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Anxiety at university

Updated: Apr 19

photo of a university student studying on her laptop in a library

University is an exciting time, but it can also exacerbate mental health problems


Going to University is a major life transition and such transitions, although often exciting, can also come with understandable feelings of stress, fear and anxiety. Starting university is typically at a time when we’re developing into adulthood and taking on new roles and responsibilities. This can be a challenging time alongside the pressures to perform both academically and socially, and many can find it hard to adapt.


If you need support, please don't hesitate to contact our team today.


37% of first year students showed moderate to severe symptoms of depression


It’s understandable that students may be more vulnerable to experiencing difficulties with their mental health and well-being given they’re likely for the first time living away from home and dealing with the stresses of adult life, pressures that have been added to with the pandemic and restrictions. One survey conducted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in the summer of 2021 found that 37% of first year students showed moderate to severe symptoms of depression.


The majority of mental health disorders have been found to develop before the age of 24 years old (Kessler et al., 2005), and students are a group at high risk of developing mental health difficulties. Getting support early is important to help prevent and alleviate longer term mental health problems. If you’re noticing experiences like withdrawing from your lectures or from seeing friends and family, struggling with motivation and concentration, struggling with sleep and eating, feeling low in mood, lacking in energy, tearful, on edge, feeling bad about yourself, having thoughts about harming yourself, using alcohol or drugs to feel better, then these may be signs to reach out for support.


It can be helpful to find out support your university has available. Outside of university, you can speak to your GP and it can be helpful to let friends and family know what you’re experiencing. There are a number of charitable organisations that offer advice and support, including Student Minds, SHOUT,CALM, SANE, Papyrus, and Samaritans.


Why am I so stressed at university?


There could be any number of reasons as to why you might feel stressed at university. For many new students living on campus, the transition might be the first time living away from home. For others, the freedom and self-sufficiency might feel overwhelming. Building your own daily structure around courses or lectures, managing your time efficiently, meeting so many new people and trying to make friends can all be incredibly daunting. Where some people thrive in situations like these, others can find the experience hectic and struggle to adapt to the change.


Students can put a lot of pressure on themselves to fit in with their peers. It's a time for expression and self-exploration, and along with the freedom of living away from home, you're also opened up to situations or environments you may not be used to. In trying to fit in, there's the potential to succumb to peer pressure, but it's important to note that if you aren't comfortable with something you can always say 'no'.


University is of course also about learning. Students need to apply themselves, deliver coursework and commit to deadlines. The amount of work required will be a large step-up from previous education and the pressure to keep on top of your workload will have an impact on your stress levels.


Signs and symptoms of anxiety

  • Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge.

  • Being easily fatigued.

  • Having difficulty concentrating.

  • Being irritable.

  • Having headaches, muscle aches, stomachaches, or unexplained pains.

  • Difficulty controlling feelings of worry.

  • Having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep.


If you feel you need further support, then it can be helpful to consider psychological treatments. At Schoen Clinic Chelsea we offer an intensive treatment programme, consisting of a range of therapy groups, individual therapy and medical reviews if needed.


Students who have been through our treatment programme have typically sought help for difficulties around low self-confidence/self-esteem, relationship difficulties, anxiety and worry, low mood, self-harm, eating problems, procrastination, and perfectionism. They have often had these difficulties for several years but they have been exacerbated with the pressures of student life. An intensive treatment approach can benefit by supporting people to make further or faster progress, help them to understand how their life experiences have shaped their current difficulties and what’s keeping the problems going, and develop a wide range of coping skills.


“The way the groups are organised is brilliant and the many different topics we cover means that just about every issue I have had has been addressed in at least one of the groups.”

- Patient feedback, Mental Health Treatment Programme at Schoen Clinic Chelsea



Following an assessment to find out about your current problems and what you want to gain from treatment, you can expect to meet regularly with a key worker, who will work with you to develop a treatment plan and support you as you progress through your therapy.


Learn more about our mental health treatment programme here, alternatively you can call and speak to our Private Enquiries Manager at no obligation, on 020 3146 2300, or send an email to che-privateenquiries@schoen-clinic.co.uk


Written by Dr Sarah Perkins, Clinical Psychologist at Schoen Clinic Chelsea

If you or someone you care about is experiencing a mental health problem, our specialists are here to help. Contact us today.

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