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October 21, 1987 - Image 38

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1987-10-21

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wouldn't be able to make it," says Tulane sophomore Chris
Hall, a double major in biochemistry and mathematics.
"You're putting 18,000 bucks a year on the line, and you want
to do well."
The heavy financial freight, in turn, ratchets up worries
about landing a good job after graduation. "There is a high
value placed on money and making money," says Bradford
King, director of the USC counseling center, "and students
feel a great pressure to measure up." Given today's Yup-scale
yearnings, meanwhile, measuring up at many an acquisitive
campus means landing not merely a rewarding job, but a
lucrative and prestigious one that promises a vacation house
by the beach and a Jaguar to get there. "Students today," says
John Corazzini, director of counseling at Virginia Common-
wealth University, "want what it took Mom and Dad 20 years
to get, and they want it now."
Emotional rescue: Colleges have been known to take a Darwin-
ian attitude toward stress, figuring that the strong students
would always muddle through somehow. But far more institu-
tions today have developed health services that treat students'
emotional as well as physical problems. Confronted with a
horrific 75 percent minority attrition rate before graduation,
for example, the University of Maryland this fall began train-
ing residential advisers to be especially sensitive to the prob-
lems of isolation these students may face. At Tulane, the coun-
seling service runs a telephone "warm line" staffed by students
every evening from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. And such schools as Notre
Dame offer courses in time management, relaxation technique
and other low-key mechanisms for dealing with stress.
Collegiate tensions tend to follow certain patterns, the ex-
perts say. Freshman year, of course, is rife with separation
anxieties and fears of the unknown. Sophomores endure their
notorious slump because they "don't have the excitement and
plans they had as freshmen," says Tom Crady, associate dean of
students at Iowa's Grinnell College. Many may also feel aban-
doned by the resident advisers who lavished doting support and
attention on them as freshmen. Juniors go through a make-or-


Lock, stock and over the barrel: Trying to make the grade
break year, trying to establish their academic credentials. And
seniors, says Crady, "start to realize there isn't much time left.
They start thinking about what the future holds."
But while all students may experience these sources of stress,
not all, obviously, suffer burnout and depression. Burnout
remains a somewhat inexact label for a range of unhealthy
reactions to stress, but counselors have identified early-warn-
ing signals. One commonality: an abrupt shift in normal behav-
ior patterns, such as the onset of either insomnia or sleeping too
much; suddenly skipping meals or bingeing; becoming more
withdrawn and/or irritable.
Shrugging it off: An overstressed student also tends toward
reclusiveness, despondency and unexplained apathy. "A big
shrug of the shoulders" in response to questions is a tip-off for
the Rev. Thomas Heger, who counsels many students at Ore-
gon's Campus Interfaith Ministry. He also looks for "exagger-
ated responses to seemingly little problems, like 'I can't be-
lieve my roommate left her socks on the floor'." Should any or
all of these signs persist for more than two weeks, experts say,
it's time to suggest-to a roommate or yourself-that help
be sought.
In its more severe manifestations, burnout can lead to
clinical depression, which displays its own characteristic
symptoms. Besides undergoing changes in eating or sleeping
habits, a depressive lacks motivation and cannot get involved
in the usual daily routines, cannot handle even slight stress
and depends for his self-image on the approval of others. He is
moody and weepy, feels worthless and hopeless, fatigued and
listless. He is unable to enjoy anything. As one recovered
depressive put it, "It's the feeling that you can never smile
again." In a significant minority, probably about 20 percent of
these cases, depressives also go through "hypomanic epi-
sodes," bouts of uncontrollable eating, spending, exercising or
other frenetic activity.
What differentiates those who survive from those who
succumb? There are many factors, including biology. Medical
researchers increasingly link clinical depression to a genetic
Lost in emotion: Romantic tensions can be most traumatic



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