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Is an engineering degree worth going into depression for?

  1. Oct 25, 2011 #1
    Hello, Im a Junior, majoring in mechanical Engineering. My current GPA is a 2.75 (2.6 major). At the end of my sophomore year i started feeling tired and sad all the time, but i ignored it because i thought i was just gettin tired because it was the end of the year. Last summer i had an engineering internship so i didnt really have time to address this sadness, but i rarely felt it during the summer.
    This semester, Fall, I have started feeling depressed and sad all over again, i dont usually feel this way until the end of the semester.
    I thought enough was enough, so i went to the school psychiatrist and she said that i had OCD and depression, a combination of both which was making me sort off obsessively thinking about death and how hopeless my life was. The school doctor prescribed me a anti depressant, but im not sure i want to start it and never get off it.
    My question is, I know that a mechanical engineering degree is great in the market, but is it worth going into depression, only into my Junior year, which is when my real engineering classes start?
    The main problem i think is that i dont seem myself doing/ majoring in anything else. I was never really good at physics and i was OK at math. I was sort of shoved into engineering by my parents, and I have never quit at anything in life. I havent been the best at what i do, but i havent ever quit, and quitting my engineering degree seems like the end of me. I feel like pursuing an engineering degree for me is like gettign it or dieing trying to get one. I dont see myself doing anything else (i dont even plan on workign in the engineering world after getting my degree) but my family has made it seem like its engineering or im worthless and my life is worthless.
    Should i take a semester off and take my anti depressant pills?
    I want to do engineering and get the prestigous degree, but i feel like im going to go crazy or die trying to get it.
    any help is appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 25, 2011 #2
    I know i have sort of contradicted myself in a few places, but that is the mental state i am in currently, so plz give me recommendations.
  4. Oct 25, 2011 #3
    Also, i go to a small Tech school, i dont have many friends because they all want to talk about physics or math even outside of class, and for some reason i am unable to keep up with them. After class, i need something that is totally different than engineering courses. I tried to transfer to a larger, more balanced university but pretty much everywhere the requirement is a 3.0 gpa minimum, which mine is not.
  5. Oct 25, 2011 #4
    I'm no psychologist, and I don't feel I should really be advising you without knowing you. But it seems obvious where your problems are stemming from if you say your parents will think you are a failure unless you complete this task which is clearly not what you want to do. It is right for you to be wary of going on drugs for this. They are not the answer to real emotional issues in your life and relationships. You first need to be OK with who you are and what you want to do, even if it is not what your parents want.

    Good luck!

    P.S. If you leave engineering, you must not think of yourself as a quitter. If you never wanted to be there in the first place, you are just setting things right and taking control of your life. Quitting is when you want something but can't handle what it takes to get it. It doesn't sound like you want this.
  6. Oct 25, 2011 #5
    But the problem is that i dont see myself getting any other degree than mechanical engineering, well i do, but people keep telling me that Engineering will pay off the best in the future, and that its pretty much everything else is worthless to get a job.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2011
  7. Oct 25, 2011 #6
    Sure, engineering can be good for getting a job, but it's not like everyone else ends up lying in a ditch. And anyway, then the question becomes "is a job worth depression?". Only you can tell whether there is something else which you would rather be pursuing but are not. There is nothing wrong with completing a major which you don't completely love, if you think it will provide you with a better career. People do that all the time - if that were all this was about, I don't think you'd be here asking these questions.

    I could be wrong obviously.
  8. Oct 25, 2011 #7


    Staff: Mentor

    I really don't know what to say but having had depression really nothing is worth going through that if you can avoid it. Engineering is certainly good for getting a job but so are other things. You say you are OK at math. I did a math degree and never regretted it. Math is really good at preparing you for many different careers many of which pay very well. Could a better way forward be switching to math and take a few subjects from a number of different areas such as physics, business and computer science. When finished you could figure out what you like best and do a post graduate degree such as a Masters.

    Anyway just a thought - depression is a terrible thing to go through.

  9. Oct 25, 2011 #8
    If you're on pills for depression (or have been prescribed them), then it's likely that engineering has nothing to do with it. Depression is a chemical imbalance in your brain. It'll follow you wherever you go until you deal with it.

    Now, if you flat out don't want to do engineering, then don't do engineering. Frankly, it amazes me you've made it as far as you have without an intense, burning passion for the subject.
  10. Oct 25, 2011 #9
    math degrees can be really difficult -- more so than engineering. . .

    you might want to try taking a lighter course load, and isolating your problems so that you can deal with them individually.

    my engineering grades were worse than yours, and one thing that helped me improve them was that i stopped caring about them. when i stopped studying in such a way that i was only focused on the grade (and grad school / career prospects / parents / etc), i relaxed a lot and studied on the premise of learning the material for the purpose of learning the material.

    once i started doing this, i still worked very hard, studied all of the time (including late nights), and was very busy. . . BUT it was on my own terms, because it was what i WANTED to do, not because it was what i HAD to do to get a good grade. at this point, all of those nerdy discussions became fun, because when i would learn like this i would run into questions, and friends like that were the best people to ask my questions to, helping my understanding of the material, which all led to better grades.

    you're obviously a bright kid, if you weren't you wouldn't have made it this far. and if you can't see yourself with any other degree, than stick this one out and finish it -- even with a 2.7 GPA after graduation, you are still in a great position for future and lifelong employment. you only have to land ONE position after you finish, and all of your future job prospects will be based on your experience there, and not your GPA.

    ^ this is LITERALLY what happened to my roommate, who ironically is also a MechE w/ 2.7 gpa. . .

    also, don't forget to relax and have a beer from time to time after big exams and piles of assignments / problem sets. . .

    Last edited: Oct 25, 2011
  11. Oct 25, 2011 #10


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    The way I see it, there are two independent issues here. One, you're an engineering student. Two, you have depression. The two issues are tied together because it's very difficult to do well as a student while you're depressed.

    It's your decision whether to treat your depression or not. But if you choose not to, you should recognize you're making a difficult task (earning an engineering degree) much, much more difficult.
  12. Oct 25, 2011 #11
    Hi johng :smile:

    I am sure you mean well here, but it might not be appropriate to advise someone regarding medications.
  13. Oct 26, 2011 #12


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    It is a different kind of difficulty.

    I am doing a math degree and this semester I am doing Bayesian Inference and a course on C*-Algebras.

    Both are in stark contrast to one another and require different kinds of thinking. I don't know if one is necessarily "harder" than the other, but they both focus on completely different things and have completely different purposes in mind.

    I am not an engineer and I haven't done any engineering coursework per se, but I imagine those kind of skills are found in any kind of applied science degree like applied math, the sciences, and courses like statistics, actuarial science and other similar kinds of paths.

    If you do pure math, and you literally live and breathe it, then I think you can go well in it eventually. For some its really hard to do this, and for others its very hard not to do this.
  14. Oct 26, 2011 #13
    Well first of all, I even started my post with a caveat that I shouldn't advise him without knowing him.

    Others have advised him to take the drugs. Isn't that equally bad given that they know as little as I do about the situation? I said to "be wary", not to ignore all doctors.

    If you ask me, saying "take the drugs, it will make it easier to get through your degree" is a whole lot more dangerous than saying "be wary", given that neither of us know his condition.
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2011
  15. Oct 26, 2011 #14
    If you know that you shouldn't advise him, then why do you do it anyway?

    I don't see this anywhere in this thread.
  16. Oct 26, 2011 #15
    Because he ASKED for advice, and that's what everyone here is giving him. You obviously have a problem with what I said, but I see nothing wrong with it.

    I said medications are not the answer to real emotional problems. That doesn't imply that they are never the answer, and I don't see how you could disagree with it.

    I also said it's good to be wary of getting medication for emotions. If an individual describes personal and relationship issues which sound perfectly legitimate, and expresses concern that medications may not be the answer as well as a fear that they will never come off them, I think it's entirely appropriate for that person to "be wary".

    It is not a fringe concern that depression may be overdiagnosed. As quoted in this BBC article, for example: "[mental health charity]...believes that it is better to risk over diagnosis than to leave depression untreated. One in ten people with severe depression may take their own life". That's an understandable position driven by the sentiments of health care professionals. Nevertheless, the fact that some level of overdiagnosis is considered acceptable is all the more reason for the patient to study their own feelings on the appropriateness of the treatment.

    Did I say they should ignore the psychiatric profession? No! But if you think an individual should ignore their own judgment entirely and follow the first psychiatrist they talk to, I vehemently disagree.


    I was referring to what lisab said. Not that I found it inappropriate, but I think you're exercising a double standard.
  17. Oct 26, 2011 #16


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    I'd like to re-emphasize things that have already been said. Personal experience (to be taken or left) tells me that the issue here is not what you are doing (degree, basketweaving, x, whatever), but how you do x, why you do x, and who you are when you are doing x ("I was sort of shoved into engineering by my parents", "quitting my engineering degree seems like the end of me", "but my family has made it seem like its engineering or im worthless and my life is worthless" are the issues I see here). There are seperate issues here. If you have depression, it will colour your whole life, it would be unfair to single out engineering for that. I don't know how school doctors work, but I would get a second opinion from a medical practice you trust (do you have something like a "family doctor"?), especially when medication is involved, doubly so for antidepressants. I would do this before quitting for a semester and (from how I am reading your post) relying solely on medication and rest, which will not work.

    If you seperate these issues out, you may find doing the degree a lot easier, and that you will be able to ask a better question than the one in your thread title. I'd say the answer is that no activity is worth going into depression for. The important point is, the activity will only aggravate the depression, it hasn't caused it.

    I'm sorry if I am sounding harsh here, but if you suspect you have depression, the best thing to do is to find out. If you find out you have, the best thing to do is then deal with it, because the longer it is left, the harder it will be to fix. And it does affect your whole life, not just your engineering degree.

    Best Wishes

  18. Oct 26, 2011 #17
    If you know in advance that you should not be giving advice, again, why advise? The intent of this forum is clearly to receive advice from persons who are in a good position to give it; you obviously are not, which you pointed out yourself.

    Since you are putting words into my mouth, there is no need to be vehement here :wink:

    lisab's statement makes no mention of her opinion as to whether or not medication is appropriate or not, yours does. No double standard.

    Since you so strongly disagree with my statement that one who is not qualified to give advice on certain issues should not give advice on certain issues then I am afraid we have reached an impasse. I will cease my activity in this thread in the interest of staying on topic.
  19. Oct 26, 2011 #18
    Try reading "Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy" by David D. Burns, as well as doing everything your medical professional recommends. If you are worried about having to take drugs long term, discuss that with the medical professional. Psychiatry is (now!) a reputable, scientific profession and has found repeatable ways to alleviate depression. So if the medical professional says "take drugs" look upon it as your physics teacher saying "apply newton's third law here" - *both* are backed by science, and should be obeyed...
  20. Oct 26, 2011 #19
    You need to get treatment for your depression. Changing majors might make you feel better, but you will most likely still be depressed. Your major is secondary to your health. It will be hard to succeed in any venture when you don't feel your best.

    I've tried changing jobs, changing locations, changing girl friends, changing countries... The thing that always remained constant was the fact that I was depressed. You need to address the root of your issues (not just your major) or it is unlikely that you will get well.

    As far as your family thinking you're life is a waste, are you certain? Have you sat down with them and had a serious conversation? If you do decide against engineering, try saying something like, "I don't enjoy this and it may be contributing to my depression." Be honest with your family and with yourself. You might be surprised at the way they react.

    If you are stubborn and intelligent enough to get through 2 years of an engineering degree when you didn't really want to, you are stubborn and intelligent enough to kick depression in the ****!
  21. Oct 27, 2011 #20
    Thank you for replying everyone.
    I have been thinking it and think it is the fact that i have little to no social life at college. I go to a small tech college (illinois institute of technology) where most kids go home over the weekend or they enjoy sitting in their room playing world of warcraft. I have dealt with an antisocial school for 2 years and i think that it is getting to me now.
    I am a very social person and and enjoy talking to people, where as the students here dont seem to want to do much of that. But, when to do socialize, they seem to talk about nothing but math, science, and their other engineering courses, which i can not do since i am not THAT interested in engineering.
    I have tried to transfer out to a bigger state college but my gpa wasnt above the 3.0 mark (which i think is the national cutoff point for any engineering transfers into any college.)

    and I have a 2nd quetsion:
    The official deadline to drop courses is Monday, November 1st, as of right now i am failing all 5 of my courses, 4 of them being engineering related (instrumentation lab, Dynamics, Thermodynamics, Fluid Mechanics). On top of that i am already behind 3 classes (which i dropped over the last 4 semesters.
    Should I:
    1. continue to take the courses and learn as much as i can and end up failing them and then retaking them next semester, all the Fs would be replaced with a new grade so my GPA would go up, but the Fs would stand in my transcript.
    2. or shoud i withdraw for this semester, that way my GPA would not be affected, also I would have time taken off for my 5 years to get my degree. (PS, i wonder what happens if you take more than 5 years to complete your degree in engineering)

    If i failed my semester, i would be a whole year behind my degree, that way i would not be allowed to drop any of my classes for the remainder of my time here at college (including Upper Junior and All senior level classes.)

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