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Loneliness

Growth and change during college years produces a variety of feelings in students. In addition to feelings of excitement and anticipation, there may also be feelings of loneliness. Loneliness is not necessarily being alone. We may be alone for long periods without feeling at all lonely. On the other hand we may feel lonely in a familiar setting without really understanding why. The best way to begin to understand loneliness is to examine some of the ways people experience it. You may feel lonely when:

Misconceptions About Loneliness

Loneliness can be made more intense by what you tell yourself it means. College students are particularly susceptible to the following misconceptions regarding loneliness:

If you believe these misconceptions you may believe that loneliness results from a defect in your personality. Research suggests that college students who think of loneliness as a defect tend to have the following difficulties:

Lonely students often report feeling depressed, angry, afraid, and misunderstood. They may become highly critical of themselves, overly sensitive or self-pitying, or they may become critical of others, blaming others for their situations. When these things happen, lonely students often begin doing things which perpetuate their loneliness. Some students, for example, become discouraged, lose their sense of desire and motivation to get involved in new situations, and isolate themselves from people and activities. Other students deal with loneliness by becoming too quickly and deeply involved with people and activities without evaluating the consequences of their involvement. They may later find themselves in unsatisfying relationships or over-committed to academic or extracurricular activities.

What To Do About Loneliness

The alternative to viewing loneliness as a defect or as an unalterable personality characteristic is to recognize that loneliness is something that can be changed. It is also important to know that loneliness is a common experience. According to a recent national survey, one quarter of all adults experience painful loneliness at least every few weeks, and the incidence among adolescents and college students is even higher. Loneliness is neither a permanent state nor “bad” in and of itself. Instead it should be viewed more accurately as a signal or indicator of important needs that are going unmet.

You, or anyone, should take action when important needs aren’t being met. Begin by identifying which needs are not being met in your specific situation. Your loneliness may result from a variety of needs. It may involve the need to develop a circle of friends or a special friend. It may involve learning to do things for yourself, without friends. Or it may involve learning to feel better or more content about yourself in general.

Developing Friendships

There are a number of ways to begin meeting your needs for friendship. Consider the following:

Developing Yourself

Think of yourself as a total person. Don’t neglect other needs just because your companionship or friendship needs are not being met.

In summary don’t define yourself as a lonely person. No matter how bad you feel, loneliness will diminish or even disappear when you focus attention and energy on needs you can currently meet and when you learn to develop new ways to meet your other needs. Don’t wait for your feelings to get you going–get going and good feelings will eventually catch up with you.

HOW TO GET HELP? 

If you or someone you know needs help, contact the USAO Counseling Office at 405-574-1326 or counseling@usao.edu. Feel free to come by the 3rd floor of the Student Center (Room 305).