Health and Counseling Services

Division of Student Services

Mental Health Online Resources

One excellent online resource for college students is  Transition Year. This website was developed by the Jed Foundation, a national organization that, in partnership with the American Psychiatric Foundation, works to promote emotional health in college students. Transition Year has a wealth of information about a variety of different issues affecting college students, such as adjusting to life at college, mental health issues, stress, helping a friend, and student life.

For specific topics see:

ADHD

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder impacts children and may persist into adulthood. The primary symptoms are inattentiveness, impulsivity, hyperactivity, and distractibility. While it is most often diagnosed in childhood, in some cases it may not be picked up until later in life when people have difficulties with organization, inhibition, and focus.

There is no single diagnostic test for ADHD; a detailed history should be taken by a qualified mental health professional. There is a genetic component to ADHD, so a family history is also relevant. In some cases, a psychological assessment may be warranted, which will enable a psychologist to gain additional information about the way someone thinks and processes information, and whether there are other co-existing mental health issues that may be impacting their functioning. While the HCC does not currently do these assessments in house, our clinicians would be happy to provide information about how to obtain an assessment in the community.

Treatment for ADHD may involve medications that can help to increase concentration and reduce symptoms of hyperactivity. However, there are other interventions that may be helpful such as organizational coaching and meeting with a therapist to develop strategies to improve functioning.

It is important to remember that there are many causes of inattention and difficulties with organization and focus. Meeting with a mental health professional can help sort out whether ADHD is part of the picture or if there are other causes.

To learn more about ADHD visit the Attention Deficit Disorder Association

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Anxiety

Everyone has experienced feelings of fear, worry, or anxiety in their lifetimes. While some experience of stress is normal, in some cases the anxiety can be intense and debilitating. Anxiety can also have physical effects that can be difficult to manage.

Physical symptoms of anxiety can include a racing heart, shallow breathing, sweating, trembling, muscle tension, stomach pains, diarrhea, sleep difficulties, and nausea. Emotional responses can include senses of panic or dread, irritability, difficulties with concentration, and a sense of internal desperation.

Many different circumstances can trigger anxiety, and the feelings that result can vary widely in nature. Common sources of anxiety include social situations, difficulties in relationships, tests and exams, or speaking in class. However, in some cases anxiety can be about nothing identifiable. This is sometimes known as free floating anxiety, or anxiety that attaches itself to something you know on a rational level you are not really so anxious about. Anxiety can come in waves, or it can come in intense episodes that can be experienced as extreme panic. Anxiety can also lead people to do thing in particular ways to minimize their fears, or to have certain thoughts that make them additionally anxious. The experience of anxiety varies widely and may also change over time.

Anxiety is a normal part of life and is part of a healthy instinctual “flight or fight” system, but there are times when it can be problematic. If anxiety is interfering with major life activities, such as school, work, social life, or sleep, then it is time to take action.

Feel free to make an appointment with a counselor at the HCC if you feel that anxiety is negatively impacting your life.

For more information about anxiety, its types, causes, and treatment, visit the Mayo Clinic or the Anxiety Disorders Association of America.
See also our Online Relaxation Audio Tapes.

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Body Image

Body image is the way in which we perceive our bodies. This includes how much time we spend thinking about our body’s appearance and the positive or negative valence we give to our perception of our bodies and the perceived perception of others.

In an ideal world, we would all have a positive body image. This means a real perception of our true size and shape, an appreciation for the way we look, and a healthy feeling of being in our bodies. A positive body image can entail a celebration of our bodies and a knowledge that a person’s appearance has very little to do with personality or value as a person. However, many people have a negative body image. This can be influenced by many different factors and may involve distress, anxiety, or shame about the way one looks and  negative comparisons to others, which can lead to low self-esteem, unhappiness, or depression and eating disorders. A negative body image may entail a sense of one’s body as bad or ugly, a distorted sense of how one’s body really looks and a sense of discomfort or awkwardness in one’s skin.

How can you turn a negative body image into a positive body image? Learning to love how you feel in your body and how to love what you see in the mirror can start with some deliberate steps:

  • Stop comparing yourself to others.
  • Connect with your body in ways which feel good. Use it for walking, swimming, dancing, yoga, or other movement that you enjoy.
  • Remember your relationship with your body at a time when you felt good about it: being a child playing in the park or spinning around with your arms thrown out, hugging a loved one
  • Realize that you cannot change your body type. Learn to love and respect what you have.
  • Stop weighing yourself or looking critically in the mirror and stay away from negative body talk with others. Choose to opt out of actions that make you feel bad. Instead surround yourself with people and activities that nurture you.
  • Notice your automatic negative thoughts and statements about yourself. Focus on what you love about yourself and treat your body as you would treat your best friend.
  • Think about your body as a whole instead of focusing on parts of your body.
  • Recognize that judging people on the basis of their body shape is similar to judging people on the basis of the color of their skin, their age, or their gender. Assuming that body shape determines attractiveness, personality, and success is unfair, untrue, and unjust. Try to combat discrimination where possible.
  • Take care of yourself. Get support when you need it and talk to the people you love about your feelings. See a counselor. Think about and do the things that you enjoy and find relaxing or spiritually rewarding. Feeling good on the inside is the key to feeling good on the outside.

For more information, visit the following websites:
Body Image
Love your body day!

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Breakups

How does one deal with the end of a relationship? Breakups can be incredibly hard. Most people, regardless of age, remember vividly the pain and heartache of their first breakup. It is impossible to prepare for the blow of losing such an important connection with another person, and as a culture we have few established rituals to manage this difficult period. The grief of loss may be intolerable and there is often a sense that it will never remit. Inherent in the bond of intimacy with another is a willingness to be vulnerable, and the break of that intimate and vulnerable relationship can be devastating. Most people are unprepared for the variety of feelings experienced in the process.

Healing from a relationship breakup generally takes time. Give yourself time to feel your emotions. You may feel anger, sadness, disbelief, fear, guilt, confusion, disorientation, self-blame, and relief, sometimes all at the same time.

When you experience a painful break-up, remember to do the following:

  • Allow yourself the time to grieve and feel the emotions that you experience. Denying your feelings or cutting yourself off from your experience may make it feel easier in the short term but will only prolong the pain. Be kind to yourself.
  • Recognize that most people experience painful breakups in their lives. People may feel like the pain will never end, or that they will never have another relationship again, but this is not the case for the vast majority of people. Talk to friends and family about your experience and your feelings.
  • Take good care of yourself. Remember to nurture yourself and do things that allow you to have new, positive experiences. Recharge your body through exercise. Reflect on your spiritual awareness. Engage with nature. Engage your senses.
  • Connect with others. Very often, breakups also involve losing a best friend. This can make coping with relationship loss particularly difficult. Start opening up to new friends and new relationships with others. In the beginning it may feel like they don’t “measure up” to the old relationship, but give it time.
  • Give yourself a chance to renew. This may mean picking up a new interest or exploring different aspects of yourself. Many people discover that through the pain of a breakup, they find access to a new and exciting interest or a part of themselves that they wouldn’t have found otherwise. You may find this is an opportunity to do something you’ve always wanted to do. Being single offers you the opportunity to redirect that attention to yourself. Connect with areas of your life that may have been neglected as a result of the relationship.
  • Talk it over with someone. Friends, family a counselor at the HCC can all help you talk through your feelings and offer support when needed.

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Coming Out

Identifying yourself as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) is referred to as coming out. Coming out is a process which generally starts with coming out to yourself. Coming out includes both accepting one’s identity and sharing that identity with other people. It also is a process of acknowledging, accepting, and appreciating your identity. For some people, these aspects of coming out happen at once, while for others it is a longer process. Coming out can be a difficult time, as negative and discriminatory perceptions can shape others’ (or perhaps your own) values towards LGBTQ people. LGBTQ individuals are forced to come to terms with what it means to be different in a society that generally assumes everyone to be heterosexual and may judge differences from the norm in negative ways.

There is no correct way to come out. It is an individual process. Whether to come out is a decision that is uniquely personal. The questions of when, where, how, and to whom are all up to the individual and may have differing consequences from person to person. For some people the process starts when they are very young, and for others it may not happen until later life. Some people come out to most of their friends and family at one time, while other people spread it out over a period of months, maybe even years. There can be both positive and negative experiences involved in coming out, as well. Some of the positive outcomes may be increased self-esteem, a solid sense of self, integrity, and the relief of not having to hide such an important part of your life.

The HCC can support you through the challenges of coming out, wherever you are in the process. You may want to talk through your thoughts and feelings about your own sexuality, or you may want to discuss your thoughts and feelings about coming out in a supportive and collaborative environment.

For more information, visit the following websites: Human Rights Campaign
Coming Out Stories
Coming Out
Local LGBTQ Resources

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Cutting/Self-injury

“Self-injury is any deliberate, nonsuicidal behavior that inflicts physical harm on your body and is aimed at relieving emotional distress. Physical pain is often easier to deal with than emotional pain because it causes ‘real’ feelings. Injuries can prove to an individual that their emotional pain is real and valid. Self-injurious behavior may calm or awaken a person. Yet self-injury only provides temporary relief; it does not deal with the underlying issues. Self-injury can become a natural response to the stresses of day to day life and can escalate in frequency and severity.”

—Definition from FirstSigns

When people think of self-injury they often think of cutting, which is using razors or other sharp objects to make deep or shallow slices in their skin. Some people make cuts in hidden areas of their skin such as legs, stomach, or feet, while others will cut on their wrists or hands. However, self-injury also includes any kind of deliberate self-harm such as hair pulling, scratching, burning, branding, hitting, or biting. People often feel a range of emotions when engaging in self-injurious behavior and the self-harm is generally inflicted to lessen those emotions.

Self-injury results in physical injury but often also results in feelings of guilt or shame, which creates a hazardous cycle of distress. Because self-injury only provides temporary relief, it is important to find a way to alleviate the underlying problems that fuel the cycle of distress. It is possible to find alternative to self-injury for managing distressing feelings.

Counseling can help. Feel free to contact the HCC to make an appointment to talk with someone in a safe and supportive environment. Remember that you are not alone; self-injury is more common than you might think. Counselors are experienced in helping people deal with this behavior and they will support you through the process of healing, both inside and out.

For more information about self-injury, visit FirstSIGNS-UK.

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Depression

Depression is the most common mental illness in the nation. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depressive disorders affect about 20.9 million American adults, or about 9.5 percent of the US population aged 18 or older, in a given year. Depression involves all parts of a person, including the brain, the mind, and the body, often in complicated ways. Feeling sad or unhappy is not the same as depression; depression is a serious illness that can have a major impact on a person’s functioning and how a person navigates the world. It is usually not possible to “snap out” of depression. Treatment is recommended and effective and will also help to prevent, or lessen, recurring episodes of depression in the future.

The following are common symptoms of depression:

  • depressed mood for a duration of time longer than two weeks
  • lack of interest or pleasure in activities you usually enjoy
  • problems sleeping, either sleeping too much or too little
  • irritability
  • hopelessness
  • decreased energy or excessive tiredness
  • difficulty concentrating
  • eating more or less than usual
  • thoughts of suicide or not wanting to live
  • physical symptoms (headaches, digestive problems, aches and pains)

Many factors may cause depression. Genetic and biological factors are thought to play a role. However, it is also clear that environmental factors precipitate depression. For example, a death, breakup, or other significant life change can frequently trigger a depressive episode.

Psychotherapy is a very effective treatment for depression. When depression is severe, medication can be also a useful option and works best in conjunction with psychotherapy. Increased exercise is also a helpful adjunct to treatment. If you think you might be depressed, we encourage you to make an appointment with the HCC to meet with one of our counselors. They are all extensively trained and experienced in treating depression. If you are having suicidal thoughts, seek help as soon as possible. Remember, depression is very treatable.
For more information, visit the following websites:

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
The Transition Year

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Eating Disorders

“Eating Disorders are complex illnesses that usually develop from several interconnected factors. Long-standing behavioral, psychological, interpersonal, biological, and social conditions all play a role in eating disorders. Scientists and researchers are still learning about the underlying causes of these emotionally and physically damaging conditions. Eating disorders may start as a preoccupation with food and weight; however, they are most often about much more than food.”
—National Eating Disorders Association

Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation. Symptoms of anorexia may include consistently low body weight and an intense fear of gaining weight. People who suffer from anorexia may also have disturbances in the way they view their body, such as experiencing themselves as overweight even when their body weight is very low.

Bulimia Nervosa
Bulimia nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by a cycle of binge eating large quantities of food, followed by compensatory behaviors, such as self-induced vomiting, ingestion of laxatives, or exercise designed to undo or compensate for the effects of binge eating.

Treatment
There are many options regarding treatment for eating disorders. To be most effective, it is important that both the physical and psychological aspects of the disorder are treated. As a result, an integrated treatment approach is generally considered the best standard of care. Aspects of treatment typically involve psychotherapy, medical care, nutritional counseling, support groups, or residential treatment.

For more information, visit the following websites:
National Eating Disorders Association
Something Fishy

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Grief and Loss

The death of someone we love, such as a close friend or family member, is an event we all have to face at some point in our lives. Learning to survive the feelings of sadness and loss is a process that is normal and usually time-limited. The process involves both emotional and behavioral reactions. Grief takes us through the initial response of shock and sadness towards feelings of acceptance and understanding, until we feel like our lives have stabilized.

There are many ways, some better than others, in which people learn to adjust to the death of a loved one. This information will help you understand your grief and give you some ideas about how you may be able to help yourself through the grieving process.

The most important thing to do is to be patient with yourself. In addition, keep the following things in mind:

  • Grief takes a lot of energy. Take care of yourself as well as you can.
  • Go gently. Don't rush too much. Your body, mind, and heart need energy to mend.
  • Don't take on new responsibilities right away. Don't overextend yourself. Keep decision-making to a minimum.
  • Don't compare yourself to other bereaved. It may seem that you aren't adjusting as well as they are, but in reality you don't know what's behind their public facade.
  • Throw away notions of a fixed period of mourning: one year and then you're "over it." This is fiction. Grief takes time… whatever time it takes.
You should also ask for and accept help. Keep the following things in mind as you do so:
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help from those close to you when you need it. So much hurt and pain go unheeded during grief because we don't want to bother anyone else with our problems. Wouldn't you want someone close to you to ask for help if needed? Our family and friends can't read our minds. Some relatives and friends will not be able to handle your grief. It is very important to find someone who cares and understands and with whom you may talk freely. Seek out an understanding friend, another bereaved person, or a support group member.
  • Accept help and support when offered. It's okay to need comforting. Often people wait for you to approach them to talk or get support. Tell them what you need.
  • If you are troubled and need help after HCC business hours, contact the on-call counselor: dial 0 from any campus phone and community safety will connect you to a counselor.
  • Feel free to come to the Health & Counseling Center for support. It is important to take care of yourself. Talking through your feelings can help.

You also need to accept your feelings:

  • Feel what you feel. You don't choose your emotions, they just come.
  • It's okay to cry.
  • It's okay to be angry. You may be angry with yourself, the person who died, others, or just angry in general.
  • Thinking you are going crazy is a very normal reaction. Most grieving people experience this. You are not losing your mind, you are reacting to loss.
  • Depression is common to those who grieve. Be careful not to totally withdraw yourself from others. If your depression becomes severe, or you're considering suicide, get professional help immediately. You may not believe things will get better, but they will. Give yourself a chance to heal.
  • The emotions of a survivor are often raw. It is important to feel these feelings, ideally in a safe and supportive environment.
  • You won't suffer nearly as much from “getting too upset” as you will from being “brave” and keeping your honest emotions all locked up inside. Share your “falling to pieces” with supportive loved ones, as often as you feel the need.
  • You may experience physical problems brought on by an emotional reaction (e.g., upset stomach, headaches, sore muscles). The physical problems are real; take steps to remedy them. Health & Counseling can help with this.

Another effective strategy is to lean into the pain:

  • Lean into the pain. It cannot be outrun. You can't go around it, over it, or under it; you must go through it and feel the full force of the pain to survive. Keep working on your grief.
  • Save time to grieve and, more specifically, to face the grief. Don't throw yourself into your work or other activities that leave you no time for grieving. Set aside time to remember your loss, perhaps by looking through photographs and making a scrapbook.
  • In a time of severe grief, be extremely careful with the use of either alcohol or drugs (prescription, over the counter, or illicit). Tranquilizers don't end the pain; they only mask it. This may lead to further withdrawal, loneliness, or even addiction. Grief work is done best when you are awake, not drugged into sleepiness. It is also important to know that the impact of drugs or alcohol can be exponentially greater when you are grieving.

Remember to be good to yourself:

  • Keep a journal. It is a good way to understand what you are feeling and thinking. Hopefully, when you reread it later, you will see that you are getting better.
  • Try to get adequate rest. Go to bed earlier. Avoid caffeine in coffee, tea, and colas. Good nutrition is important because if you feel physically healthier, you’re bound to feel mentally healthier.
  • If certain days, such as Sundays, holidays, etc., are especially difficult times emotionally, schedule comforting activities on those days.
  • Read recommended books on grief. It helps you to understand what you are going through. You may find suggestions for coping.
  • Moderate exercise helps (walking, tennis, swimming, etc). It offers an opportunity to work off frustration and may aid sleep.
  • Begin to build pleasant time with friends and family. Try not to feel guilty if you have a good time; your loved one would want you to be happy, to live your life to the fullest, and to the best of your ability.
  • Do things a little differently, yet try not to make a lot of changes. This sounds like a contradiction, but it is not.
  • Plan things you can look forward to, such as a trip, a visit, or lunch with a special friend. Start today to build memories for tomorrow.
  • Find quotes or posters that are helpful to you and hang them where you can see them.
  • Become involved in the needs of others. Helping others will build your self-confidence and enhance your self-worth. Join a support group or volunteer somewhere (e.g., phoning, attending meetings, typing, collating newsletters).
  • Indulge yourself: take a hot relaxing bath, bask in the sun, see a movie or live music, eat dinner out, or read a novel. Even if you feel like you don’t have time, try to make time. The time you allow for yourself to feel pleasure and comfort will result in feelings of renewed energy and calm.
  • Put balance in your life: pray, rest, work, read, relax.
  • When you feel ready, aim at regaining a healthy, balanced life by broadening your interests. Take time for activities that can bring some purpose into your life. Think about doing something you've always wanted to do: take a class, learn tennis, volunteer, join a church group, become involved in community projects or hobby clubs. Rediscover old interests, activities, and friends as well as doing something new.
  • Remember: when things are really tough, take your life one moment, one hour, or one day at a time.

Never forget that grief takes time:

  • Do not have unrealistic expectations of yourself. Grief takes time. It comes and goes.
  • Remember, you will get better. Hold on to hope. Some days you seem to merely exist, but better days will be back. You will gradually develop a renewed sense of purpose.

A local resource for managing grief is the Dougy Center, an organization that provides expert support for children, teens, and young adults experiencing the loss of a loved one.

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Healthy versus Unhealthy Relationships

Being in a healthy relationship means . . .
If you are in an unhealthy relationship . . .
loving and taking care of yourself before and during a relationship.
you care for, and focus on, another person to the detriment of yourself, or you focus solely on yourself and neglect the other person.
respecting individuality, embracing differences, and allowing each person to be an individual.
you feel pressure to change in order to meet the other person's standards, you are afraid to disagree, or your ideas are criticized. Conversely, you may be in an unhealthy relationship if you pressure the other person to meet your standards and criticize his or her ideas.
doing things together with friends and family and also engaging in activities independent of each other.
one of you has to justify what you do, where you go, and whom you see.
discussing things, allowing for differences of opinion, and compromising equally.
one of you makes all the decisions and controls everything without listening to the other's input.
expressing and listening to each other's feelings, needs, and desires.
one of you feels unheard and is unable to communicate feelings, needs, or desires.
trusting and being honest with yourself and each other.
you lie to each other and find yourself making excuses to, or for, the other person.
respecting each other's need for privacy.
you don't have any personal space and have to share everything with the other person.
sharing sexual histories and sexual health status with a partner.
your partner keeps his or her sexual history a secret or hides a sexually transmitted infection from you, or you do not disclose your history to your partner.
practicing safer sex methods.
you feel scared of asking your partner to use protection or your partner has refused your requests for safer sex. Or, you refuse to use safer sex methods after your partner has requested or you make your partner feel scared.
respecting sexual boundaries and being able to say no to sex.
your partner has forced you to have sex or you have had sex when you don't really want to. Or, you have forced or coerced your partner to have sex.
resolving conflicts in a rational peaceful, and mutually agreed upon way.
one of you yells, hits, shoves, or throws things at the other in an argument.
there is room for positive growth and you learn more about each other as you develop and mature.
you feel stifled, trapped, and stagnant. You are unable to escape the pressures of the relationship.

 

Adapted from Texas Woman's University virtual pamphlets.

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Homesickness

Most people experience homesickness at some point during their lives, and a large number of college students experience homesickness at some point during their college years. Beginning a new life brings with it excitement and new opportunities, but it also introduces challenges related to missing home. The good news is that homesickness goes away with time and there are ways of managing the feelings of missing home in the meantime.

The following tips can be helpful for managing homesickness:

  • Let yourself feel your emotions. Leaving familiar things, people, and places is hard. It is okay to feel sad and to miss the things you love. Missing home is normal, but there are things that you can do to manage these feelings and to cope with the homesickness.
  • Talk to someone. You can make an appointment with a counselor at the HCC, talk with someone from home, call a family member or childhood friend, or talk to someone in the Reed community, whether it’s an HA, RD, or friend.
  • Maintain a balance between a focus on life at home and your new life at Reed. Spending all of your time at home, or thinking about life at home, will make it harder to start feeling more accustomed to college.
  • Remember that other people are also feeling homesick, even if you don’t see it.
  • Give yourself time to adjust.
  • Remember to focus on healthy living; sleeping well, eating well, and getting exercise are all important ways in which you can make yourself feel your best. These may seem like small things, but their impact is large. Try it out.
  • Getting involved with campus life is an important part of feeling like you are a part of the community. Join an organization, try something new, or meet new people.
  • If you think your homesickness may be turning into a more serious problem (such as depression) make an appointment at the Health and Counseling Center. Our experienced clinicians would be glad to talk with you about the ways in which you can feel better.

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Substance Use and Abuse

During your time at Reed, it is likely that you will make a choice about the role that drugs or alcohol will play in your life. Many people have used these substances before coming to Reed. However, the college years are often a time in which people experiment with substances, both legal and illegal.

When making decisions about your use, remember that you have choices. Prepare yourself to make informed decisions. Although the decision to drink or use other substances can be made in a casual moment, at a party for example, it is important to remember that the consequences of use can be devastating. The choices you make can have ramifications for your academic performance, your physical health, your chances of contracting a sexually transmitted infection, or even your enrollment at the college as the unlawful manufacture, possession, use, distribution, sale, or purchase of alcohol or other drugs is prohibited.

There are implications for the short-term use of drugs or alcohol, as well as long term risks. Any person can develop problems with substance use or dependence. Very few, if any, of these people anticipate addiction to a substance as a likely occurrence for them. The cliché line, “I can stop whenever I want,” is true in many instances. However, it is the addiction that provokes someone to feel like they do not want to stop using the substance, whether that be smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, or using heroin. The risk of addiction increases if you have a family member with a history of addiction.

One of the biggest dangers in relation to alcohol and other substances is denial. Informed choice is vital to keeping yourself, and the people around you, safe. We are fortunate at Reed College to be a community that has put a lot of time and energy into thinking and talking about the issues regarding drugs and alcohol. Use these resources. One of the first places to start is the College’s Health and Wellness Plan Relating to Alcohol and Other Drug Use at Reed College. Another resource is your community; RDs, HAs, your fellow students, your dean of student services, and staff at the Health & Counseling Center are all people who welcome discussions about alcohol and substance abuse.

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Do I have a problem with substance use?

If you think you may have a problem with drugs or alcohol, but are unsure, these questions may be useful. (Adapted from the University of Oregon Counseling Center)

  1. What are the things you like about using drugs or alcohol? For example, does it help you to be more sociable, to be liked and fit in with your friends, to relax, to forget about painful experiences, feelings, or thoughts, to be more creative, to express what is on your mind, etc.?
  2. Have you found that you drink or use drugs by yourself?
  3. Has your pattern of substance use changed since you first started?
  4. Has your tolerance changed? For example, does it take more alcohol now to feel a buzz?
  5. Do you have trouble with your memory?
  6. Do you use on a regular basis?
  7. during every party or social gathering
  8. every weekend
  9. several times a week
  10. daily
  11. If you are using alcohol, is it difficult to stop after two or three drinks?
  12. When you attend a social gathering, is it the availability of alcohol or drugs that "makes the party"?
  13. Did you have personal and/or academic goals prior to using that are now hard to achieve?
  14. When under the influence, do you have inspired plans to write, compose, or do something special, but somehow never follow through?
  15. Have your leisure activities become more limited? For example, do you no longer play tennis, hike as much, read for leisure, etc.?
  16. Have you changed your circle of friends based on their drug or alcohol use and habits?
  17. Do you feel annoyed when others remark on the extent to which you drink or use substances?
  18. Do you put yourself at ease by thinking your substance use is no different from that of your friends? Do you feel that substance use is part of partying, which is part of being a student, etc.?
  19. Do you ever think about cutting back, yet never get around to it?
  20. Did you previously enjoy your studies and now have trouble attending your classes?
  21. Do you try to find external reasons for why you are no longer doing as well academically, such as the classes not being interesting, the professor being boring, etc.?
  22. Do you participate in risk-taking behaviors even after experiencing negative consequences, such as having unprotected sex, driving under the influence etc.?
  23. Do you have financial difficulties as a result of your substance use?
  24. Do you ever feel guilty or ashamed about your behavior when under the influence?
  25. Do you have alcoholism or addiction in your family history?

If answering these questions has sparked a concern for you, act on it. Make an appointment with the Health and Counseling Center to discuss these issues in a safe and nonjudgmental environment.

For more information, see our Alcohol and Other Drug Resources Section.

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Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that occurs in relation to the seasons, mostly during the darker winter months. SAD differs from typical depression in that it is usually experienced in conjunction with reduced daylight and colder temperatures.

Symptoms of SAD include:

  • reduced energy;
  • increased sleep that is not restful;
  • sadness, anxiety, irritability;
  • lack of motivation or interest in things that are usually enjoyable;
  • changes in weight or appetite.

The exact causes of SAD are unknown; it may be related to changes in the light sensitive hormone melatonin, body temperature, or sleep patterns. SAD is more common for women.

There are various effective treatments for SAD that can be helpful either alone or in combination. Treatments include psychotherapy, phototherapy (light therapy), antidepressant medication, and increased exercise. A counselor can discuss with you treatment options that may be most effective.

For more information, visit the following websites:

Mayo Clinic
Seasonal Affective Disorder Association

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Sleep

Sleep is extremely important, but its importance is vastly underestimated by most people. Getting the right amount of quality sleep is essential to maintaining personal, academic, and vocational effectiveness. A good night’s sleep stabilizes and enhances mood, memory, analytical ability, creativity, relationships, and overall performance. Sleep also serves as a protective factor against depression, anxiety, and stress and boosts the immune system. Most people in their late teens and early twenties need approximately 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night.
 
The following tips can help you get enough sleep:

  • Go to bed only when you feel tired.
  • Don’t eat or drink anything that has caffeine or sugar or use stimulant drugs before bed.
  • Contrary to popular belief, marijuana does not help with sleep. Marijuana use may inhibit racing thoughts or anxious feelings that could be preventing onset of sleep, but the drug actually disrupts the sleep cycle and increases fatigue.
  • Establish a regular bed time and maintain it throughout the week and on weekends.
  • Try not to nap, or at least take only short naps of 20–30 minutes well before you want to go to bed at night.
  • If you are lying in bed and can’t sleep, get up and do something else that is relaxing instead of tossing and turning. Do not use your computer to relax; the light from the screen is stimulating and prolongs wakefulness.
  • Develop sleep rituals. Create a connection between your body and brain with a routine that you do prior to going to bed such as listening to relaxing music, meditating, drinking a warm mug of caffeine-free tea, or doing some relaxation exercises.
  • Have a light snack before bed, such as a turkey sandwich or a glass of milk, both of which contain tryptophan, a natural sleep inducer.
  • Make sure your room is quiet and comfortable. Use white noise or earplugs to tune out any extraneous noise. Dim the lights to create a sleepy environment.

For more information, visit the following websites:
National Sleep Foundation
University of Maryland Medical Center

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Suicide

Thinking about or considering suicide is not uncommon. Many people have these thoughts at some point during their lives. There is a significant difference between thinking about suicide (e.g., wondering what it would be like to not be around) and actually committing suicide.

If the thoughts of ending your life become intense or persistent, or you start thinking about concrete plans, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. You should respond as you would to any other threat to your life: get help.

From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., contact the HCC at 503/517-7349. Outside of HCC business hours, contact community safety at 503/771-1112 (or dial 0 from a campus phone), and ask to speak with the counselor on-call.

You can also contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800/273-TALK (8255).

People may consider suicide for different reasons:

  • You want relief from devastating pain that you feel helpless to change.
  • You want to take real action and be taken seriously so that people understand how much pain you are in.
  • You may feel that there is no way that things will ever change, that you will always feel bad, or inevitably be back in this place again.
  • You are suffering the agony of a lost relationship or rejection by someone you care about.
  • You feel bad and you want to punish yourself.
  • You feel that something has gone irretrievably wrong in your life
  • You may have overwhelming feelings of worthlessness, alienation, loneliness, homesickness, or anger.
  • You may feel lost inside yourself, that you have no meaningful connections with others, or that life has lost all meaning

Here are twelve things that you can remember and do that will help:

  1. Suicidal thoughts can be useful signals that you want your life to be different and less painful. They do not necessarily mean that you want to be dead.
  2. Contact one of the crisis resource numbers listed at the bottom of this page. Talking about your suicidal thoughts is the first step towards gaining control.
  3. Be with other people whom you trust and appreciate; avoid people who make things feel worse.
  4. Reach out to the safest person you can find: an RD, HA, professor, brother, sister, mother, father, old friend . . . someone. Let the person know how you're feeling and that you need to talk.
  5. Try to get quality sleep. Sleep affects mood more than most people realize. If you're having trouble sleeping, cut out coffee, soft drinks or tea with caffeine, energy drinks, and products that contain sugar. Try a warm shower or bath before going to bed. If noise bothers you, get soft earplugs from the Health & Counseling Center or almost any drugstore. Practice deep muscle relaxation or other calming techniques.
  6. Avoid dangerous situations. Alcohol consumption is particularly ill-advised because alcohol is a depressant and will compromise self-control and judgment. Drugs and alcohol can reduce inhibitions and lead to sudden and uncontrollable impulses. Don’t let drugs or alcohol facilitate destructive impulses.
  7. Think of a time when you felt good about yourself such as  a success or a time you helped someone else. Think of a time in which you've been down before and gotten up again. Ask yourself:
  8. What is the difference between then and now? What part of myself have I lost touch with?
  9. Give yourself comfort: warm baths or showers, a good book, music with positive associations, a favorite hobby. Say to yourself, "I deserve this." Likewise, try to accept comfort and support from others as readily as you would give it.
  10. Start writing down your thoughts and feelings in a private journal. Be sure to include what you want to change as wells as goals to move towards.
  11. List five helpful things that you can do when you're feeling desperate. Write them on a note card and put it in an easily remembered and accessible place.
  12. Try to solve problems and take life one day at a time so that your worries don't mount up any higher than they are now. This will also give you a feeling that you are more in control of your life and moving in a better direction.

Write this note (or your own variation) on a slip of paper and keep it with you:

“My suicidal crisis is temporary. I will not feel like this forever.

This pain can be survived.

Help is available.

I am not alone.”

For more information, visit the following websites:

The Jed Foundation
When you fear someone you know may take their life
 

Adapted from Northern Michigan University Counseling and Consultation Services

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10 Most Reliable Ways to Develop Alcoholism

Note: these are not guaranteed to work, but they have for many people.

  1. Start drinking before the age of 15. Forty percent of people who do are diagnosed late in life with alcohol dependence.
  2. At your own pace, increase your tolerance by getting drunk on a regular basis Eventually, a high enough tolerance will trigger alcoholism.
  3. Surround yourself with people who make the same drinking choices that you do.
  4. Continue making high-risk drinking choices despite resulting negative consequences.
  5. Ignore friends and family if they express concern about your drinking.
  6. If you have alcoholism in your family, get drunk frequently and build up your tolerance. See step number 2.
  7. Drink, or get drunk, to cope with stressful life events such as a divorce, death of a loved one, etc., and feelings of anger or sadness.
  8. Learn to do certain things best in the presence of alcohol (e.g., dance, socialize, have fun, study) so that you become more dependent on alcohol to function normally.
  9. Make sure most of your life revolves around alcohol: getting it, drinking it, recovering from its effects, and trying to keep yourself out of trouble as a consequence of drinking.
  10. Refuse to see alcohol for what it really is: an addictive and potentially lethal drug.

Some facts about alcoholism:

  • It is a disease, just like heart disease and cancer, with a typical course of progression and recognizable symptoms.
  • It cannot be cured, but it can be treated and arrested.
  • It is present in about ten percent of the population.
  • Alcoholism has a very strong genetic component and can be passed down to children and grandchildren.
  • Someone with alcoholism can never again be a “social drinker” and does not have any internal controls for regulating their drinking.
  • A person with alcoholism, if left untreated, will eventually end up in one of three places (perhaps all three): prison, an institution, or the grave.

Adapted from Texas Woman's University virtual pamphlets.

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