by 105 student
Have anxiety and depression affected your college experience? Of course, most of us have felt a tinge of ennui on a cloudy winter day, moped after a breakup, or cried and pulled out a few hairs studying for finals. But the effects of depression and anxiety disorders can be a serious detriment to college performance.
In the year 2000, 76% of college students reportedly felt “overwhelmed” and 22% were unable to function as a result of their depression (American College Health Association, 2001). Major depressive disorder is characterized by extremely low moods, a sense of worthlessness and lack of interest or enjoyment in typically pleasurable or rewarding activities (Myers, 2006).
Recent studies connecting decreased cravings for pleasure to loss of interest or pleasure in rewarding activities could help to explain poor academic performance of depressed college students. Depressed college students may be less likely to work for grade-oriented rewards.
In one of these studies, participants played a video game involving a hard button-pressing task and an easier button-pressing task to obtain a greater or lesser monetary reward. Participants were informed of the probability of winning the reward before completing the task and then were allowed to choose which tasks they completed. Researchers observed that participants with symptoms of depression (loss of pleasure in activities) were less likely to attempt the harder task for a larger reward, especially if there was a lower probability of winning the reward.
The age range of the typical college student, 15-24, is included in the age group of individuals most likely to have major depressive disorder (Blazer, Kessler, McGonangle, & Swartz, 1994). Among college students, an increase in levels of depression has been expressly related to an increase in levels of college stress (Dyson & Renk, 2006; MacGeorge et al., 2005). Stressors in college can include academic requirements and the transition from home to college life (Ross, Neibling, & Heckert, 1999). New research from the University of Michigan shows that college students with depression are twice as likely as their peers to drop out of school. Symptoms of loss of interest and/or pleasure in activities were shown to be related to lower grade point averages. Students with both depression and anxiety showed especially poor performance in school.
Anxiety disorders are characterized by constant, severe anxiety and tension, whose causes are not always identifiable (Myers, 2006). Recent studies show that anxious students have more difficulty avoiding distraction and alternating attention from one task to another than less anxious students. The research also demonstrated that while those with anxiety can do as well as those without, they could only do this with greater effort and in some cases, long term stress.
American College Health Association. (2001). National College Health Assessment: Reference group report, Spring 2000. Baltimore: Author.
Blazer, D. G., Kessler, R. C., McGonangle, K. A., & Swartz, M. S. (1994). The prevalence and distribution of major depressive disorder in a national community sample: The National Comorbidity Study. Comprehensive Psychology, 35, 130-140
Dyson, R., & Renk, K. (2006). Freshman adaptation to university life: Depressive symptoms, stress, and coping. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62, 1231-1244.
Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) (2009, June 26). Anxiety’s Hidden Cost In Academic Performance. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 14, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2009/06/090623090713.htm
Myers, David G. Psychology Eighth Edition in Modules. New York: Worth, 2006.
Ross, S. E., Neibling, B. C., & Heckert, T. M. (1999). Sources of stress among college students. College Student Journal, 33, 312-317.
University of Michigan (2009, July 7). Students With Depression Twice As Likely To Drop Out Of College. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 14, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2009/07/090706161302.htm
Vanderbilt University (2009, August 16). Worth The Effort? Not If You’re Depressed. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 14, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2009/08/090812181437.htm