Movies and TV shows usually depict college life as an incredibly social time full of friends and parties. What these popular images often leave out are the periods of loneliness that many students experience. Loneliness is a painful emotion that results from feeling disconnected or distant from others. Although this is a common experience for students, different people will feel lonely for different reasons and to varying degrees.
When you arrive at school as a freshman having moved away from friends and family, the absence of these relationships that you have come to rely on for support can leave you feeling lonely. Later in college, you may feel lonely following the loss of an important friendship or romantic relationship. Loneliness can result from feeling socially isolated, but this feeling does not only occur when you are alone. You can also feel lonely in a lecture hall full of other students. These are all normal experiences.
Making sense of this feeling
How you interpret your loneliness can play an important role in intensifying or coping with your feelings. We are constantly “talking” to ourselves in our minds. The thoughts we have about a situation often shape the way we feel about it. Thinking, "I am the only one who feels like this" or "I am weird for feeling this way when I should be having fun" can make you feel more isolated and less likely to make attempts to engage socially. On the other hand, reminding yourself, "This is hard, but everyone feels like this at times" may help you to cope with your feelings and take action to improve your situation by reaching out to others.
Just because feeling lonely is a normal and common experience for students does not mean there is nothing that you can do to cope with and reduce these feelings. However, keep in mind that going into overdrive--joining every possible team, club, and group in order to avoid ever being alone--can backfire if the result is a myriad of acquaintances but little time for developing close relationships.
Look over the following ideas and think about which of these suggestions may be of benefit to you.
UT's Counseling & Mental Health Center (CMHC)
Call 512-471-3515 for information on setting up an appointment with a counselor.
CMHC also offers the CMHC Crisis Line: 512-471-CALL for a telephone counselor.