If you’re looking into mental health on campus, you may recognize a series of struggles that college students with depression face.
- Students with depression will struggle to concentrate in lectures and seminars, as well as on their written assignments and projects.
- They may find it difficult to get started with their work as their ability to concentrate on academic study will be impaired.
- They will certainly have difficulty multitasking, which is needed in lectures and seminars in order to be efficient in taking notes.
So why do our emotions have such an influence on our ability to concentrate?
The two different areas in the brain that control a) our emotions (the amygdala), and b) our ability to concentrate and pay attention (the cerebral cortex), are strongly connected, and messages that are constantly sent from our ‘emotional centre’ to our ‘attentional centre’, can play havoc when we are trying to concentrate. This means that our mood and emotions can hugely influence the extent to which we are able to concentrate and focus on tasks.
Struggling to concentrate, remember, and process information will make learning and studying very difficult.
This can be a result of the depression itself interfering with the brain’s attentional centre, as discussed, but also the medications that are taken to control the symptoms of depression. Antidepressant medication is primarily focussed on improving mood, by altering the levels of certain chemicals in the brain, but there is little evidence that these drugs are successful in improving cognitive functioning. They may even have side effects that further impair our attention and concentration. Fatigue is another symptom of depression, and as we all know, when we are tired it is much harder to concentrate and focus our attention.
While there are no direct treatments that will solve the concentration problems caused by depression, there are strategies and techniques that can be employed to help these learners minimize the negative impact of these issues (e.g. assistive software, technology, study strategies).
If you’re worried about mental health on campus there are plenty of resources that you or your students can access. Check back into our blog to read advice from experts in the Glean Community about the support every institution can offer for well-rounded mental health care.
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