• Susan Seligson

    Susan Seligson has written for many publications and websites, including the New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, the Boston Globe, Yankee, Outside, Redbook, the Times of London, Salon.com, Radar.com, and Nerve.com. Profile

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There are 19 comments on Depression, Anxiety Persistent Problems at Universities

  1. “No one knows why nearly a fourth of college students nationwide suffer from anxiety or depression. Maybe these disorders are identified more as their stigma is shed.”

    The rampant increase in these pathological emotional conditions among modern people begs the question; is this the disease of the Bourgeoisie? Have we reached the point where not encountering historically challenging events leaves us unable to cope with more common events?

    Up until the past hundred years only the very affluent had all of their biological needs readily met but today few of us have to worry about needs like food, heat, shelter, water, safety etc. on a daily basis.

    Challenges of modern life are relatively benign and rarely elicit a fight or flight response and therefore may not activate the limbic system sufficiently and regularly enough to keep it functioning normally thereby creating the chemical imbalances implicated in these two emotional disorders.

    As an example, a person with OCD never has trouble stopping their compulsive behavior when someone yells fire.

    People who do not experience the historically more common challenges of daily living may react in a pathological way to events that would not have historically elicited a stress response.

    More slowly away from the computer and do something really exciting for a change!!

    1. Studies have shown that OCD is just as prevalent in developing countries as it is in developed ones. Doing “something really exciting” like living in poverty and danger, which it seems you’re suggesting, is not a magical solution to cure chemical imbalances.

    2. This is a really wrong view on depression.. You’re diluting the stresses that students encounter based on some “righteous” viewpoint that certain challenges aren’t worthwhile enough to deem attention.

    3. Here’s something super exciting – a year and a half ago I was in a near-head-on-collision-turned-rollover car accident that traumatized me and left me with PTSD that has cycled through suicidal tendencies, depression, and anxiety.
      I speak from experience when I say that “exciting” trauma does absolutely nothing to enhance your mental state of being.

    4. As a BU student who has struggled with depression for quite some time, I can attest to the fact that depression is not the “disease of the bourgeoisie.” I grew up in a low-income household and an area riddled with rampant crime. Your blanket statement is pretty obnoxious seeing that not everybody that goes here is from a privileged background. Please climb off of your high horse and have several seats.

    5. “As an example, a person with OCD never has trouble stopping their compulsive behavior when someone yells fire.”

      This is a ridiculous example that illustrates that you clearly lack a basic understanding of mental illness. I have found that many people with opinions like yours on mental illness do not understand it at all. I wish people were better educated on the subject of mental illness so that they would not jump to such ignorant conclusions.

    6. It is a myth that people who are well off suffer from these diseaes. There are anorexics with no access to food, poor people with depression anxiety. You just never hear about them because they can’t get help. The reason it never showed up in the past is because no one ever thought these things existed, nor did they care. Clearly, you don’t care either.

  2. First, to the author of the previous comment, I must respectfully and emphatically ask that you reconsider your theory, which is valid as a theory but becomes dangerous as you begin to assert it as fact. I don’t know how many times anyone has tested whether yelling “fire” (or otherwise putting people in life-threatening situations) to someone stuck performing compulsions helps treat OCD. In fact, you might be unaware of the high overlap between OCD and PTSD, which suggests that OCD can develop as a means of coping with traumatic experience, quite the opposite of what you suggest in your post.

    Second, I think it is most critical that instead of simply citing BU’s achievements with regards to mental health, that our institution take a deeper look at the large cracks through which students are falling. It is understandable and important to highlight achievements, but we must not blind ourselves to the significant shortcomings that still exist and put students at risk, such as the lack of sufficient mental health coverage through the student insurance plan.

    1. To your second comment: YES!

      I am a graduate student going part time at 8 credits. I am one credit shy of being eligible for student health services at al, and thus affordable counseling.

  3. The suggestion that somehow my opining anything but my unconditional support for the notion that mental illness is a genetic disorder with no environmental component is somehow elitist is what is absurd.

    I am very well versed in this area of research and have the academic credentials and real world work experience to back up my opinions.

    You are free to disagree with me but please refrain from attacking the messenger just because you do not find my opinion to be politically correct.

    The fact is, that the incidence and prevalence of these disorders is alarming and at odds with biology. We are driven to survive and when this instinctive response is attenuated and/or the fear response exacerbated it is only logical to raise the question of whether something in our modern lives has induced a down regulation of the limbic system in such as way as to make pathological anxiety and depression occur in 25% of otherwise healthy young people.

    To do otherwise would be irresponsible and illogical.

    1. The reason depression and anxiety have been on the rise may have absolutely nothing to do with people’s social status. While I don’t have the academic credentials you claim to have, I strongly suspect that few health professionals were diagnosing depression and anxiety until recently. It is entirely possible that the reason we’re seing an increase is because these ailments are better known and more easily recognized while the actual incidence and prevalence have remained unchanged.

    2. Nobody was attacking you, and nobody was saying it was purely genetic. The issue is that you’re placing blame on the people who are suffering by implying that they are sick simply because they need to “move slowly away from the computer and do something exciting”. Feel free to question whether or not the way we live effects the increasing rates of depression/anxiety as long as you back up your theories with evidence. So far, you have provided little to none. If you’re well versed and intelligent, prove it. At the moment I’m not convinced.

  4. Personally, my experiences dealing with depression at BU were pretty lousy. I knew I needed long term help (I had been seeing a counselor and psychiatrist at my previous college for a full year, and still had a long way to go), so I wanted a referral to an outside CBT person and Psychiatrist. Because they’ll only do a semester or two of treatment here.
    They wouldn’t give me a referral even though I specifically said that was all I wanted. Instead, I had to talk to the same counselor over and over. She was awful. She never listened to me, had no insight, and never followed through on paperwork no matter how many times I asked. She also would tell me about how other people have it worse than I did. I felt worse after talking to her. At the time I thought it was all in my head, but now that some time has passed I realize she was completely out of line.
    And it wasn’t just her. It always felt like they were too busy to care, because they’re short staffed. Scheduling appointments was difficult, and if I needed an appointment more than once a week it was impossible. This was not a problem at my previous university (UVM) or at my current therapist’s office. I also saw a psychiatrist at SHS, and she was better but still unhelpful. She would always tell me to talk to the counselor about my problems, even when I said I was uncomfortable with the counselor. I explicitly said I was going to hurt myself, and she essentially told me not to and then sent me on my way. All I wanted was a referral, and instead I was made to feel guilty, alone, and unheard for months before finally I got one since my time ran out.
    By the time I finally got a referral, my problems had gotten much worse. Partly from the way they treated me, because it made me feel like all professionals were going to treat me as poorly as they did. It felt like getting actual help was impossible, and that I would feel this awful forever. It was all very hopeless. I planned my suicide and ended up in the ER.
    The hospital set up an appointment with SHS for me to follow up. I wanted to scream, but instead I showed up and lied my way through the entire appointment because I knew they were too incompetent to help me and I already had an appointment made somewhere else for a couple weeks later.
    Now it’s been about a year, and I’ve been getting counseling and have a psychiatrist out in the real world. I am being treated so much better, and I’m finally making progress. All SHS did was delay my progress and make me angry. I’m still angry, because I know other people are probably being treated the way I was treated there. And it’s wrong.
    HOPEFULLY, I just had a bizarre experience, and other people are getting the help they need. If not, BU needs to step up their methods for supporting students. I love BU to pieces, but seriously. They can do better.

    On a side note, why doesn’t BU just have a counseling center instead of making it some weird spawn of SHS? It’s not comfortable being in a hospital setting. While physical and mental health are connected, they aren’t the same and the treatments are very different, so I don’t see why BU arranges it like they’re the same thing.

    1. I am not blaming anyone I am simply making a point. Why do you insist on personalizing an academic observation. As for Dx of depression and anxiety people have been seeking out anxiolytics for decades to deal with the stresses of modern life.

      The human mind is unique in that we have the ability to ponder our plight and when we have more time to ponder it and less real things to worry about it is not unreasonable to suspect that people might be reacting with pathological levels of anxiety to environmental stimuli that should not illicit a fight or flight type response from the limbic system.

      Again you do not have to agree with me but someone needs to take the less politically correct low road and suggest that maybe just maybe we can deal with anxiety and depression without so quickly resorting to throwing drugs at these disorders; to begin doing this we need to start with the assumption that some cases will respond to life style changes better or as well as they will to drugs just as obesity and associated disorders of sugar metabolism etc. respond to changes in diet and exercise.

    2. Ashley, I had a very similar experience at BU. As a freshman, I was suicidal because of my emotionally and physically abusive boyfriend. One night I went over the edge when he really struck a nerve. I went to bed, but my body woke itself up the next morning at 5:00. I was in such a state that everything is a blur now that I think back to it, but I couldn’t picture myself living any longer– I was having one of the worst panic attacks I could have ever imagined and I couldn’t see any other options for myself.
      That morning I tried committing suicide. My then-boyfriend knew I was losing it and called the school without me knowing. Long story short I ended up in the hospital. A few days later I had to meet with ResLife, who told me that “living in a dorm is a privilege” and that I was “a threat to other students.” The person in charge made me take out and turn over my ID card and read to her all of the phone numbers and tell her what each service offered. I understood her intention, but the way she spoke to me and went about everything was very degrading. She was basically talking down to me and treating me terribly– like I didn’t deserve to go to BU or be a part of the community, when I really just needed some help getting through a tough phase. I didn’t even bother to report this, even though my RA encouraged me to, because I already had enough on my plate. I agree, I think BU has so many resources for students dealing with mental health illnesses, but the faculty may need to reevaluate the way they deliver their messages to students. If they treat students the way they treated either of us, it could make matters worse for someone instead of help.

  5. This issue is complex but it can be argued that physical exercise induced changes in stress hormones and neurogenesis in the the limbic system that over time may make it less prone to anxiety disorders and depression.

    In fact, ‘Cessation of voluntary wheel running increases anxiety-like behavior and impairs adult hippocampal neurogenesis in mice.

    As the impaired neurogenesis is predicted to increase a vulnerability to stress-induced mood disorders, the reduction of physical activity may contribute to a greater risk of these disorders.

    Nishijima T, Llorens-Martín M, Tejeda GS, Inoue K, Yamamura Y, Soya H, Trejo JL, Torres-Alemán I.
    Behav Brain Res. 2013 Feb

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