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Loneliness

CMHC Business Hours:
Monday thru Friday, 8:00am - 5:00pm
Phone: (512) 471-3515 - Student Services Building 5th Floor
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A common experience

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.  

Taking action

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.

  • Recognize and express your loneliness. Just admitting your feelings to yourself rather than denying or running away from them can bring some relief. Expressing the way you feel in a journal, to a family member, a friend from home, or a counselor can also be helpful.
  • Change up your routines. Sometimes making new connections begins with a simple change: sitting in a new place in class, eating somewhere different for lunch, or studying in a common space instead of in your room. Be open to meeting the people around you.
  • Get involved. Sometimes going to a large university makes it feel more difficult to meet people, but one big advantage is the variety of clubs and activities for students. With over 1,000 registered student organizations at UT-Austin (on topics ranging from sports and social clubs to education and politics), there is something for just about everyone. Becoming involved in something you enjoy means you already share a common interest with other group members.
  • Be active.  Exercise improves your mood and can increase your self-confidence. It can also be a great way to meet people. UT’s Division of Recreational Sports organizes exercise classes, intramural tournaments, and outdoor excursions to do things like camp and canoe. You don’t have to know anyone to join a team or trip, and either can make for a fun adventure.
  • Find a job. Working can be a great way to get to know new people. There are many off-campus businesses that employ students in addition to a myriad of on-campus jobs. Hire a Longhorn is a good place to start your job search. 
  • Volunteer.  Helping others often ends up making you feel better, too. The Volunteer and Service Learning Center is a great place to find opportunities to support a cause close to your heart. As an added bonus, you may connect with others who share your passion through volunteering.
  • Be approachable. People are drawn to individuals who are friendly.  Small gestures like smiling at people, saying hello, or keeping the door open when you are in your dorm room can send the message that you are interested in meeting people.
  • Nurture your relationships. In the busy world of college, it is easy to grow apart from friends and family who are not nearby if you don’t make time to reach out. If you find yourself missing someone, take a moment to give this person a call.   
  • Seek support. If your feelings of loneliness have become chronic, lasting more than a few weeks or months, talking to a counselor about what you are experiencing may help. Contact CMHC at (512) 471-3515 to schedule an appointment or, for more information on what’s available, click the links below:
Individual Counseling

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CMHC Crisis Line

UT Counseling and Mental Health Center
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