This article provides information about getting support with overcoming shyness and social anxiety at University.

Anxiety is very common - and shyness and social anxiety is one of the ways in which anxiety manifests itself. It is common to try to deal with anxiety by avoiding the situations that feel like they are causing these feelings. Avoidance may feel like it gives temporary relief, but in fact it makes the problem increasingly worse. Skipping lectures and seminars, or avoiding social situations, can have a significant effect on your studies and general university experience.

It is always advisable to let your personal tutor or course leader know if you are having difficulties affecting your studies - they are there to help, and can offer useful advice and support. It is also worth talking to friends or other students to see if they can offer support eg. by going to classes together. It is also advisable to consult your GP if you are feeling persistently low, or if your difficulties are significantly affecting your daily functioning.

Of course, the nature of the problem might make it feel particularly difficult to approach others for support. However, you can learn skills to help you deal better with social anxiety, and there is a lot of other support available:

Anonymous online support

If you feel daunted by the idea of speaking to someone face to face about your difficulties then a good place to start might be to investigate the anonymous online support options made available by the Student Wellbeing Service.

All students also have free access to a set of online courses, called SilverCloud, to learn evidence-based strategies for tackling common issues. Choose from the 'Space from Stress' or the 'Space from Anxiety' courses as a starting point. These courses can be accessed confidentially and completed independently, in your own time and at your own pace. Find out more and register directly through the online resources article.

This article also tells you more about the What’sUp? app which is an anonymous way to monitor your mood and get support from a wellbeing adviser. 

Courses and workshops

The Student Wellbeing Service hosts a range of workshops and courses for learning skills to tackle common issues like stress and anxiety. The emphasis on these courses is on learning skills and you will not need to share any personal reasons for attending, or any other details which you don’t wish to share. Many students who attend a course or workshop comment that they find it helpful to know that others might be having similar feelings or experiences - and that there are things that you can do to make things better.

Our popular 'From Stress to Success' and 'Keep Calm' courses run several times a term and there are several workshops on relevant topics like exam anxiety, panic, sleep, procrastination, perfectionism, and living life to the full. You may also find it helpful to attend a course on mindfulness. Consult our course and workshop programme to find out more.

Student Wellbeing Service

You could also approach the Student Wellbeing Service for one to one support. The Student Wellbeing Service offers confidential help with a wide range of personal and emotional concerns and is available to every student at the University, free of charge. All kinds of students find their way to us from all over the University and for all sorts of reasons.

The service has three strands: wellbeing advice, counselling, and mental health advice. They are all linked together so when you apply you only have to approach us once – we will sort out which one is most likely to meet your needs. 

To contact us or register for support see our article on accessing support from the Student Wellbeing Service.

Talking Change

Talking Change is a free NHS service offering supported self-help and talking therapies (mainly cognitive behaviour therapy) for people registered with a Portsmouth GP and with difficulties with anxiety or depression. Self-referral is possible by completing the online referral, or your GP can refer you. You can also access Talking Change on campus, via the Student Wellbeing Service.

Library books

The University library has copies of the following books which could be useful:

  • Butler, G - Overcoming Social Anxiety and Shyness - 616.852250651/BUT
  • Forsyth, JP & Eifert, GH - The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety - 616.8914/FOR
  • Harris, R - The Confidence Gap - 150.198/HAR
  • Jeffers, S - Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway - 158.2/JEF
  • Kennerley, H - Overcoming Anxiety - 616.85220651/KEN
  • Meares, K - Overcoming Worry - 616.890651/MEA
  • Orsillo, S M & Roemer, L - The Mindful Way through Anxiety - 616.8914/ORS
  • Williams, C, Dr - Overcoming anxiety, stress, and panic: a five areas approach - 616.852206/WIL

Other resources

If you would like to research more around the topic of anxiety, the Student Wellbeing Service can recommend the following self-help resources:

From a very well-regarded Australian site, these popular downloadable CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) workbooks provide clear, easy to read information along with short exercises and activities to learn and apply skills for tackling common issues. Many students have found these materials helpful. Choose from:
What me, worry? for mastering generalised anxiety
Shy no longer for coping with social anxiety
Panic stations for coping with panic attacks
Helping health anxiety for health-focused anxiety

This page links to a series of excellent booklets providing information and self-help activities to learn skills for common issues like shyness and social anxiety, as well as stress, anxiety, panic, obsessions and compulsions, sleep, anger and health anxiety.

Royal College of Psychiatrists leaflet for anyone who finds shyness a problem, or who suffers from a social phobia, focusing on types of social anxiety, ways in which life can be affected, possible causes and maintenance, and ways forward, including self-help, psychological and medical treatments.

A volunteer-led organisation containing information, online forums and chat-rooms.

Free downloadable audio podcasts to help you relax, sleep and improve your general sense of wellbeing. They're designed to fit around your lifestyle and provide an introduction to the skills and techniques that can help you live a mentally healthier life.

Comprehensive, free online resource which provides information about common emotional problems and practical help in treating them, with a range of strategies and exercises and an online workbook to track progress and record experiences. Includes a specific programme for social anxiety.


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