Every mom knows the joy and sorrow of sending her daughter off to college. Even if college happens to be located in the same city, it’s still a transition that means your daughter isn’t a little girl any longer. All moms want their daughters to start out on the road to life with hope and happiness, but sometimes that’s not the way it works out. And what’s even more unfortunate is that moms often don’t even realize their daughters are struggling because the signs are not always easy to recognize.
For all those moms who have college-aged girls, here is a list of seven signs that your daughter may be struggling.
Changes in Sleep Patterns, Appetite, Hygiene
If your daughter still lives at home or you see her often, you may notice a change in her sleeping patterns, appetite, or hygiene. She may sleep all day or be up all night. She could stop eating meals or eat much more than usual (usually junk food). She may stop putting on makeup or doing her hair in the morning. If these changes go on for more than a few weeks, it’s probably a good idea to ask her what’s going on.
It’s not unusual for any college student to have some irritable moments as they struggle with loads of schoolwork, lack of sleep, and stress. However, if your daughter seems to be much more snappish than usual and can’t seem to relax, this could be a sign of anxiety. Try not to react to her irritability with anger (or more irritability) and instead ask if there is something she’d like to talk about.
Difficult Focusing or Making Decisions
Has your daughter mentioned she’s having trouble studying? When you ask her a question does she seem to have trouble making a decision? These are both signs that her thinking skills could be clouded by excessive worry or anxiety.
Does your daughter seem to be unable to sit still? Does she get up to go somewhere or do something, then stop midway through? Restlessness can be a sign of anxiety or depression. It may be more difficult to spot this one if you don’t see your daughter often, but you may be able to pick up hints in the way she sounds on the phone.
Isolation and Loss of Interest
Is your daughter staying home while all her friends are going out to concerts, parties, or events? Does she seem uninterested in books, movies, or hobbies that she usually loves? If she’s isolating herself or displaying a lack of interest in things that used to make her happy, it could be a sign of depression.
Change in Relationships
Has your daughter abruptly broken up with a boyfriend or formed a completely new group of friends? Though some changes in relationships are inevitable when she goes off to college, sudden or drastic changes could be the sign of an inner struggle to find peace.
Change in Performance
Has your daughter gone from an A student to a C student? Is her normally clean room now a disaster area? If you’ve noticed a marked change in performance in your daughter’s school work, extracurricular activities, or other areas of her life, this could be a warning sign.
If you spot one or more of these red flags, the first thing you should do is try to talk to your daughter. Without being accusing or getting upset, gently inquire if everything is going okay or if there’s something she’d like to talk about. Don’t push if she resists confiding in you. If you really get concerned, you can suggest she talk to a school counselor or a therapist and that you’ll set up the appointment for her.
Transitioning to college is a big change for your daughter and it’s not unusual for her to experience some anxiety as she eases into her new life. However, spotting warning signs before they become full-blown emergencies is important so that you can get her help when she truly needs it.
If you question if your daughter is experiencing anxiety or depression, please have her contact me and we can arrange for a therapy session.
Jessica is a mental health therapist who specializes in helping women free themselves from anxiety, depression, and other stress-related conditions. She is honored to witness the experiences of her clients and work with them toward meaningful lives.