Ask the Experts

Roommate Blues

I accidentally discovered my roommate is taking antidepressants. Now I feel a need to watch out for her. What can I do to help her?

We appreciate your regard for the welfare of your roommate and can help you to gain some insight into this serious issue. You may need to have a frank conversion with her about how you can help. Having a roommate who is suffering from depression can cause you to have feelings of frustration, guilt and anger.

There is no doubting the fact that life at college can be stressful. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) 85% of college students reported that they felt overwhelmed by everything they had to do within the last year. Around 30% said that stress had negatively affected their academic performance and just under 42% claimed anxiety was the top concern for students.

Depression is a medical condition that goes beyond general sadness and lack of energy that we all get from time to time. It is linked with chemical messengers in the brain called neurotransmitters which play a role in mood regulation, explains staff offering treatment at Beachside rehab. Low levels of these chemicals can lead to mood swings and feelings of anger, irritability, lethargy and despondency.

Depression is at an all-time high among college students. Consequently, the percentage of college students taking antidepressants has grown over the past two decades. 

Living with someone that has clinical depression can be a challenge; they can often lash out at you without explanation. It is important to recognize that this is a medical condition and the sufferer may not have full control over their emotions. Learning the symptoms of depression is the first step towards helping someone afflicted with it. If you notice any self-harm, you should contact student health services immediately. In addition, other symptoms include insomnia, hopelessness, frustration, loss of appetite, loss of interest in normal activities, and in severe cases, suicidal thoughts.

Medication to alleviate these symptoms is available by prescription and there are many different varieties of antidepressants such as Zoloft, Prozac, Sarafem and Celexa. It is likely your roommate is taking one of these or something similar.

You must also be aware of possible abuse and addiction to antidepressants, caution counselors at one of Florida’s top-rated rehabilitation facilities. She may however be embarrassed about discussing it with you, which can lead to more anxiety, further amplifying the depression. The key to working with this situation is confronting the negative emotions and working through them together. Talk to her about it with reassurance that you are there for her.

Expressing your willingness to help will offer comfort and support but do not take it personally if her antisocial behavior seems directed at you. Keep an eye on harmful behavior which could include the excessive consumption of alcohol or drugs. These when mixed with antidepressants can result in a dangerous cocktail. Do not dismiss threats as idle cries for attention, depression is a medical imbalance of chemicals in the brain so it needs to be monitored.

You should also consider your own needs as an ongoing worsening situation could lead to you getting depressed. 

It’s never overreacting to ask for what you want and need…  Amy Poehler.

Suzanne Hite is a former publications editor serving the technology services sector.