Depression is a complicated thing. Sometimes you can be suffering from situational depression (going through a break-up or homesickness) rather than clinical depression (longer term, also know as major depression). With either of these, your social life can be dramatically affected. You may not feel you have enough energy to hang out with friends or have interest in activities. You may even be struggling to go to class some days. What students don’t realize is that it can make you very vulnerable sexually.
I know some of you are thinking to yourself that you don’t have enough energy to shower, much less have sex. Sometimes though, all you don’t have energy for is saying no. A lot of students who feel depressed may still be functioning pretty well around others. Other than your close friends, no one may notice you are struggling. It is easy to put on the fake smile when you need to. Because you don’t want to make a big deal out of it, your friends are able to coerce you to go out on a Friday night. You end up in a big group, and you are able to distract yourself enough to have an okay time. You may strike up a conversation with someone new and become a little more relaxed. All of the sudden, this person is showing more interest in you and begins to get physical.
In your former life you may have been able to make an informed decision about whether to proceed or put on the brakes. A lot of people with depression lose perspective. One, you may have lost some confidence (especially if you are going through a break-up). This could really cloud your judgment. You may not feel strong enough to say no or the depressive feelings could be making you feel more desperate than normal. Two, you may not have the energy to confront the person and gently let them down. It takes a lot less energy to go with the flow and let someone else lead than to stand up and change the direction of the interaction. It is almost as if it takes too much effort to care. Who cares if you have sex with this stranger? Your life sucks already right? This person couldn’t do much more damage. In the past you might have cared who was trying to get you naked, but now? Things have changed.
So, even though most people who are feeling depressed aren’t really experiencing a desire to have sex, they may find themselves in engaging in a lot of sexual encounters anyway. The biggest thing you need to be aware of is that you are more vulnerable. Your defenses are down, and that means you may be a target for those looking to use someone. Not everyone out there is genuine and kind. There are a lot of students looking to hook up on a college campus. They know it is easier to score if they find someone who could care less about themselves. If you are feeling depressed, this means they are looking for you!!
Even though you may look normal on the outside, there are people who are good at reading non-verbal cues and can pick up on little things you do or don’t say in a conversation. They may try something with you because they don’t care about risking rejection, and something you said or did is leading them to believe you may not put up a fight.
What should you do? Hide in your room for the semester? No. However, don’t let your friends leave you alone at a party. Have someone you trust go with you to a party or when hanging out in a big group. Let that person know you don’t want to hook up with anyone and to intervene if they see anyone hanging all over you. You can’t trust yourself, so you need to bring in back up. That means opening up to one or two people who you trust to keep your confidence and best interest at heart. Also, try hanging out in smaller groups for awhile and skip the big party. The other suggestion I’m going to throw out there seems like a no-brainer…Don’t drink alcohol or smoke marijuana! Talk about making yourself more vulnerable!! Will these things make you feel better? Maybe temporarily. They usually just make your symptoms worse over time, and they definitely screw up your judgment.
People ask me why drugs and alcohol only work temporarily. For one, alcohol is a depressant. It may numb your feelings at the moment, but guess what happens when you sober up? The depression is back and usually becomes worse. Marijuana also has the effect of making you forget your pain for awhile. This sounds fabulous. However, it also makes you not care about anything except smoking and eating. Most people who smoke marijuana regularly are also more likely to skip class and not turn in homework or papers. Depression is already going to make school harder, so why throw fuel on the fire? Trust me, you will feel worse if you find out you are flunking and may need to repeat classes. It also costs a lot of money over time. An empty bank account won’t lighten the load any either.
Be smart. Take care of yourself in healthy ways. Make sure you get enough sleep, but don’t fall into the temptation of sleeping too much. Get exercise. Walking and yoga can be done without a lot of effort at first. They also have been known to alleviate some symptoms of depression. Eat right! Don’t skip meals because you are too tired or overeat to make yourself feel better. Both of these will also make you feel worse, not better. Talk to someone or write down your feelings to help you process them. It is also okay to cry!! Some people also decide that medication is the best way to manage their depression. There are many things you can do to lessen your symptoms and move forward with your life. Don’t let unsafe sex, drugs, alcohol, or food get in the way! If you find you need more than a friend to talk to, there are counselors on almost every college campus that are available for free. Seek them out if you are needing more help to fight depression.