Counselor talking to a student


Counseling Center

What is it? Loneliness is an awareness that you are not feeling connected to others and important needs are not being met. Such needs include the need to develop a circle of friends or a special relationship.  Mutual relationships are essential to health. If you are lonely, you feel the need for warmth, understanding, and long to share your feelings and thoughts with others.

AM I LONELY? An important factor about loneliness is that it is not the same as being alone. A person will always have time when they choose to be alone. Rather, loneliness is the feeling of being alone and feeling sad about it. All of us feel lonely at some time or another. It is only when we seem trapped in our loneliness that it becomes a real problem.

People who are lonely often report feeling depressed, angry, afraid, and misunderstood. If you are lonely, you may become highly critical of yourself, overly sensitive or self-pitying, or critical of others. There is a tendency to engage in behaviors that serve to perpetuate the problem; some of these behaviors are:

  • Perceiving yourself in a negative way and becoming overly critical of your physical appearance.
  • Blaming yourself and others for your poor social relationships, and falsely assuming that nobody likes you; tending to expect others to reject you.
  • Not getting involved in social activities; expecting others to include you in their activities and conversa-tions; becoming withdrawn, angry and isolated if not included.
  • Becoming self-conscious and worrying unnecessarily about being evaluated by others, including your professors, classmates, and peers.
  • Having difficulty expressing your feelings and engaging in assertive behaviors; being afraid or unable to stand up for yourself and say "no" to unreasonable requests

It is possible to overcome loneliness. You may find it difficult but remember—even very small steps can be built upon. There are many ways you can take positive action:

  • Make sure you follow habits of good nutrition, regular exercise, and adequate sleep. Don't let academics, hobbies, and other interests slide. 
  • Use your time alone to get to know yourself. Think of it as an opportunity to develop independence and to learn to take care of your own emotional needs. You can grow in important ways during time spent alone.
  • Whenever possible, use what you have enjoyed in the past to help you decide how to enjoy your time spent alone now.
  • Keep things in your environment (such as books, puzzles or music) that you can use to enjoy in your alone time.
  • Explore the possibility of doing things alone that you usually do with other people (like going to the movies).
  • Don't decide ahead of time how you're going to feel about an activity. Keep an open mind.

Get involved with shared activities you are genuinely interested in, such as a cultural group, hobby, sports team, or a part-time job. Being with people who are focusing on an activity you enjoy can quickly lead to forming close personal bonds.


  • Seek out situations and be receptive to approaches that enable you to get involved with other students. For example, ask someone in your class to be your study or exercise partner. 
  • You may want to develop your social skills. Learning to be assertive will help. A smile or a nod or saying hello to a classmate can ease things. Get involved in class discussions.
  • Volunteer work is a good way to learn about yourself and others and can also help to boost your self-esteem.
  • OTHER FACTORS--Depression and Social Anxiety are two very common conditions that are frequently undiagnosed. Efforts to end loneliness may fail simply due to these medical conditions.

Self: Often people experiencing periods of loneliness report a diminished sense of self. This usually affects one's self -confidence in social situations. The following self-perceptions are commonly associated with loneliness:

  • A general sense of inadequacy, especially in the company of other people
  • High levels of anxiety and doubt about initiating social engagements
  • A negative attitude regarding your physical attributes
  • Lifestyle changes, such as decreased physical activity, changes in dietary habits,and an increase in passive activities
  • A belief that people in your support network are less interested in you or have less time for you

Environmental Change:
At various points in our lives we experience changes in our environment. Some of these changes may be minor while others are perceived as major. Both positive and negative changes may result in increased anxiety. Environmental change may also contribute to our feelings of loneliness. Some of the more common examples of environmental change are:

  • Relocating to a community in which you are without your normal support network of family and friends (i.e., going to college)
  • Diminished financial resources
  • Declining physical health
  • Beginning a new job
  • Leaving (voluntarily or involuntarily) a familiar place of employment
  • Leaving a familiar organization, association, or team

NEED ADDITIONAL HELP? If loneliness is still a problem after trying these suggestions you may want to contact the Counseling Center.