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Physical & Environmental Causes

  • Medication, Drugs, Other Substances: Can affect behaviour if the substance is still in the student’s system. Extreme behaviours may be due to reacting or recovering from a substance. Student tolerance for others’ behaviour may also be reduced by ingested substances.
  • Illness: University students tend to be poor at taking care of their health. Feeling ill can elicit irritability, confusion, and inattention. Chronic illness, such as diabetes or chronic pain, as well as life threatening illnesses (such as cancer or AIDS), can increase irritability. Some illness can also result in sleep disruption.
  • Personality Disorders: Students with personality disorders tend to be more disruptive in their interpersonal relationships. Students with a personality disorder may often appear to be typical students; however over time it may be apparent that it is beyond your skill to manage their behaviour. At this point, it is advisable that you refer the student to professional help.
  • Fatigue: Some students may work multiple jobs or night shifts in addition to studying. This can cause fatigue which can often lead to irritability, loss of attention, and interpersonal insensitivity.

Emotional Challenges

  • Loss: Students who have experienced major loss and grief may express anger, as well as guilt, depression, withdrawal, and denial. These students may feel a loss of control and are likely to try to regain control by any means possible.
  • Attention Seeking: Students who are feeling lonely or feel isolated may have learned to obtain attention through disruptive behaviours.
  • Redirected Aggression: Students may be upset over some event unrelated or peripherally related to the class. Small events in the class may trigger disproportionately large responses, making you a possible target for the expression of the student’s emotion. It is easier for the student to blame a problem on someone else than to take personal responsibility. You may encounter this when a student has performed poorly on assignments or exams.
  • Emotional Distress: Students may suffer from any variety of emotional distress or mental disorder. In general, these individuals may display unusual behaviour but are not purposefully disruptive. It is more likely that they are overlooked. If you feel that a student is displaying certain signs of emotional distress, you may consider referring the student to seek professional support.
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