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Counseling Center


There are many ways a person can communicate that he/she is experiencing more than the usual amount of distress. The signs of distress listed below are just a few examples of what we might notice in ourselves or others. These signs can be thought of as communications to the outside world that the person needs some extra support in order to cope with life experiences or ongoing struggles and concerns.

  • Thinking, talking or writing about suicide, death, or dying
  • Excessive or inappropriate use of drugs or alcohol
  • Keeping to oneself/ limited social interaction, especially if there has been a change compared to past levels of socializing and social activity
  • Self-criticism
  • Depressed mood, sad or empty facial expressions, expressions of hopelessness
  • Decline in school or work performance
  • Neglect of hygiene/grooming
  • Emotional outbursts (tearful or angry)
  • Bizarre or peculiar verbalizations or behaviors such as saying or doing things that do not seem to make any logical sense, e.g. wearing many layers of clothing even though it's hot outside or speaking to oneself
  • Feelings of failure/shame
  • Intense anxiety and/or panic attacks
  • Complaints of multiple health issues such as aches and pains and fears of having diseases
  • Recent external stressors or crises such as doing poorly in classes, getting into fights/arguments, loss of a loved one, relationship, or a job Under or over sleeping
  • Under or over eating

Please keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list of signs of stress; every person is unique and shows their distress in different ways.

Not all signs need to be present to warrant concern. It's likely that the more signs there are, the more distress a person is experiencing. Also, thoughts of suicide alone are not to be taken lightly. There are steps we can take to help the person in distress. Click here to learn how to help someone experiencing a crisis or emergency.