University Freshers - how to cope with isolation
Teenagers from all over the country are about to start university and many will be moving to a strange town or city and leaving their support network of family and childhood friends behind.
According to Dr Ian Drever, one of Priory's specialists in anxiety and depression, the telltale signs of feelings of isolation and loneliness, are as follows:
Signs of isolation and loneliness
- Becoming increasingly emotional - tearfulness, anxiety, depression, feeling bleak or empty
- Difficulty concentrating
- Becoming negative and lacking confidence
- Headaches, general aches and pains
- Loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping
- Fear of socialising and meeting new people
- Feeling unable to cope
Dr Drever said: "The image of teenagers starting university is that they immediately become immersed in a social whirl as soon as they arrive. However, it can be quite the opposite for many new undergraduates who find it daunting to have left home and the security of their family and circle of friends, many of whom they will have known for years.
"Instead of reflecting on the many new opportunities, students may wonder if they will ever feel settled. They may even be experiencing doubts about the decision to go to university in the first place. Most new students go through a 'negative' period in which their thoughts may be dominated by feelings of loneliness, anxiety, homesickness or a combination of these.
"While it is quite natural to feel slightly worried or anxious about having to make new friends, it can escalate into acute anxiety. Indeed, being surrounded by a lot of people, such as on a university campus, can intensify feelings of loneliness and isolation when you are a newcomer, particularly if everyone else appears to be having a great time.
"If this happens, it can have a detrimental impact on their health, their ability to study and they may be so fearful that they isolate themselves from university activities and fellow undergraduates."
Dr Drever added: "The warning signs of this should not be ignored as they could develop into physical and emotional health problems."
Advice to help new undergraduates
- Don't forget that most new students will be in the same situation
- Join clubs that are linked to your interests and hobbies
- Get to know your new classmates
- Consider living in halls of residence at first until you get to know people and the area
- Talk to your family and friends back home about how you are feeling
- Don't turn to alcohol, smoking or drugs to help feelings of anxiety as this will only make matters worse
Dr Drever said: "If you are feeling overly anxious and isolated when you start university, you should seek help as early as possible. Universities have strong support networks in place that students can turn to if they have any problems. However, if the feelings of acute anxiety and isolation persist, then it is best to seek medical help via a GP who can refer you to experts such as Priory."