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More than a feeling

April 29, 2010

by Taylor Stephens

She takes picture after picture, but each one looks the same. As she begins to feel frustrated and annoyed, she loses all motivation and confidence in herself completely.

Still unfulfilled with her work, she begrudgingly drags herself to the dim basement of the Visual Arts Center hoping to find a photo she is happy with, but to no avail. Her depression has gotten the better of her, and she decides to avoid turning her assignment in all together.

Brooklyn Bain is a perfectionist, which, as a junior photography major, is key to creating good work, but since she suffers from an acute case of depression and bipolar disorder, being a perfectionist can sometimes be a burden.

Her work regularly takes her to the dimly-lit first floor of the VAC, which houses the dark room and photography lab.

“If there’s nobody there, I don’t want to stay and work because it’s depressing being all alone in there,” Bain said. “It feels like a dungeon.”

This unwillingness to be alone in confined spaces is one of the main contributing factors that cause an unwarranted amount of stress in college students nationwide. Other factors include a large academic demand after leaving high school, preparing and dealing with financial responsibilities and the exposure to new people, ideas and temptations.

Bain suffers from a common problem among college-aged students in America: cyclothymia.
Cyclothymia, unlike most depression and bipolar disorders, is not as noticeable to the naked eye. People who suffer from cyclothymia are almost always fully functional in society and sometimes display a sense of hyper-activity.

However, Bain is not alone. This type of acute depression and bipolar disorder is prevalent in nearly 121 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, and touches nearly 15 percent of college students, according to the University of Michigan Health System.

After being put on a trial basis with an SSRI, which is a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor, Bain now takes a dime-sized pill that allows her brain to put out enough serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that helps pass nerve impulses from one nerve cell to the next, to allow her to stay balanced since chemical reactions in her brain prevent a large amount of serotonin to
flow.

Serotonin can be considered a “happy” hormone because it has a large influence over a person’s well-being. It also helps to regulate moods, temper, anxiety and relieve depression. It also plays an important role in regulating such things as aggression, appetite and sexuality. Serotonin has also been labeled as nature’s sleep aid.

According to Joseph Carver, a clinical psychologist whose blogs have helped many seek the help they need, low serotonin can result in chronic fatigue, sleep disturbance, appetite disturbance, social withdrawal, emotional sadness, low self-esteem and confidence and a loss of personality. He also said in his blog that low serotonin can be a genetic chemical imbalance received from mothers and fathers.

Bain and her three sisters can attest to that, since each of them suffers from some form of depression, though none as prevalent as their mother.

“There are several types of depression or bipolar disorders,” Bain said. “I’m not completely bipolar or depressed, but my mother is. My mood is constantly going up and down, but it’s really not major.”

Bain said if she would have known there are different signs and symptoms of depression, she would have gotten herself checked out sooner.

“The symptoms were there in high school, but I didn’t really get diagnosed until about five months ago,” Bain said. “Things just seemed to be getting worse. I never really thought I was depressed or bipolar because my symptoms aren’t major.”

She said there was not a specific turning point that made her want to go to a doctor to get diagnosed, rather she just seemed to get more and more depressed.

Tony Young, an associate professor of psychology, said a lot of depression and anxiety, besides the obvious chemical imbalance, stems from a surplus of information received through the constantly-increasing amounts of technology.

“We are given so much information today,” Young said. “We are feeding ourselves so much more information of all kinds. Information is so readily available and almost unavoidable.”

Young said adolescents in the ’30s and ’40s would have been oblivious to the news of the Great Depression because information would take weeks and sometimes months to circulate, but the youth of today hear constantly about the falling and rising of the economy, even if they do not intentionally seek out the information. This is why, Young said, each year as more and more information is disseminated, the percentage of young people suffering with acute and sometimes more severe depression and bipolar disorder is on the rise.

Bain said she does not have many problems with making and keeping friends, but in relationships, others have a harder time coping with her thought process.

“In my last relationship, the main problem was that he didn’t understand what I was going through,” Bain said. “He knew I was depressed, but he didn’t understand how a person-even if they’re depressed-how they can just not get stuff done that they should be getting done.”

Bain said at first, like many other college students in America, she did not think she had depression or bipolar disorder. She believed only people who had severe symptoms like her mother has were truly depressed or bipolar.

“You can still get out of bed, and you can still function somewhat normally in society,” Bain said. “But you could still have depression or bipolar disorder.”

The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill believes parents should teach their children and teenagers to know ahead of time what depression can be and what can happen if untreated. The organization said it is much healthier for parents to keep an open dialogue throughout young adulthood and make their kids feel as comfortable as possible with the prospect of speaking to a counselor.

Bain said after being diagnosed she has seen an improvement in the way she thinks and feels. Recently her SSRI dosage was increased, and she is hoping to see even more of an improvement.

“In order to get diagnosed and get help, you have to go talk to a counselor, and I was very against going to talk to somebody,”
Bain said. “I wasn’t really comfortable with the idea, but finally, I realized that if I wanted to fix this I was going to have to talk to somebody.”

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