Loyola University Maryland

Counseling Center

Student Problems and Symptoms of Distress

What You Should Know About Student Problems

Stress, pressures, and problems are a normal part of college life. While many students cope with these demands successfully, a significant number of students have difficulties that interfere with their performance. Studies on the incidence of emotional troubles among college students predict that at least 10% of the student body suffer from discernible emotional problems such as depression, acute anxiety, substance abuse, and other more serious conditions. According to our records for the past two years, 18% of students at sometime in their college career have sought counseling at the Counseling Center.

An even greater number of students experience developmental problems in adjusting to college life and adulthood, such as establishing identity, relating to others, and identifying educational and career goals. Many first year students in particular may struggle with leaving home, adjusting to college, making friends, and effectively managing their time. They may often feel overwhelmed, and this may affect their ability to concentrate and perform up to their potential academically.

Difficulties in adjustment and serious emotional problems affect students' academic performance, personal effectiveness, and the quality of life in the campus community. Thus, identifying students in need of help and assisting them in getting help are important responsibilities for all of us in the campus community.

What You Should Know About Symptoms of Students in Distress

Sometimes it is very clear when a student is having difficulties coping, and at other times psychological distress is masked with less obvious symptoms. Some obvious and not-so-obvious signs of distress are:

Problems with Academic Performance

  • Poor academic performance and preparation, particularly if such behavior represents a change in previous functioning;
  • Excessive absences or tardiness, especially if such behavior represents a change in previous functioning and;
  • Repeated requests for special considerations

Unusual Behavior

  • Listlessness, lack of energy, or falling asleep in class;
  • Disruptive classroom behavior;
  • Marked changes in personal hygiene;
  • Impaired speech or disjointed, confused thoughts;
  • Aggressive or threatening behavior;
  • Extreme mood changes or excessive, inappropriate display of emotions;
  • Hyperactivity, irritability, or heightened anxiety;
  • Prolonged or extreme emotionality;
  • Dramatic weight loss or weight gain;
  • Bizarre or strange behavior indicating a loss of contact with reality and; 
  • Use of mood altering chemicals (e.g., alcohol, "uppers", marijuana, amphetamines)

Traumatic Change in Relationships

  • Death of family member or close friend;
  • Difficulties in marriage or close relationships and; 
  • Problems at home with family or roommates

Concerns About Suicide

  • Threatening to hurt or kill oneself or talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself;
  • Looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means;
  • Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide when these actions are out of the ordinary for the person;
  • Feeling hopeless;
  • Feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge;
  • Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities seemingly without thinking;
  • Feeling trapped, like there is no way out;
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use;
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and society;
  • Feeling anxious, agitated, or unable to sleep, or sleeping all the time;
  • Experiencing dramatic mood changes and;
  • Seeing no reason for living or having no sense of purpose in life

Please call the Counseling Center (410-617-5109) if you are concerned about a student.  We can help you plan your next steps.