Mental Health Awareness Week: Students More Likely To Experience Anxiety Than Anyone Else

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Students and unemployed individuals are more susceptible to experiencing anxiety all or most of the time than the rest of the UK population, with a third coping by hiding themselves away, according to a report.

The report, published by the Mental Health Foundation and titled 'Living with Anxiety', revealed some startling figures about the wellbeing of the UK population.

After 2,000 members of the public were questioned for the survey, released to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week, results showed a third of students cope by "hiding themselves away from the world".

The Mental Health Foundation told The Huffington Post UK: "For many students, moving away from family and friends and starting university in a new, unfamiliar environment can be a daunting experience. As a result, students may feel homesick, might worry about making friends, and could become anxious about the new educational challenge that lies ahead."

"The current economic climate means that it is more difficult for students to find employment at the end of their degree and, furthermore, the level of student debt is also on the rise. Students can therefore put themselves under greater pressure to excel in their studies, causing them to become increasingly anxious and fearful of failure particularly around deadlines and exams.

"Although socialising with your peers over a few beers or a bottle of wine can be an enjoyable experience, it is important to bear in mind that alcohol acts as a depressant. Drinking too much or too often can contribute to depression, making you feel worse instead of better, so it is imperative to drink in moderation, if at all."

Stephanie, a journalist in her twenties, told the charity despite constantly having a supportive family, she later discovered she had an anxiety disorder. In the report, she goes on to say how, as she left for university, her parents were in the process of getting divorced and she was worried about gaining weight whilst in student accommodation.

"I started to spend more and more time at the gym because exercise was a great stress relief (and the endorphins didn’t hurt either)," she says. "I started to see results in weight loss, which made me want to do a bit more and then a bit more. I guess, because I’m a perfectionist, if I was going to do something, I was going to do it well!"

A common technique used to treat those feeling stressed or depressed is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). The method allows individuals to understand the link between negative emotions, thoughts and moods and how just by changing their behaviour, it allows them to deal with anxiety and develop a sense of control.

However, Stephanie later acknowledges that whilst she was never hospitalised for her weight loss, luckily her parents began to realise there was something wrong and she was taken to a psychologist, recalling how with the aid of CBT those sessions were really useful.

She comments: "People deal with anxiety in different ways. For some, it’s addiction; mine is an eating disorder."

"The more that food or weight is in the forefront of my mind, the more I know that I need to change something in my life that is causing me that stress."

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The Royal College of Psychiatrists also reported a progressive increase in the number of students seeking counselling and student health services, and also an increase in the severity of their mental health problems. One of the most noticeable highlights is that it has been maintained that drug and alcohol misuse is also a “serious concern”.

The National Institute of Mental Health notes that the underlying symptoms of anxiety revolve around "excessive, irrational fear and dread". They maintain that some anxiety disorders co-exist with other mental or physical illnesses such as alcohol or substance abuse. In these situations, the patient should be first treated for these other illnesses as anxiety symptoms could make circumstances a lot worse.

Additional physical symptoms of anxiety include increased heart rate, increased muscle tension, tingling in the hands and feet, hyperventilation (over breathing), dizziness, difficulty in breathing, feeling sick, dry mouth, shaking, choking sensations, palpitations and so on, according to Anxiety UK.

Whilst students may have problems in their university or school lives which cause anxiety, there are also various general triggers that could occur with anyone. These include a lack of sleep, a heavy workload, dealing with huge responsibility, a poor/unbalanced diet, consuming caffeine, being dehydrated, consuming alcohol, smoking and skipping meals.

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Useful websites and helplines:

Samaritans, open 24 hours a day, on 08457 90 90 90

Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393

Students Against Depression, a website by students, for students.

HopeLine runs a confidential advice helpline if you are a young person at risk of suicide or are worried about a young person at risk of suicide. Mon-Fri 10-5pm and 7pm-10pm. Weekends 2pm-5pm on 0800 068 41 41

Student Minds To join the community or launch a student group contact the charity on hello@studentminds.org.uk