What is depression?

Feeling “down,” angry, or frustrated while you’re dealing with stressful or upsetting circumstances is normal. However, when these feelings persist beyond a specific situation and leave you devoid of energy and interet in things you normally enjoy, you may have depression.  

Depression is a serious mood disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, anger, loss, and frustration that interfere with your everyday life for an extended period of time.          

Signs and Symptoms

  • Agitation, restlessness, and irritability 
  • Dramatic change in appetite, often with weight gain or loss
  • Extreme difficulty concentrating 
  • Fatigue and lack of energy 
  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness 
  • Feelings of worthlessness, self-hate, and inappropriate guilt 
  • Inactivity and withdrawal from usual activities, a loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed (such as sex) 
  • Thoughts of death or suicide 
  • Trouble sleeping or excessive sleeping  


 Depression is different for everyone. There is no single cause for it, and its onset and development are influenced by a complex variety of contributing factors which depend on the person. 
Potential contributing factors include:  

  • Other disorders – such as posttraumatic stress disorder, social phobia, and other anxiety disorders 
  • Other chronic medical illnesses- such as diabetes, cancer, hiv/aids, and celiac disease, hypothyroidism 
  • Substance abuse/dependence – research has revealed a “pervasive” link between alcohol /drug abuse and depression
  • Environmental – such as a difficult relationship, a significant loss (job, death), financial problems, social isolation, major life event (a big move, a disruption in family life), feeling like a situation is out of your control, feeling constantly overwhelmed by stress/pressure, experiencing a trauma (sexual assault, robbery, etc.) 
  • Psychological – pessimism, low self-esteem, easily overwhelmed by stress 
  • Genetic – if depression runs in your family, you may be more likely to develop it from an external stress, trauma, or loss
  • Biochemical – neurochemical factors can play a role in the development and continuation of depression.    

Common Misconceptions

1. Myth: Depression isn’t a serious condition.

Fact: Depression is a serious clinical disorder. It’s characterized by a complex convergence of biological, environmental, and circumstantial factors, which can vary depending on the individual. Regardless of the causes, this is a debilitating disorder, and requires treatment. 

2. Myth: “I’ll get over it.”

Fact: Letting depression go untreated can actually exacerbate the episode, making it last longer.  

3. Myth: “I’ll be like this forever." 

Fact: With effective treatment, you can find relief and recovery. Visit the Rice Counseling Center to talk to someone or get more information on the resources available with the campus resources guide

When Should I Be Concerned?

Getting over something takes time. Sometimes it’s difficult to figure out whether or not someone’s just going through a tough period and will recover after a few days, or whether these lingering feelings indicate that she’s sunk into a state of serious depression.  

Even though the exact indicators of depression vary depending on the individual, the severity, frequency, and duration of depression symptoms are good indicators for signaling a potential depression, or the potential for developing into a depression.  

 Depression involves a noticeable change in functioning that persists for two weeks or longer. For instance, if someone’s sleeping for 10 hours a day and still doesn’t have the energy to complete everyday tasks, or begins to increasingly withdraw from classes and/or social functions, then his feelings are interfering with his everyday life and he needs to get help.  

Coping with depression

  • Seek professional help. The most effective way to treat your depression is through professional healthcare, usually through therapy, medication, or a combination of both. Contact the Counseling Center to set up an appointment. (link)  
  • Surround yourself with support. Be open and honest about your depression with friends who can listen and support you. Consider also talking with a member of your college personnel whom you trust, such as a college master or RA, or a counselor from the Counseling Center    
  • Ask someone to check in with you regularly – ask someone you trust, who knows you well, such as a family member, friend, or member of the college personnel team, to make sure you’re doing okay on a regular basis. 
  • Relax – practice relaxation techniques regularly to help reduce stress and calm yourself down, such as meditation, a hot bath, quiet leisure time, acupuncture, etc. Contact the Wellness Center to set up a massage or acupuncture appointment - at a discounted rate for students! 
  •  Exercise regularly – find a type of exercise that you enjoy, and engage in it regularly. Consider getting an exercise “buddy” to keep you on track. 
  • Stick to healthy habits – maintain other healthy habits consistently to ensure that other aspects of your wellbeing are intact, such as getting at least 8 hours of sleep, eating a nutritious diet, etc. For nutrition and fitness tips, check out our links.  
  • Know your stressors and how to avoid/minimize them – figure out areas of your life that are contributing to your feelings of anxiety, stress, or anger, and how to reduce or minimize their impact on your daily life. Potential stressors include work, classes, relationships, an overload of pressure, lifestyle, or environment.  
  • Find ways to stay positive – watch a funny movie, find a way to make yourself laugh, embrace challenges as opportunities, re-think negatives as positives, write down your negative thoughts to “contain” them in a space.    


1. I think I have depression, but I don’t feel comfortable talking with a counselor. What should I do? 

Even if you think that you can manage the symptoms on your own, it never hurts to seek help early for more support, advice, and tips on coping with your anxiety. Consider talking with someone you trust, like a close friend, member of the college personnel team, or RHA, about any issues you’re struggling with. If you’re exhibiting some of the symptoms of a depression, consider the intensity, duration, and frequency of the symptoms before you write off going to a counselor. If any or all of these factors are significant, then you should consider talking with someone from the Counseling Center to figure out better ways to address it.

2. I’m experiencing some of the signs and symptoms of depression, but not enough that I feel I need to seek professional help. What should I do?

If you’re not ready or comfortable talking with someone from the Counseling Center, consider talking with someone you trust, such as a close friend, college master, RA, RHA, or faculty mentor. They may be able to help guide you to appropriate resources.
 If you’re afraid that going to the Counseling Center implies that you’re “weak,” or “crazy,” feel reassured that this an incorrect perception. In fact, the majority of people who use the Counseling Center have very typical college concerns which have become burdensome. Also, seeking counseling is actually seen as a sign of strength, not weakness.

3. How do I tell my friends about my depression?

What and how you tell your friends about your depression is completely up to you. However, make sure you know the parameters of the information you choose to divulge before having the conversation, whether that concerns addressing your symptoms, struggles, and/or treatment, etc. Consider asking a close friend to check in with you regularly about how you’re doing with managing your depression.

4. I think one of my friends has depression, what should I do now?  

Please note: If your friend is in immediate danger or having an urgent health crisis, don’t hesitate to call RUPD at 713-348-6000.

Having a conversation with a friend about your concerns can be hard. For tips on ways to approach the conversation, check out the “Get Help for a friend” link. If you’re still unsure about how to have an effective conversation, consider contacting the Counseling Center. A staff member can help you figure out better ways to talk with your friend based on your specific situation. If you’re uncomfortable speaking with someone from the Counseling Center, start with a trusted mentor or adult in your life, such as a member of the college personnel team.

5. How do I deal with my depression in my everyday life?

Clinical depression is often most effectively treated by a healthcare professional, through therapy, medication, or a combination of both. To get help or talk to someone, contact the Counseling Center. For more suggestions for ways to cope with depression, see our “Coping with Depression” section on this page. Please keep in mind that these are only suggestions, and are not a substitute for professional help or medical advice. In addition, if you’ve tried these suggestions for a period of time and they don’t seem to be alleviating your depression symptoms, consider talking with a counselor from the Counseling Center to figure out better ways to address your depression issues.


 Rice Counseling Center
In two locations: 1) the Barbara & David Gibbs Recreation & Wellness Center Building.  We are in the first floor of the Administration Wing directly behind the building signage. 2)The Morton L. Rich Health Service Center( Located next to the Brown Masters House).
713-348-4867 (24 hr)
Provides consultation and therapy support.

Student Wellbeing Office
Located in the Gibbs Wellness Center
You can schedule an appointment to talk with a Wellbeing Counselor who can help you and provide you with resources for change.

Liao, Allen. “Culture of Care extends to aiding peers with mental health issues.” 11 Febr 2011. The Rice Thresher.

Recommended Reading:
Williams, Mark. The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness. New York: Guilford Press, 2007.
Kramer, Peter D. Listening to Prozac: The Landmark Book About Antidepressants and the Remaking of the Self, Revised Edition. New York: Penguin Books, 1997.
These and many other related books, are available in the Wellness Center Library for students to check out at no charge. To check out our collection of books and other useful resources, including videos, brochures and more, drop by the Wellness Center. In the meantime, visit our link to view our lending library: 


 “Dealing with Depression.” 

“Depression.” Research. Social Work Policy Institute. 26 Jan 2010.

“Depression.” National Mental Health Alliance.

Groho, John M., PsycD. “Depression.” PsychCentral. 8 Sept 2006.

“Major Depression.” PubMedHealth.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. “Common Misconceptions about Depression.” PsychCentral. Mar 1 2010.
“What Causes Depression?” Psychology Today. Yapko, Michael, 2007.