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Managing Stress and Depression in College: Can TMS Help?


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Stress and Depression in College

Stress and depression are prevalent among college students, with the demanding academic environment, social pressures, and life transitions often taking a toll on mental health. As students strive to excel academically while navigating personal challenges, taking care of one’s mental health becomes paramount for overall well-being. When student stress leads to anxiety or depression, exploring effective treatment options is crucial. Fortunately, effective treatments are available, from therapy and medications as first-line treatments to transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for individuals who do not find relief from traditional treatments.

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Causes Of Student Stress

The college experience is often considered an exciting time, full of change and possibility, but this phase can also come with many challenges. Difficulties that students may face include:

  • Academic stress: High workload, tight deadlines, and the pressure of academic performance expectations can lead to stress and anxiety, especially around exam season or the deadline for a thesis or important project.
  • Social pressures: Challenges in making friends, fitting in, and maintaining relationships can contribute to feelings of loneliness and depression for students (1).
  • Financial concerns: Financial burdens, including tuition fees, living expenses, and student loans, can add significant stress.
  • Relationship worries: Many students are forming their first serious relationships, which can be affected by stress and depression. Students navigating relationships can also face issues related to sexism and homophobia that can impact mental health (2).
  • Life transitions: Adjusting to a new environment, living away from family, and managing independence can be overwhelming. For example, students in New York who moved from a less populated area may find it difficult to cope with the pressures of a dense urban environment.
  • Substance abuse or addiction: Student stress can lead people to turn to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism and become addicted, which can be exacerbated by the active social life of students and the availability of substances in the environment.

Everyone experiences and overcomes stress from time to time, but when its effects start to become too disruptive to everyday life, they can signal the onset of a mood disorder and should be taken seriously.

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Potential Symptoms Of Student Depression And Anxiety

The average onset age of depression is around the early to mid-twenties, and studies have repeatedly shown college students to have higher rates of depression than the general population (3). Recent reports put the rate of anxiety and depression among college students at 9.2% and 8.7%, respectively. Unfortunately, only a minority of students with symptoms seek treatment, which has a significant negative impact on academic performance (4).

It is especially important for students to recognize symptoms early on and seek treatment as soon as possible. Delays in treatment can lead to a worsening of symptoms down the line, impacting mental health, quality of life, and academic achievement.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Prolonged and recurring feelings of sadness and/or emptiness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Changes in appetite or weight, either loss or gain
  • Disrupted sleep patterns, such as insomnia or oversleeping
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Finding it hard to concentrate or make decisions
  • Short temper or restlessness
  • Physical symptoms like headaches, digestive issues, or chronic pain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Excessive worry, irritability, and restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Avoidance behavior to avoid triggering situations, which can lead to social isolation or difficulty keeping up with studies
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Physical symptoms of stress such as muscle tension (particularly in the neck, shoulders, and back), dizziness, chest pain, increased heart rate, excessive sweating, trembling or shaking
  • Panic attacks

It’s important to note that depression and anxiety have overlapping symptoms and are often co-occurring conditions, a phenomenon known as anxious depression. Symptoms can also occur at certain times of year that coincide with leaving or returning to campus, so-called ‘seasonal depression’. Among college students in particular, symptoms of depression have become more prevalent since the COVID-19 pandemic, with its disruptive effects still being felt throughout the academic lives of many individuals (5).

Ultimately, if any of the above symptoms are disrupting your life, it’s time to seek a professional opinion and diagnosis before exploring treatment options.

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Treatment Options For Student Depression And Anxiety

For most college students, their first point of contact for student stress and related mental health issues will be their on-campus counselor. Depending on their particular qualifications, these counselors may be limited in the treatments they can provide, but they can be an important starting point and can refer students to specialists.

Students can also contact psychiatrists who offer therapy and other treatments in their area directly. Even with a student’s busy schedule during exam season, it’s important to make time for one’s mental health, which is why psychiatric clinics offering telehealth video consultations may be a good option for students.

Treatments available for depression and anxiety include:

  • Therapy: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), group therapy, or individual counseling can help students address underlying issues and develop coping strategies.
  • Medication: Antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications may be prescribed by a healthcare professional to alleviate symptoms. For best results, psychiatrists offer medication management services with regular consultations to regulate dosage, monitor for potential side effects, and help patients find the medicine that works best for them.
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  • Lifestyle changes: Regular exercise, adequate sleep, healthy eating habits, and stress management techniques like mindfulness and relaxation exercises can support overall well-being and help maintain good mental health.
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation: TMS is a non-invasive, drug-free depression therapy that utilizes a helmet-like device to deliver gentle magnetic pulses that stimulate specific areas of the brain associated with mood regulation. TMS has been proven to be effective in treating depression and alleviating symptoms of anxiety, offering a unique therapeutic approach that can complement traditional treatments or serve as an alternative for those who haven’t found relief with medications.

Treatment For Student Depression In New York

Madison Avenue TMS & Therapy understands the challenges that college students face and offers specialized services tailored to their needs, including talk therapy, medication, and TMS.

If you’re suffering from student stress in New York, contact us today at (212) 731-2033 or via our contact form to schedule a consultation and explore how we can help you effectively manage stress and depression during your college years. Your mental health is our priority, and we’re here to support you every step of the way.

Additional resources on treatment for depression and anxiety:


Resources:

  1. Liu, H., Zhang, M., Yang, Q. et al. Gender differences in the influence of social isolation and loneliness on depressive symptoms in college students: a longitudinal study. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2020;55, 251–257. Link. Accessed April 25, 2024.
  2. Alibudbud, R. C. “Does Sexual Orientation Matter?”: A Comparative Analysis of the Prevalence and Determinants of Depression and Anxiety Among Heterosexual and Non-Heterosexual College Students in a University in Metro Manila. Journal of Homosexuality. 2023;70(6), 1119–1137. Link. Accessed April 25, 2024.
  3. Ibrahim, A. K., Kelly, S. J., Adams, C. E., & Glazebrook, C. A systematic review of studies of depression prevalence in university students. Journal of Psychiatric Research. 2013;47(3), 391-400. Link. Accessed April 25, 2024.
  4. Asher BlackDeer, MSW, PhD Candidate, A., Patterson Silver Wolf, PhD, D. A., Maguin, PhD, E., & Beeler-Stinn, PhD, S. Depression and anxiety among college students: Understanding the impact on grade average and differences in gender and ethnicity. Journal of American College Health. 2023;71(4), 1091–1102. Link. Accessed April 25, 2024.
  5. Li, W., Zhao, Z., Chen, D., Peng, Y., & Lu, Z. Prevalence and associated factors of depression and anxiety symptoms among college students: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 2022;63(11), 1222-1230. Link. Accessed April 25, 2024.
Dr. David Woo

Dr. Woo has been seeing patients in private practice since 2002, always with the goals of combining evidence-based medicine with psychodynamic psychotherapy and collaborating with other mental health professionals to ensure the best possible outcomes for his patients. He has been certified to administer TMS at his practice since 2017. His greatest clinical interests include helping patients suffering from depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder.


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