Signs of Distress

Violent behavior is often preceded by signs that indicate a person is not coping well. Being familiar with these signs of distress can alert you to a problem so that it can be addressed as early as possible.

The following signs of distress should raise concerns about the potential for an individual to engage in violent behavior. They may be behaviors that you observe or that are reported to you by coworkers, other students, faculty or TAs, etc. If violent behavior occurs, it may be self directed or directed at others.

  • Reacting angrily or emotionally in a way that seems disproportionate to the situation.
  • Making direct or veiled threats about harming or killing one's self or others.
  • Making unusual references to, or being preoccupied with violent incidents that have made the news.
  • Engaging in intimidating, belligerent, insubordinate, defiant, or challenging behavior.
  • Being confrontational, angry, or behaving in an unpredictable, restless, or agitated manner.
  • Having a history of violent, reckless, or antisocial behavior.
  • Displaying an unusual or obsessive fondness or fascination with firearms.
  • Blaming others for anything that goes wrong, with no sense of personal responsibility.
  • Displaying a recent, marked job or academic performance decline and/or attendance problem.
  • Displaying marked changes in personality, mood, or behavior.
  • Withdrawing from friends and acquaintances.
  • Crying excessively for what appears to be little or no reason.
  • Exhibiting a decline in personal grooming.
  • Crossing behavioral boundaries at work (e.g., excessive phone calls, personal e-mails and/or visits).
  • Engaging in substance abuse.
  • Perceiving disgrace or loss of options due to failure, including failing in school.
  • Experiencing serious stress in one's personal life (e.g., financial, family, or marital problems).


If you or others may be in danger


253-692-SAFE (7233)
For advice and resources


Campus Safety Escort Program