by an emotional crisis marked by a sense of isolation,self-doubt, inadequacy and fear of failure.
Some symptoms of post college depression:
Although some of these symptoms may be very similar to the signs and symptoms of depression, the context is different.
Below are some of the most common post college depression symptoms:
- Abnormally negative perspective towards life:
If the person has not been able to define his or her purpose in life and does not have a direction, they are likely to have a negative perspective towards life, which is a classic symptom of post college depression. Fear of failure in future and lowering of self esteem can lead to the abnormally negative attitude.
- Decreased motivation to get out of bed and in motivating oneself for getting a job or moving ahead:
As the college students may not have a clear schedule for going about their day after the college is over, they are likely to have a decreased motivation to get out of the bed and have a fixed routine as they may not have anything particular to look forward to. This may induce a sense of lethargy and fatigue in the students. They may also look at this time as s space to relax and hence may not feel motivated to seek a job. This lack of motivation may also come from the fear of the world outside college as the person has been a part of a very protected atmosphere till now.
- A general sense of hopelessness:
These symptoms are in alignment with the lack of motivation. As college is over they may feel that they do not have anything to look forward to and may not be able to find joy in other areas of life, inducing a sense of hopelessness. Hopelessness may also creep in due to the lack of job opportunities or due to rejections faced in the interviews.
It is likely that the person comes to see no hopes and future in their field of study.
- A possible substance abuse as a coping mechanism:
The pressure to create a new identity, the pressure of getting a job paired with no proper direction, can push the person into alcohol and substance abuse as a mechanism to cope. In addition, the tough competition can add to the distress that is being felt. Also, rejections in interviews and the overwhelming work culture can be difficult for the person to deal with.
- Loneliness due to lack of connection with friends:
The most distressing part of leaving college is a lack of connection with friends. As the person may not have a contact with his or her regular group of friends as frequently as before, there may be avoid that is created in the person’s life. In addition to that, if the person is completely alone with the others moving out for various reasons can add to trouble. The person may have a difficulty in relating to a new group of friends, due to the level of comfort and trust that was established with the old ones.
- Realisation that life may not be aligned with one’s passions:
When seeking a job, the person may come to realise that the life goals that they are required to have to have a secure life may not really be in connection to their passions of the subject they majored in college. This can lead to confusion and a sense of feeling lost. Also, if there is extremely low scope for job opportunities in the subject that they have majored in, it may lead to distress as it means that they will either have to move to another place where opportunities are available, or do a job that is not in alignment with their passion.
- Feeling extremely disorganised along with Wasting time and procrastination
Until the time college got over, a student’s life was very much organised comprising the classes, assignments, extracurricular activities and social life. However, after college if the student does not have a job immediately, or does not have a clear routine, the day can clearly become disorganised where the person may not have a clear plan of the day and may waste too much time and procrastinate certain essential tasks. It may feel as though life is no longer in control of the person.
- Too much time on social media:
As the person now has a long time at his or her disposal, they are likely to spend a disproportionate time on social media. This would be distressing for them when they see their classmates moving out to study further or get a job. This may kick of a cycle of comparison of the kind of life the classmates are living and the person’s current condition.
- Irritability and mood swings:
Lack of routine, lowered communication with friends, no job, no plans for the future can make the person prone to irritability and mood swings as they may feel as though they do not have control over their lives. In addition, pressure from the parents to seek a job or to have an action plan can make things worse for them.
- Constantly seeking reassurance and support:
It can get difficult for a student to be all alone after being in constant company of friends and teachers. This may give rise to loneliness and the person may seek constant reassurance and support from the family and other significant people in his or her life that this support system will be there.
- Feeling of the life being at a standstill:
With college getting over, with nothing to look forward to in the day, life may have come to a standstill for the person. It may seem as though life is moving extremely slowly for the person and there is a lack of excitement and joy in the person’s life. This may further foster a sense of hopelessness as the person may not be able to handle the change.
- Social and occupational functioning is hampered:
In most severe cases, the symptoms of post college depression can have an impact on the person’s day to day functioning, wherein, they may not be able to undertake even the most simplest tasks, such as brushing, bathing and may not be able to keep a track of their meals and even the time. In such cases, the symptoms amplify and indicate the need for professional intervention.
Studies have also suggested that the young adults between the age of 18 years to 25 years are likely to have the highest rates of anxiety and depression. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, most of the mental health issues begin by the age of 24 years, which coincides with major transitions such as end of college life.
Additionally, even when the person has a job, it may not be in alignment with their interests and their actual knowledge and field of education, which may make them miss college more their identity has been formed there.
Post college depression symptoms can also hamper other areas of the person’s life, precipitating across on family relationships and also romantic relationships.
Dealing with post college depression symptoms:
Below are a few ways you can deal with post college depression symptoms:
- Giving oneself the time to feel the emotions
College has been an important part of a person’s life and forms a major part of their identity. Therefore it is very obvious for him or her to feel a sense of void and emptiness after college is over.
However, if the person tries to just fill in that void with wanting to get a job or getting into substance abuse, the feelings are likely to resurface often if they have not been processed or addressed adequately.
Addressing the emotions that are being experienced and allowing the self substantial time to deal with it before taking up something else can increase the chances that the situation will be dealt with appropriately. It involves not being judgemental about the emotions and not trying to cover them up with maladaptive behaviours.
- Creating a schedule
Having a schedule that is relatively similar to the schedule during the college can be helpful. It will not only help the person to add structure to their lives but also would help them plan what they wish to do in their life thereafter. Having no schedule after college is likely to make the person prone to fatigue, lethargy, rumination and isolation.
- Eating at fixed times:
Having meals at fixed times not only helps in aligning to the schedule, but it also protects the person from stress eating and binge eating. In the long run, this can be a preventive measure against eating disorders due to depression and anxiety.
- Maintain social contact:
Whenever possible, try to be in contact with friends and faculty from college. Completely cutting them off is likely to foster depression and social isolation. Meeting friends from college gives the person an opportunity to relive the college days and memories, making the transition much easier.
- Setting realistic goals:
It is important to understand that things take their natural course and that the person has to be patient. Setting realistic goals will help the person avoid disappointment after college, which can often be the case if unrealistically high goals are set.
- Understanding that this is natural:
Improvement in the condition comes better by understanding that it is very obvious and natural to feel the way they do after college has ended. It is a natural reaction to the loss of something that was a part of one’s identity for so many years. Addressing the feelings and accepting them is the first step towards healing.
- Identifying new interests:
The time after college can be used effectively to identify newer interests and activities. This can include volunteering at a community centre, animal shelter, learning a new skill, taking up new courses, spending time with family etc. this time can also be used to make a plan map for the future with respect to the career prospects.
- Avoid maladaptive coping strategies:
Certain coping strategies such as social isolation, substance abuse and smoking, unhealthy eating habits, procrastination and avoidance, denial and emotional spending such as splurging money should be avoided.
- Talking to a therapist or contacting helpline numbers:
It is not wise to undermine the problem if it has a major impact on the person’s life. This can be dealt with by seeking the help of a therapist who can help the person through the situation in an adaptive way. Helpline numbers can also be used.
- Tips for parents and guardians:
It will be very beneficial for students to have supportive family and caregivers at this time of transition. Listening to them, validating their feelings, empathising with them and giving them emotional support without making them feel pressured will certainly help.
Frequently Asked Questions: Post College Depression Symptoms
Can boring life after college be a symptom of post college depression?
Life after graduation can get less exciting and the person may have to work hard to make their life interesting after college. It is a concentrated effort that people have to take, the failure of which can increase the chances of experiencing the symptoms of post college depression.
Is crying a normal symptom when you leave for college?
Yes, it’s completely normal. Your mind will be off it once you start meeting new people and socialising. It can be overwhelming to leave a place that was like family, but it is completely normal.
Can difficulty in finding a job after college lead to symptoms of post college depression?
Yes,Obtaining employment after college is often difficult and can lead to the symptoms of post college depression. In some cases,some graduates accept the first job they find without realizing the potential impact it may have on their future.
How do you feel after graduating college?
Graduation not only can bring up feelings of excitement, pride, and anticipation, but also those of loss, discouragement, and fear. Feelings of loss are common as they are leaving their college life for a new and challenging life.
Why is Graduation a big deal?
Graduations signify a compilation of knowledge and achievement, and nobody can take away your education. A graduation ceremony is a celebration of everything it took to get there – all the grit, endurance, strategies, team work, faith and a mostly unwavering commitment to tomorrows’ self.
Today’s blog post focused on the ‘Post College Depression’ that is experienced by many college students. We started the discussion by understanding post college depression in detail, which was followed by the main reasons for the occurrence of post college depression. This was followed by a brief overview of the signs of post college depression. Lastly, we took a look at the various ways of dealing with the condition.
I hope the blog post provided an insight into the various aspects of post college depression and the ways it can be overcome. Please feel free to drop in your comments and queries in the box below.
What we recommend for depression
If you are suffering from depression then ongoing professional counselling may be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.