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Recognizing signs of stress

Stress is a fact of life for college students. They not only juggle academic demands, but they must also cope with the developmental challenges of late adolescence and early adulthood—forming new relationships, living away from home, and making more decisions on their own. As a parent, you may be the first to know when your son or daughter is struggling, and you can play an important role in making sure they get the support they need to be successful.

Your student will have bad days at MIT. That’s normal—everyone has bad days. But one bad day after another may be a sign of a larger problem. Clues that your son or daughter may be struggling include:

  • Excessive anxiety or panic
  • Seeming apathy or lack of energy
  • Constant negativity
  • Expressions of hopelessness and helplessness in conversations, emails, or postings on social media
  • Seeming inability to find enjoyment
  • Changes in sleeping or eating habits
  • Dramatic weight gain or loss
  • Marked changes in personal hygiene, work habits, or social behavior

Trust your instincts as a parent. Taken alone, any one of the above indicators doesn’t necessarily mean that your son or daughter is in severe distress. And some of these clues are more obvious warning signs than others. But regardless of what you actually observe, if you feel worried, you should act.