Depression is Common among College Students

It’s common for college students to feel depressed. Now, when I say depression, I mean anything from just feeling down to feeling so depressed you can’t get out of bed. It’s important to know that feeling sad is a part of life. Feeling significant depression doesn’t have to be, however. Everyone gets down from time to time, but depression is different (Related Article: What Is The Difference Between Sadness And Depression). So, if you are feeling down, know that others feel that way too. They might be able to help you if you reach out.

Depression Versus Sadness

What’s the difference between the two? Well, one of the differences is that sadness can be situational. If you just broke up with your girlfriend, you might feel sad. It might last for a few days or weeks. However, if that sadness turns into depression, you might find it lasting longer and stopping you from functioning in life. Depression seems to be a deeper feeling and can be longer lasting (Related Article: What Is Depression?). It might also show up when there doesn’t seem to be a reason to feel it. Sometimes it’s the weather and time of year that causes you to feel depressed (Related Article: Seasonal Affective Disorder). But, wether it’s the time of year or a situation that has you feeling down, there is help. It doesn’t matter if its sadness or depression they both hurt and are uncomfortable.

Signs of Depression

There are several signs of depression (Related Article: Depression Counseling: Surprising Symptoms You May Miss). First, a lack of interest in things you used to enjoy. Second, anger and irritability. Third, lack of energy. Fourth, impulsive decisions. It’s important to know what to look for in yourself or your partner (Related Article: Supporting Your Partner Through Depression). Adjusting to college life can be difficult and with that comes discomfort. Knowing if its turning into depression can help you reach out when needed.

Get Help For Depression

One of the best things you can do when feeling down or depressed is to get help. Try talking with a partner, parent, sibling, roommate, Church leader or friend. Meeting with a trained counselor for depression has been shown to be effective as well (Related Article: Help With Depression). Whatever you do, don’t keep it to yourself. Reach out to those who love you and can help.

Written by Dr Triston Morgan, PhD, LMFT. Utah Valley Marriage and Family Therapist

Anxiety is Common for College Students

Going to school at a university is stressful. Its hard moving out, entering your 20’s, and trying to be social and date. Add on top of that the stress of college level classes and expectations. It’s no wonder that anxiety is common for college age students. You have probably felt this yourself as you navigate this time of life. Part of the problem, however, is that anxiety is often left un addressed and untreated. Most people who suffer from it try to deal with it on their own. Counseling in Utah can be helpful and effective (Related Article: How Counseling Can Help Your Anxiety). I will outline several tips for dealing with anxiety that I teach my college aged clients here in Utah Valley.

Talk With Others About Your Anxiety

Simply talking with others about your anxiety is a good first step. It won’t solve it, but will certainly let others be there for you. Dealing with anxiety at college on your own is a recipe for more stress. So, let others know about your stress around dating (Related Article: Counseling For Dating Anxiety), classes, being social, your roommate and money. Chances are they are going through it as well. Or, they might have gone through it earlier in their life and might offer good suggestions. The point is, you aren’t alone and others can be there for you. Open up to them.

Do More Of What You Love

Try doing more of what you love in life. Often, when you start college you get bogged down in school. You become unbalanced. So, try doing more of what you like to do – what you used to to for fun. If you are into D&D, don’t give it up. Start a group. If you are into sports, make sure you play on a team or for fun. Even if you are busy with school, you can’t afford to not do things for fun. It makes you a better student.

Try Counseling Or Medications for Anxiety

One of the best things you can do for your anxiety while at college is to get professional help. Try counseling or medications for anxiety. Counselors are trained to help in ways that your friends or family can’t. Often, the best combination of anxiety treatment involves talk therapy and medication (Related Article: If I Take Mental Health Medications, Should I Start Individual Therapy?). In therapy for anxiety you will learn coping skills, ways to recognize anxiety and how to reach out to others. You will improve you emotional capacity to handle the difficult of school and your social life (Related Articles: Emotions 101: How To Be Healthy and 3 Principles of Emotional Health).

My Experience As An Anxiety Counselor In Utah Valley

I have been offering mental health counseling for college students in Utah Valley for 2 decades. I have helped them overcome anxiety (Related Article: Anxiety), depression, poor academic performance, pornography issues and problem with dating/social life. This is one of my specialties as a marriage and family therapist in Utah.

Written by Dr Triston Morgan, PhD, LMFT.

What do you do when your young adult child is struggling in Utah Valley? At this point, parenting is different. You don’t have the same influence over them that you used to. They don’t seem to listen and don’t think you have all the answers anymore. Not like when they were young. It’s difficult to know what to do to help them when they continue to make bad choices. Here are two things to consider that will help you help them (Related Article: How To Help A Struggling College Student With Mental Health).

Mental Health for Young Adults

Your young adult child might be open to talking about their mental health. It might not be now, but they will eventually be open to it if they trust you. So, be trustworthy. Talk with them about all aspects of their life – whats going well, not just whats going poorly. If they think you are just trying to fix them or talk to them about what they need to do better, they won’t trust you. You can talk with them about depression and anxiety when it seems to come up. However, it’s important to also talk with theme about what they enjoy and are having fun with – or want to be doing. Make it a safe relationship with them by being genuinely interested in all aspects of their life.

Be Open About Your Struggles As Well

Be open about your struggles with mental health, relationships or work with your child as well. This normalizes you and models for them how to work through it. Some conventional approaches to parenting tell you to not show any weakness. However, open up! Share with your young adult child that sometimes you don’t want to go to work. Or, that sometimes you feel down. It can be relieving to them that you aren’t perfect. They can start to see you and what you are doing in your life differently. They might be able to connect with you better. This helps create a safe place for them to be imperfect in front of you.

Counseling for Young Adults in Utah Valley

I have been a counselor for young adults in Utah Valley for almost two decades. They need help and need someone that is courageous enough to point them in that direction. My counseling office is in Orem. You can check out my other clinic as well – The Center for Couples and Families.

Written by Dr Triston Morgan, PhD, LMFT

Helping your young adult son or daughter when they are at college or are college aged is difficult. Knowing when to intervene and when to let them try can be difficult. I will outline several key principles to helping them as they grow into adulthood (Related Article: How Do I Help My Child Transition Into Adulthood).

Talk With Them About Anything

First, talk with them about anything they are going through. If you only reach out when you think they are struggling then they might not want to pick up the phone or respond to your texts. So, talk with them about what is going well and what they are interested in. Not just what you think they are struggling with. For example, you might ask them about the game they like to play online, or their friends you know about. You could ask them how going to the basketball game went, even. It’s important to have a relationship with them that doesn’t just revolve around them struggling.

Ask Your College Student About Their Mental Health

Simply ask them about their mental health. They are probably more open to talking about it than you are. Ask them what their experience with depression or anxiety is. Ask them about pornography use or going to class. After you ask, hold emotional space for them to tell you about what they are going through (Related Article: Hold Emotional Space For Your Spouse). Don’t try to ‘fix’ them and tell them what to do. Instead, ask questions that allow them to tell you more. You want to understand, not turn into their boss (Related Article: How To Communicate Effectively: Avoid These Two Marriage Communication Problems).

Get Them Help If They Need It

Offer to your young adult child that you can help them get professional help if needed. Even if they don’t take you up on the offer, let them know that its an option. Again, they are probably more open to talking about mental health issues that young adults from 20-30 years ago. So, don’t be afraid to open up and offer help. A trained counselor can help your young adult with depression, anxiety, addiction, problems with school or being social.

Individual Counseling For A Struggling College Student in Utah Valley

Over the last several decades, I have successfully worked with struggling young adults. I am on many insurance panels and am happy to talk with you about your situation to see if we are a fit.

Written by Dr Triston Morgan, PhD, LMFT

Pornography is an avoidance issue. There are some who believe that using pornography is about sex. I have had clients tell me over the years that, ‘I used to use porn, but that was just because we weren’t having sex. It was just a sex thing’. Many clients believe that this is the case. It is important to note that this simply is not true.

Pornography use releases dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is designed to feel good and help reward us for certain behaviors. Riding a bike, looking at a sunset, getting a good grade, eating good food – are all among the things that might release dopamine. Masturbation and orgasm release dopamine as well. When you use pornography, which is usually accompanied by masturbation and orgasm, you release more dopamine that your body is designed to take and it feels really good. People often use pornography when they are sad, tired, hungry, bored, etc… When these two things are paired, for example – being bored and then feeling better through dopamine through pornography use, an attachment is made. In the future, your body remembers that it can not feel bored if it uses pornography and gets dopamine. This then happens again and again and an addiction to avoiding boredom (or insert another uncomfortable emotion) is born.

Even if pornography use seems to be paired with not getting sex from your spouse, its still more about the loneliness you feel because of a lack of sex than the actual sex. You use because you are lonely, not because you are undersexed.

In therapy, a counselor who understands these principles will help you to build your emotional muscles so that you are not avoiding uncomfortable emotions. Rather, they will help you embrace them.

One of the most common phrases I hear as a couples therapist in Orem is ‘I feel like…’. This is often paired with ‘I feel that…’. Both of these phrases are very misleading in regard to relationships and communication. Many couples I work with in therapy will start talking about their marriage problems by saying something such as, “I feel like he doesn’t care”. This is usually followed by defensiveness from him where he would say, “I do care!”. He then explains why he does care. The problem with the ‘I feel like…’ statement is that it sounds like you are talking about your emotions because you used the word ‘feel’. The problem is that you followed it up with ‘like’. This turns it into a thought rather than an emotion or feeling. Instead of talking about your feelings you are talking about your thoughts and they are usually blaming or at least focused on others rather than yourself. This is, seemingly, a safer place emotionally to be – talking about others instead of yourself. But it doesn’t get a relationship anywhere and you don’t improve your attachment as a couple by doing this. It comes across as trying to be the expert on or the boss of your partner – and that rarely goes well.

As a couple’s counselor, what I suggest is to try to recognize when you say either of those phrases, (1) ‘I feel like…’ or (2) ‘I feel that…’. Ask yourself, then, if you are trying to describe your emotions or thoughts. If you are trying to describe what you feel then drop the ‘like’ or the ‘that’ and just say, ‘I feel _______’. Use one feeling word such as hurt, scared, betrayed, etc… Then you can describe this emotion more fully if you want – but keep it about you, not what you think about your partner. If you are trying to describe and thought then change your phrasing to (1) ‘It seems like…’ or (2) ‘I think that…’.

This isn’t going to fix everything, but will point you in the right direction and save you from some of your fighting as a couple.

Triston Morgan, PhD, is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Orem Utah.

Anger is a secondary emotion. A secondary emotion is one that covers up what you are really feeling. For example, if you are feeling hurt because of a recent break up with a significant other, it’s easy to also feel angry. Anger, a secondary emotion, comes along and covers up that hurt, the primary emotion. This often happens because when you are breaking up with a significant other there is a part of you that is afraid of being hurt more than you already have. So instead of going to them and telling them, ‘I’m really hurt and sad that we are breaking up’, you might get angry and post something mean about them on social media, or talk badly about them to your friends. This is in an effort to protect yourself from getting hurt more than you have been. If I share my hurt with them they could hurt me even more because I am vulnerable. So, you are acting angry, but what you are really feeling is hurt. The trick is to notice when you are angry and ask yourself, ‘What am I really feeling?’. Because it’s not anger. Then you will be able to find out what is really going on, emotionally (which can be very different from what you are thinking). Knowing what you are feeling allows you to deal with the pain instead of pushing it down or aside and having it blow up later in an unhealthy manner. Pick up the hurt and feel it. Then you will be able to do something with it that is healthy.

When it comes to your relationship problems, early intervention is best – however, intervention at any point can still be helpful. Many couples come to therapy years after they probably needed to in the first place. I find that when couples wait it is more difficult to make changes and a lot of damage is done or at least unhealthy patterns already set. I often hear from each spouse that they have been struggling for decades. We work in therapy to undo patterns and habits that have been formed over long periods of time. It is possible to change the ways that couples interact. The sad thing about it is that they have lost a lot of time and also grieve for what could have been if they had sought help earlier. Some souses wait until their partner is ready to go to counseling. This can often be difficult as well because it keeps the willing spouse out of getting help they need – at least individually. My suggestion in this case, when one spouse is willing and the other is not, is for the willing partner to start their own therapy and hopefully the other will join. At least one partner is getting help. Eventually, the other might join. No need to wait, however, to start getting the help you need.

Triston Morgan is a couples counselor in Orem, Utah. He is a PhD, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and has been helping couples heal for close to two decades.

Transitioning from adolescence to young adulthood is difficult. You usually don’t want to be told what to do – and most likely aren’t reading this article. But parents of young adults might be because you are struggling to help your child grow and figure out how to navigate life away from the nest. Depression, anxiety, pornography, drug use, issues with school or work and issues with significant others are among many difficulties young adults face during that transition from high school to college or from serving a Church mission to being back in college. Over the years, as a counselor in Orem, Utah, I’ve noticed a few things that parents do who successfully help their child navigate this period. First, they give them space. Your child is going to make mistakes. Giving them space to do so shows that you trust them and honor their ‘adulthood’. This doesn’t mean, however, that you run the other way and cut them off. They need a safe place to come back to, in a consultative manner. They still need you to be there so they can process what is going on. They might not come right away, but they do come eventually. Make yourself available and reach out to them. You can’t force them to share, but you can invite them. You can say to them, ‘You might not want to talk, but just know that I am here for you and I care about you. I’m happy to listen if you want to share’. Second, they create emotional safety. When your child does share with you, you want to ‘hold emotional space’ for them by accepting, validating and reflecting what they are saying rather than telling them what to do. You might not agree with what they are doing or saying, but telling them they are wrong and then telling them what to do will close the door of them sharing at all. You want to help them figure things out rather than force them to think the way you do. You can, for example, validate the emotions they feel rather than the actions they are doing. Saying, ‘I can see that breaking up has really been painful for you’, rather than, ‘Stopping going to church just because you broke up isn’t going to help. You just need to keep going’ can be helpful. You might not agree with their choices/actions, but you can certainly empathize and understand their emotions (that then led to certain actions).

Many couples that come in to see me for counseling are dealing with the devastating effects of an affair or infidelity. There is a process that usually happens as things unfold. For the sake of this article, I will assume that it is the male partner who has had the affair, although this certainly is not always the case. When couples come in they are still, often, in the discovery phase. She is continuing to learn about what he has done or at the least she worries and fears that there is more than what she knows. He seems contrite and sorry to a degree and willing to go to therapy. After talking, it usually seems that there is more to it that what has been discovered or disclosed. Sometimes for women, they are having a hard time dealing with the shock and betrayal. I notice at this time that they are also dealing with fear of losing him. For some women they seem as if they are mad, hurt and afraid. That fear keeps them from really sharing their feelings about what has happened. There can be desperation at this point too. Sometimes they try to win or keep their husband because they realize that he has gone out and has been with or still is with someone else. There is an element of competition, perhaps. This can be very difficult because to her, it seems as if she isn’t able to fully embrace and share her feelings because if she did, he would get upset and leave for good. Over time, he gradually, as my experience with couples has shown, opens up more and shares more details about what he has done or is doing. As the couple works through therapy, it becomes safer to talk about these emotions and she does. For male partner, this can be surprising, and he often states that ‘I thought we were doing fine, where did this come from?’. This is because she hasn’t felt safe enough with him to share it before, but after working through some of the issue they face, she has felt more secure and stable in the relationship – so she shares more of the hurt or betrayal that she is feeling because she isn’t afraid that it will end their relationship. It’s important to understand that this is a normal part of the process of healing. A good couple’s therapist will be able to help a couple navigate the different stages of healing after an affair.

I’m currently accepting new clients in my Orem Utah counseling center office. Call me at 801-215-9581

Written by Dr Triston Morgan, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

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