Seeking help for anxiety early can make all the difference to your life at University - don’t leave it to get worse

As students begin a new life at University over the coming weeks (September/October 2018), or return to continue their courses of study, many will already have previous experience of mental health issues while some may develop them at University, often in response to the stresses and strains that come with university life (work, relationships, being away from family, finances etc). Typical problems include:

For many - even though student mental health is now widely reported in the media, and university support services are improving - individuals still find it difficult to acknowledge they may have a problem and so seek help. Often they feel it shouldn’t be a problem. “Others don’t seem to suffer so why do I?” “I should be able to deal with it myself.”

Well, you may be able to deal with it yourself, if you have the right skills and tools to work with, but few will have those without some help first. For many with various forms of anxiety and/or stress (e.g. related to exams, assessment, work deadlines, relationship breakups etc.), treatment can be relatively simple and short term. Four to six sessions is common for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBH) treatment - the type of therapy I practice; sometimes fewer or more depending on the issues. It is short term because it is very much about giving you the skills to be your own therapist. A first assessment and conceptualisation session (of an hour and a half) will tell you how many sessions are likely to be appropriate, if CBH is suitable for you. And that first session can be very therapeutic in itself as you begin to unpack what is going on and - most importantly - why.

Your University will have health and well-being support services, including counselling services, and those are likely to be your first port of call. But often these are in heavy demand and at peak times of the year waiting times can often be up to 10-12 weeks. As a private therapist I can usually see someone for a first assessment within a week or 10 days and treatment could be concluded perhaps within six - eight weeks (in other words, even before you might have got a first assessment appointment with counselling services or the NHS - which typically has an even longer 18 week waiting list for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)).

Whatever you do, seek help. If you seek help early you are so much more likely to be able to resolve issues without a major impact on your studies, and at the same time develop some life long resilience skills that will help you with whatever life may throw at you in the future. Don’t take my word for it; some comments from previous clients illustrate just how helpful it can be:

“Living with constant anxiety attacks and phobias can be embarrassing and terrifying. It got so bad at one point that I stopped using the Underground with the frequency that I used to and began sheltering myself at home. This is when I decided that if my quality of life was to improve, I needed to do something about it, so I contacted Bill. He was friendly and understanding from the moment I called to book our first appointment. Bill helped me realise that I could take back control over my thoughts and body, and gave me the necessary tools to achieve it. Within a few sessions, and after practising simple day-to-day techniques, I regained the confidence I had lost months earlier. I would highly recommend taking this kind of therapy in order to understand your thinking process and gain confidence in yourself!"

".........thank you for all your help and support. You’re helping me massively to look at some of my issues/limitations from a whole new different perspective (something I’ve never been able to do) and that’s definitely started to have an impact on how I address anxiety and problems. Thank you."

"......our meetings have been beneficial to change my whole point of view and how I approach many things in my life."

"I let a number of issues overwhelm me at university, to the point where I was unable to deal with any of them. CBH gave me the skills to simplify things, stay calm, and feel in control of my life. It didn't just help me sort things out at that point in time, it taught me that I will always have the ability to control my stress levels, in any future situation. Equally, the skills gained don't just apply to stressful situations. CBH helped me with calmness, assertiveness and confidence and will help me maintain these skills for life. Bill is a fantastic therapist. He was understanding and calm, but most importantly he told me things that helped me, not just things that I wanted to hear. I felt I could easily open up to him, knowing that I wouldn't be judged and that he would be able to apply hypnosis to my personal problems."

"...... with your help I feel much more calm about the future and let things come along instead of trying to plan everything. ......I feel deeply relaxed, less stressed and ready to start the challenging new term."

Most importantly, your time at University should be a joyous and memorable one for all the right reasons. You need to enjoy your studies, not dread them.

Bill Sheate, 19 September 2018.