Discerning the Difference Between Homesickness and Depression When Your Student Heads off to School

depressionCollege students face many new experiences. For entering freshmen, the sheer number of new circumstances can, at times, feel overwhelming. For some college students, that overwhelming feeling can turn into depression. As the parent of a college student, you’ll want to be able to tell the difference between normal homesickness and concerning depression.

Think about what college freshmen are dealing with as they begin college life away from home. They’ve left behind home, family, comfortable routines, pets and friends. Homesickness is an all-too-common reaction for those just entering college. And the symptoms of homesickness can range from mild sadness to profound difficulty adjusting. The grief, insecurity and stress of starting something so totally new can leave kids feeling nostalgic for home and pessimistic about their new venture. This emotional struggle can last weeks, a semester, or even for the first year – though, it usually ebbs and flows. What’s important to remember (both parents and students) is that homesickness is normal.

On the other hand, if symptoms of homesickness persist or worsen after the first semester, it’s possible that the student is developing depression. If homesickness is interfering with the student’s ability to learn, study and take part in fun activities – it may actually be more than homesickness. As a parent, be prepared for some homesickness. However, if this sadness isn’t punctuated by times of fun and positive growth then you might suggest your child pay a visit to the campus mental health office.

Since homesickness can last a while, you might want to monitor your student for the first semester. If you are still concerned when they come home for a fall or Christmas break be sure to bring them in to Family Guidance Center. We’ve helped many young adults get through the emotional challenges of change and loss. We can help your college student too.