Advice For Freshers

17 September 2010, 00:00 | Updated: 23 September 2010, 12:21

An expert at the Priory Group, a provider of mental health services, has drawn up a checklist to help new university students combat feelings of isolation and loneliness.

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 the Priory Group’s specialists in anxiety and depression, the telltale signs of feelings 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.

“While it is quite natural to feel slightly worried or anxious about having to make new friends, it can escalate in to 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.

“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.”

Dr Drever has the following advice to help new undergraduates.

1 Don’t forget that most new students will be in the same situation
2 Join clubs that are linked to your interests and hobbies
3 Get to know your new class mates
4 Consider living in halls of residence at first until you get to know people and the area
5 Talk to your family and friends back home about how your are feeling
6 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 it then is best to seek medical help via a GP who can refer you to experts such as the Priory.”

Heart spoke to Dr Tim Rank from The Priory in Hove; there are branches across the south east