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Time to Check-Up on Your College Student During Holiday Breaks

It’s not just the Freshman 15 that’s common among college students: Substance abuse, eating disorders, depression and anxiety are all common issues that many young adults suffer through during their time on campus.

Making Mental Health a Priority

A 2011 survey from the American College Health Association found a substantial number of students suffer from behavorial health issues. For example, one-third of students were so deeply affected by depression that they found it difficult to function at some point in the last 12 months. Almost half of them reported feeling overwhelming anxiety, while half of those who dropped out of college did so because of a mental-health related reason.

Suicide also remains the third-highest cause of death on college campuses and depression plays a huge role in this. However, a majority of the students suffering from depression, anxiety or substance abuse won’t seek help from on-campus resources.

What Should Parents Look For?

With your son or daughter now home for the holiday break, take a look at some of the warning signs you should look for with each of these conditions:

Substance Abuse

  • Physical signs of substance abuse include an extreme loss or increase in appetite, a severe loss of physical coordination, hyperactivity, a lack of basic hygiene and self-care and experiences with nausea and vomiting.
  • Behavioral signs of substance abuse include marked changes in attitude and demeanor, isolating from friends and family, irritability, unusual forgetfulness and a sharp drop in their academic results.


  • The bulk of changes related to depression are behavioral, although physical symptoms such as noticeable weight loss or gain can also occur.
  • Noticeable signs and symptoms you should look for are crying spells without reason, excessive sleeping or insomnia, frequent feelings of sadness and a loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed. Medical help should be sought immediately if they report any thoughts of suicide or their own death.


  • Parents should be aware that there is a stark difference between dealing with everyday stress and a true anxiety disorder. Sally Winston, PsyD, co-director of the Anxiety and Stress Disorder Institute of Maryland in Towson, says that the main difference “is whether your emotions are causing a lot of suffering and dysfunction.”
  • Persistent anxious thoughts on most days of the week are the main sign of this. Trouble falling asleep, extreme levels of self-consciousness and compulsive behaviors are all symptoms of anxiety. It can also manifest itself physically in the form of muscle tension and chronic indigestion.


Learn more about the connection between behavorial health and addiction treatments.

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