Reading this information and visiting the recommended websites might be enough to help you, or you might want to register with our service to talk about how we can further support you.
If you would like to talk to someone in confidence after reading any of the below, then please do not hesitate to contact us and learn about registering for counselling.
Stress & anxiety
Severe or chronic anxiety can stop us doing many things in our day-to-day life. We may be unable to walk down the street, go to the supermarket, into a lecture theatre or a pub without feeling anxious, uncomfortable and upset. Over time we may avoid going to these places to avoid feeling so bad.
Anxiety impacts upon our minds and bodies.
Some typical anxiety responses include:
- Unpleasant body sensations (heart pounding, sweating, tense muscles, dry throat, shaking, feeling or being sick, dizziness).
- Inability to concentrate.
- Worrying thoughts or unpleasant memories coming into your mind.
- Intense dislike or fear of some situations, and therefore avoidance of them (eg talking to people you don’t know, walking in the street, being in a tutorial class).
- Panic attacks coming out of the blue, and once one has happened - fearing that another will strike at any time.
- Disturbed sleep, with unpleasant dreams or nightmares.
If you're experiencing anxious thoughts, check out What can I do to help manage anxious feelings?
A panic attack is a severe experience of anxiety. People may feel intense dread, experience various physical symptoms, and have extreme thoughts of losing control, going mad, having a heart attack or dying.
It is also possible to become afraid of panic attacks themselves because the experience can be so unpleasant. Paradoxically this tends to make a person even more prone to having an attack!
Although panic attacks can be very frightening, they are not actually harmful - people do not actually have heart attacks, develop psychiatric illnesses, or die from them.
Where can I get help?
- The NHS has information and guidance Anxiety and panic attacks.
- Register with the Counselling & Mental Health Service for an appointment. You can be seen on an individual basis on or in a group specifically designed to address anxiety management.
- Speak to a close friend or family member, Personal Tutor or Supervisor.
- Talk to your GP.
Problems with relationships arise for most people at some time in their lives and this is one of the most common areas of life that people seek counselling for.
It may help to make an appointment with the service, where you can talk to someone who is completely separate from all other aspects of your life.
Relate is the country's largest provider of relationship support, working to promote health, respect and justice in couple and family relationships.
‘Self-harm’ is used to describe a wide range of behaviours - but here we are referring mainly to cutting: i.e. using a sharp instrument such as a razor blade to inflict cuts, usually on arms, legs or torso.
Self-harm is often understood to be a physical response to an emotional pain of some kind. It leads to chemical changes in the brain which are very addictive.
Self-harm is a very common problem. It is thought that around 13% of young people may try to hurt themselves on purpose (intentionally self-harm) at some point between the ages of 11 and 16, but the actual figure could be much higher.
It is often difficult to talk about self-harm; we may feel ashamed of our behaviour and it may be difficult to put into words what we are feeling and thinking when we do self-harm.
You may need to seek medical assistance to deal with any injuries. Depending on the severity, you should contact A&E or your GP.
If you want to stop, counselling can help you explore ways that will suit you. For some people, counselling can be invaluable. By exploring and understanding problems that feel overwhelming, you can learn to cope with and handle feelings in a different, less destructive way.
Help & support
- You can make an appointment with the Counselling Service when you register.
- The National Self-Harm Network is a volunteer organisation whose objective is to support those who self-harm. They have lots of useful resources to download and links to local support networks.
- Self-harm UK offers support for 14 – 19 year-olds.
Drugs or alcohol
Realising that you might have a problem with drugs or alcohol is an important first step in the recovery process.
For more information and guidance please read our article How can I get support for difficulties with drugs or alcohol?
To help understand eating disorders better and where to get help, please read our article What are eating disorders, and how can I get help?
Understanding and expressing gender and sexuality
Sometimes going to university can provide us with a chance to be ourselves and express ourselves in a way we have not been able to before.
We may be aware that the gender we were born into is not an accurate reflection of the gender we feel ourselves to be. We may not identify as ‘male’ or ‘female’ and feel that our gender expression is fluid or neutral.
Sometimes it can feel painful and lonely to feel different and we may wish we were just like everyone else. Sometimes the problem is not about how we feel, but about how those who know us and care about us respond to our difference.
Talking to a counsellor can be very helpful and provides an opportunity to process our feelings in a non-judgmental environment.
Support & information
- Counselling & Mental Health Service: Register and arrange an appointment with the service; a counsellor can help you to talk about and process your feelings.
- Gendered intelligence: Creative workshops, arts programmes, conferences and youth group sessions.
- NHS: Has information, guidance and resources for young people to support with questions or concerns around gender identity.
Sexuality can describe the whole way a person goes about expressing themselves as a sexual being.
Acceptance of our own sexuality:
- Sometimes we are aware that we have always had a particular sexual preference from an early age.
- Sometimes this is not the case and it may be that ‘coming out to yourself’ is an anxious process and characterised by a period of upheaval and uncertainty
- If you want someone to talk to during this time, the Counselling Service will be happy to help you.
Coming out to others
Our families can have detailed plans and dreams for us and can be very upset when it becomes clear that not all their hopes are going to be realised. Similarly, friends and other groups may have their own very definite opinions or prejudices.
It is important that you come out to people who will validate and celebrate your new-found sexuality, as well as to people who may question it. You may also want to talk over the situation in detail first.
Where can I get support?
The Counselling Service will be glad to offer support and counselling on any of the matters discussed above, as will the Student's Union. To get support from the service please register.
LGBT: Sexuality & gender identity
LGBT students may have issues to deal with around anxiety about ‘coming out’, or questions and perhaps feelings of confusion around sexuality, or reconciling sexuality and or gender with identity.
You may be clear about your sexuality and identity - may easily think of yourself and identify with being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or other gender/sexual minorities, but you may not find this such an easy and clear issue.
You may be confused around identifying as LGBT, but still find yourself attracted to same sex, or to no one at all, and/or find your gender expression different to that expected of genetic sex (or not be sexually male or female at all).
Any one of these issues can be difficult to come to terms with on your own and can be extremely difficult to come to terms with, understand and then discuss with friends and family. This is when it may be helpful to approach the Counselling Service to begin to talk through some of the difficulties in expression. Coming to counselling may be the helpful first step to accessing longer-term support and therapy.
Sexuality refers to the way in which we express ourselves as a sexual beings, how that sexuality is expressed.
Sexuality is a rich and complex area of personal experience, which seems to be formed by the time we reach adolescence and teenage years - although it can take many years before we each understand and accept our sexuality.
Gender identity is an individual’s sense of ‘being’ ‘male’, ‘female’ ‘intersex’ or ‘transgender’. It is also a social construction that categorises certain behaviours into binary male and female roles.
For transgender people, gender identity may differ from physical anatomy or expected social roles. It is important to bear in mind that gender identity, biological sex, and sexual orientation are not necessarily linked.
Gender identity conflicts can stem from an individual’s gender identity not matching their biological sex, an individual’s gender identity being neither completely male nor female, or an individual’s biological sex not being uniquely male or female.
Many say that they find acknowledging and exploring their difference a positive life changing experience - that as difficult as it may be, being different can also be freeing - in the sense that it enables a choice around gender expression or relationship style which suits the individual, rather than being prescribed by society.
Counselling support may be helpful, but equally the LGBT+ community may be able to offer an opportunity to meet and mix with a wide variety of individuals. The experience of coming to know oneself and being out can be both challenging and inspiring. The Counselling & Mental Health Support Service will be glad to offer support on any of the matters discussed above, as will the Student's Union LGBT Association.
Further support and information from external organisations
- Pink Therapy: The UK's largest independent therapy organisation working with gender and sexual diversity clients.
- Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (FFLAG): A national voluntary organisation supporting the parents and families of LGB people.
- London Friend: A charity that promotes the social, emotional, physical and sexual health and well-being of lesbian, gay and bisexual people, including transgender people who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual and all those unsure of their sexuality.
- The Beaumont Society: The largest and longest established transgendered support group in the UK.
- The Gender Trust: Supporting all those affected by gender identity issues.
What are sexual difficulties?
Sometimes we realise that our experience of sex is different to others – whether it is unexpectedly painful, or we have no desire or feeling; either way it may feel that we are missing out or ‘not doing it right’.
There is a lot of information available about sex - these websites below are a good place to start.
- Sexual health: The NHS provides host of information on sexual relationships, contraception and sexual health.
- The King’s Health Centre provides further information about sexual health and contraception, and details of booking a sexual health appointment.
- You may also find it helpful to talk about your experience with a counsellor here at King’s.
- The Counselling team can also refer you to an organisation or NHS service where you could receive more specialist help.
Parental separation & divorce
Approximately one in three marriages end in divorce and it is relatively common for parents to wait until their children leave home before separating.
It is highly likely that you will experience intense feelings (though there isn't anything wrong with you if you don't).
These may include:
Many of these feelings are expressions of grief for your loss, and these losses, both practical and emotional, may initially cause you most concern:
- Loss of "home", physically and emotionally
- Loss of security and the protection a united family can provide
- Loss of financial stability as your parents become separate entities
- Loss of trust of past and future
- Loss of parental interest as they struggle with their own lives and feelings
- Loss of continuity and the uncertainty which goes with it
- Loss of whatever your family has meant to you up until now.
Help & support
- If you are struggling with the impact of your parents’ divorce, it may help to make an appointment with the Counselling & Mental Health Support Service, where you can talk to someone who is completely separate from all other aspects of your life. Here you can express your feelings freely and take time to begin to come to terms with some of the changes you are facing.
- Relate can also offer a counselling service for young people (under 25) who are affected by their parents’ separation.
Do you feel that your anger goes beyond what is normal or healthy?
Have you ever been told that you have ‘anger issues’?
Most people have been angry at times in their lives, but sometimes it can feel excessive or uncontrollable and might even be impacting negatively on our relationships.
Counselling might help you learn to manage your anger and understand the triggers.
If you think that you may have a problem with anger, there is support and advice available:
- The Counselling service can help you to develop new ways of coping with and expressing angry feelings.
- You might want to speak to your GP.
The death of someone who is significant to us is perhaps one of the hardest things we will experience in life. Whether it is expected or a shock, the enormity of loss is something that impacts on us profoundly.
Usually, this is experienced with not just one feeling but a whole range of feelings. This is a normal natural process. Coping with loss is difficult at any time, but as a student, perhaps isolated from family and friends, with other pressures such as deadlines to meet, exams to revise for and potential money worries, it can feel worse.
Dealing with grief
Grief may take a long time to work through. It is an inevitable and human response.
These are some of the feelings and behaviours that are often experienced, sometimes in quick succession:
- Shock and disbelief: you may feel numb and be unable to take in what has happened.
- Anxiety and panic: sometimes in situations that wouldn’t normally bother you.
- Guilt and regret: whether for things you wish you had said and done (or not done), or for just being alive; these feelings are particularly strong when someone has completed suicide.
- An overwhelming sense of loss and sadness: sometimes we may feel as though a part of ourselves has been lost.
- Depressed: feelings of wanting to withdraw from family and friends; at times you may feel despairing, that there is no point in going on.
- Anger and rage: some of this may relate to feeling out of control, that everything is chaotic.
- A sense of injustice and envy: of those who aren’t suffering in this way.
- Relief: particularly if the person who has died was suffering a great deal.
In addition, we may find ourselves affected in some of the following ways:
- Sleep disturbance
- Loss of appetite
- Unable to concentrate
- Tearful and
Sometimes there seems to be an expectation that a bereaved person should have recovered after a certain time has elapsed, but everyone has their own recovery time.
Help & support
Sometimes we realise that something is stopping us from moving forward with our lives. Perhaps we are still grieving intensely, long after the event or we can’t seem to react to the loss at all, perhaps to the point of not being able to cry.
In these situations it might be helpful to speak to someone outside of our parents, friends and family.
If you’re struggling with feelings after bereavement, counselling may be helpful. Counselling can offer you an opportunity to try to make sense of what is happening and to try to think of how you want to deal with what you feel and think.
To get support with the King’s Counselling & Mental Health Service you’ll need to register, or you can make an appointment with your GP for mental health support from the NHS.
There are also external organizations you can seek support from:
- Cruse are an organisation that provide support, information and advice. Their aim is to promote the well-being of bereaved people and to enable anyone bereaved by death to understand their grief and cope with their loss. They also run a forum specifically for young people to share their experiences.
- Sands is an organisation which offers information and support to anyone affected by the death of a baby.
- The NHS also have lots of resources to support with mental health including for Grief after bereavement or loss.
A trauma is usually an event that is unexpected, shocking or deeply distressing to us. It could be a fire, an accident, a robbery, an attack or being witness to a traumatic event such as a death. It could be a major disaster involving many people, or a personal event involving ourselves, friends or family members.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Most people, in time, get over traumatic experiences without needing help. However, in some people, traumatic experiences set off a reaction that can last for many months or years. This is called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.
There are 3 main symptoms common in PTSD:
- Flashbacks and nightmares. We find ourselves re-living the event, again and again. This can happen both as a "flashback" in the day, and as nightmares when we are asleep.
- Avoidance and numbing. It can be just too upsetting to re-live our experience over and over again. We might avoid places and people that remind us of the trauma, and try not to talk about it.
- Being "on guard". We may stay alert all the time, as if we are looking out for danger. We can't relax. This is called "hypervigilance".
Help & support
Distress following trauma usually fades with time. However, if you feel that you are making little progress then help is available to aid you in overcoming your problems.
- If you are struggling with your feelings after a trauma and would like to speak to counsellor please register with the service. Counselling can offer you an opportunity to try to make sense of what is happening to you.
- Victim Support is an independent charity which helps people cope with the effects of crime. They provide free and confidential support and information to help you deal with your experience.
- NHS: Post-traumatic stress disorder has an overview of the disorder.
What is a phobia?
A phobia is a fear that causes us difficulty in an area of our life, or in our day to day functioning. For example, a fear of needles becomes a phobia when we are unable to have important vaccinations or blood tests.
Phobias are extremely common. Sometimes they start in childhood for no apparent reason and sometimes they emerge after a traumatic event. Phobias cause us to feel intense fear and to do our utmost to avoid the feared object or situation.
Some common phobias seen in the Counselling Service include a fear of blood, needles, vomiting, of birds, of closed spaces (claustrophobia) or of social or performance situations (social phobia).
You might want to consider getting help with your phobia if:
- It interferes with your ability to lead a full, normal life.
- It causes you to experience a lot of anxiety or distress and you seem to be feeling like this often.
- You are avoiding situations that matter.
- You suffer from overwhelming blushing/trembling/sweating in social situations
Help & support
If you struggling with a phobia and would like to speak to a Counsellor, please register with the service or make an appointment to see your GP.
- Anxiety UK is a charity which offers information, support and understanding via an extensive range of services.
- Triumph Over Phobia is a charity which aims to help sufferers of phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder and other related anxiety to overcome their fears and become ex-sufferers. They do this by running a network of self-help therapy groups.