Graduate Blues: How to Deal with Post-University Depression

Have you ever noticed how much of life’s transitional periods are labelled with anxious vibes? The Mid-Life Crisis, cold feet before marriage, empty-nest syndrome and retirement are just a few examples of transitional times in our lives when people tend to panic about change.

But what are the graduate blues?

Throughout your whole time at university you are blasted with a constant plethora of clichés:

“Enjoy your time at university while it lasts, make the most of being a student, university will be the best time of your life.”

For the last twenty something years of your life you have been told what to do, where to go and for how long.

But what happens after university?

How do you deal with the major life changing transition from education into the workplace?

How do you cope with the overwhelming emotions of emptiness and lack of direction, that follow once you’ve thrown your cap into the air?

There’s a common misconception that university is just a three-year party with a never ending alcohol supply – in fact, the party does end, and there is not enough being done to help with the clearing up after.

Lost independence

The vast majority of students live away from home for the duration of their university experience. So trading new-found independence, power and responsibility, for living back home under your parent’s roof and rules, with a mountain of debt, can seem like an unnatural step backwards.

Or perhaps you have been offered a job and you have got to take the leap into the ‘working world’ and readjust to a 9-5 lifestyle.

The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) stressed that feeling restricted because you are now dependant on your parents with no real structure, and panicking about your future are extremely common and nothing to be scared or ashamed of; but that “doesn’t mean you have to put up with them”.

Post-university depression is nothing like the aftermath of a party. It is a serious matter and is in dire need of addressing.

Claire Dyckhoff, a writer for the Independent online spoke to 40 students and recent graduates about the emotions they felt towards graduating and life after.

  • 95% believed that post-university depression was ‘very much a real thing,’
  • A further 87% saying there needed to be more exposure on it.

Change & fear of the unknown

Change is inevitable, it is an integral part of life and is something you have to accept, but why do we resist is so much?

Relationship and family therapist Roger S. Gil explains ‘change’ as “a modification to a person’s environment, situation, or physical/mental condition that results in circumstances that challenge their existing paradigms.”

We can fear change for a variety of reasons. These fears are often associated with fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection, fear of criticism or simply fear of the losing control and fear of the unknown.

And fearing change can really hold you back for moving forward and taking new chances.

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear, is fear of the unknown.” H.P. Lovecraft

Lovecraft wrote those words in the 1920s and they are still relevant today. Major life changes after graduation can be both fearful and exciting. But it is important to understand how you can deal with them.

Don’t fight change – it’s ok to panic.

“Suffering is what occurs when we resist what is already happening.”

Life changes are usually out of our control. Of course, some initial resistance is natural, but it is really important to allow yourself some time to initially freak out. But then, positively breakdown the aspects to the changing decision or event and mentally assess them.

Talk to your fellow graduates and family.

As graduation looms it is most common for your family and friends to constantly be asking you, ‘what are your plans for when you finish university?’ ‘Have you found yourself a proper job yet?’ And it can be really daunting to have so much pressure piled onto you, especially if you don’t know what your next move is.

Talking to your careers advisors before you graduate can open up some possibilities for yourself and your career. Or perhaps the stress of a dissertation or final year exams has gotten too much for you, and you need to take a break and escape for a while. Whatever you are feeling, talking to someone is the best way to assess and evaluate.


Rebecca Miller is a freelance multimedia journalist and graduate from Bournemouth University. You can check out her online portfolio here and find her on LinkedIn

Read our blog on how to deal with anxiety at university