Clinical depression is not the same thing as being sad. It’s a mood disorder that affects you physically and mentally – often causing feelings of sadness and/or loss of interest in activities and sometimes negatively affecting your ability to function day to day. Depression is highly treatable.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, Rutgers has resources to help you/them.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255)
NJ Hope Line: 855-654-6735
National Crisis Text Line: Text KNIGHTS to 741741. To speak directly with a counselor of color you can text STEVE to 741741.

In cases of emergencies during office hours, call CAPS at 848-932-7884 or go to 17 Senior Street on the College Ave campus to be seen as soon as possible. When CAPS is closed, Acute Psychiatric Service provides 24-hour emergency service for local residents. Call 855-515-5700. If you live outside of Middlesex county you should contact the nearest hospital emergency department.


Depression has a number of common symptoms, however a person does not need to exhibit all symptoms to be depressed. In addition, the symptoms are not caused by substance use.

Severity of symptoms vary and can include:

  • Feelings of sadness, worthlessness, guilt, tearfulness, emptiness, or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
  • Restlessness, trouble sleeping, or sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
  • Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
  • Angry outbursts, irritability, or frustration, even over small matters
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide

Sometimes persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain can be a sign of depression or other mental health disorder (e.g., anxiety)


Depression is generally treated with medication, psychotherapy (talk therapy), or a combination of the two. Treatment plans are determined by your healthcare provider on a case-by-case basis. It may take some trial and error to find the best treatment for you. Anti-depressant medications take a few weeks to take effect.

When to Seek Medical Attention

If you constantly experience any of the above symptoms for more than 2 weeks, you should seek support via medical attention. Depression is highly treatable.

Medical conditions such as thyroid issues, vitamin deficiencies, and neurological problems can mimic the symptoms of depression. It’s important to talk with your healthcare provider and figure out what’s going on with your body in order to get appropriate treatment.

Causes & Prevention

Depression is a complex disease and no one knows the exact cause. Experts believe there are many possible contributing factors including:

  • Brain structure and/or chemistry
  • Genetics
  • Trauma (includesing past physical, mental, or emotional abuse)
  • Substance abuse
  • Certain medications
  • Major life events/stress such as loss of a loved one or a breakup. Even positive stressors such as getting a job or moving can be triggers for depression.

If you have experienced depression in the past or know you are at an increased risk, it’s important to pay attention to triggers and monitor possible symptoms.

Depression is not always preventable, but healthy habits such as proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep may help inhibit depression.