Feeling negatively

I’ve been feeling empty most of the time for about 2 months. I’m disconnected from any of my friends. I feel useless and myself being disgusting as I have no living difficulties at all. I do try to perform to be normal in front of everyone and I can be ok in front of them, but I just suddenly start crying when I leave for the washroom. Now I am completely disconnected socially, spending time alone most of the time. I don’t want to get up in the day and afraid and anxious about falling asleep. I can eat nothing for the whole day or eat till disgusted. Am I just too lazy and weak or am I sick?

Thank you for asking this question as many others students would have experienced similar situations during their degree. I am sorry to hear changes over the past 2 months are having such an impact on your daily life. When changes like these persist over time, it may be a warning sign that something is out of balance for you and needs to be addressed. Being aware of these signs and reaching out for advice are two important steps, so good on you for taking them.

There are many things that can lead to feelings of emptiness or disconnection. Students sometimes feel like they have lost interest in their study, like nothing is exciting anymore, or that they have lost sight of meaning or purpose in things that are usually important to them.  Sometimes this can be related to specific events, such as changes in relationships with family or friends, or due to increased stress, such as through the changing demands of work or study.  At other times, people can experience changes to mood, motivation or connection with others without being able to identify a clear trigger or reason. All this can lead to lowered mood and impact daily functioning like concentration on studies, sleep or eating patterns.

It is possible that the changes you describe could be symptoms of depression. However, it is not appropriate for a psychologist or doctor to provide a diagnosis without a proper assessment and I would encourage you to consider seeking professional help so that you can get some clear answers about what might be going on.

When we experience depressed or anxious mood, our reaction is sometimes to avoid things (e.g. withdraw, procrastinate…) because we think we won’t have the required energy, or we are worried about what could happen. This can be an attempt to deal with what is difficult in the moment but as you may have experienced, in the medium to long term, it doesn’t help us to feel better. When we are unsure of what is happening to us it can be common to make moral judgements about our behaviour (e.g. lazy, wrong, stupid…). However, this may lead to more negative thoughts about ourselves and leaves us feeling even worse. This vicious cycle may then lead to further symptoms of depression, which can impact many areas of our lives like our relationships, sleep or appetite

The good news is these changes don’t have to be permanent and counsellors at CAPS can support you in finding ways to improve the situation. Further exploration and discussion with a counsellor could help you understand what is going on, why you have the reactions you have observed and to find better coping strategies. If you don’t want to speak with a counsellor you may find it helpful to take a look at some of the self-help resources or workshops that are offered by Counselling and Psychological Services. There is also online support available via services such as eheadspace. Another option is to see a GP at the Health Service who can assess your eligibility for a Mental Health Treatment Plan which allows Medicare rebates for accessing private practitioners (e.g., psychologists, social workers).

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