Why am I feeling lonely or isolated?
Going to university is a big change and all students will experience this change in different ways, with many taking time to adjust to their new life and surroundings. Even though you will be meeting lots of people it can take time to make friends, and students can often feel anxious about fitting in or being left out of social groups. If you are feeling lonely or isolated then you can take positive steps to change your situation.
Loneliness can be common at university for lots of different reasons including:
- being away from friends and family, perhaps for the first time
- it may be the first time in many years when you have had to ‘start from scratch’ in making new friends
- you may have been lonely before you came to Bath and hoped that things would be different here
- you may be missing old friends and finding it hard to replace them – or you may feel reluctant to engage with new people
- you may be preoccupied with issues that make it hard to be as sociable as you would like
- you may have a long-distance relationship and feel torn between life here and elsewhere
- you may be anxious about work and feel in conflict about spending time on social activities
- you may feel like you don’t belong in Bath
Loneliness can lead to you feeling socially inadequate, unlikeable, uncomfortable in the company of others, or angry and critical of other people. These feelings can build up and undermine your self-esteem and energy levels, which can make it harder to take part in social activities and do the things you normally enjoy and help you to feel better. It can also feel hard to say no to things you wouldn’t normally do.
What can I do?
The first thing to keep in mind is that you are certainly not the only one feeling lonely. The actual feeling of loneliness is a 'flag' that there is something you need, so take notice of this feeling.
- look after yourself, as some of us take longer to settle in socially to a new environment. If your initial efforts do not bear fruit, acknowledge the efforts you are making and continue making them
- don't hide away or avoid people
- put yourself in situations where you can become involved in conversations and activities
- take the initiative and talk to other people rather than waiting for them to talk to you
- say 'hello' or maybe just smile, it will usually be returned
- be positive when you talk with people
- get involved in societies, events or voluntary work
- going online to connect with others safely can feel like a less challenging way to reduce your loneliness, but balancing it with face-to-face experiences is likely to be even more rewarding
- manage your time, so sometimes you are with people and sometimes you are alone
- decide if you prefer to talk in groups or have one-to-one conversations or a mixture of the two
- keep trying even if your first attempts are not very successful - you may be expecting too much of yourself and others
You might want to attend a Wellbeing Advice drop-in session (held every day in Student Services). They will listen to your concerns and be able to provide you with practical advice and guidance.
Ways to get involved
Student societies and student events are a great way to meet people who share your interests:
The Disability Service run a social group on a fortnightly basis for students with autism spectrum conditions such as Asperger's Syndrome. Students are encouraged to choose an activity such as films or board games and they also go for walks during the summer months. If you are interested in coming along, please email the Disability Service.
What if I’m worried about someone else?
Sometimes issues around loneliness and isolation can affect someone you know and you may be worried about a friend, a flatmate, a course mate or just someone you see regularly at University. This could be due to a number of possible reasons:
- they told you there is a problem
- there have been dramatic changes in their appearance (for example, weight loss/gain, decline in personal hygiene)
- they are drinking alcohol or taking drugs to a degree that worries you
- you’ve noticed changes in mood (e.g. sadder, withdrawn, hyperactive, aggressive)
- other people have expressed concern about this person
- there have been changes in behaviour or attitudes, for example towards work, friends or other commitments
- their world view has changed dramatically
- they have gone missing
What I can do to help?
People in distress usually respond to people being straightforward and honest with them.
- try talking to them, telling them that you are concerned
- respect their privacy
- be prepared to listen
- express concern but remember you're not their therapist
- if you think it’s appropriate, encourage them to seek professional help or allow yourself to speak to someone (see Support at Bath below)
- if your friend won’t give their permission you can still speak to a professional to support yourself (you don’t have to mention their name)
- there are staff in the University who can help
- remember that there are limits to how much you can do or be expected to do. If your studies are being affected you must talk to somebody
Support at Bath
There are lots of people you can go and speak to about your own concerns, or if you are worried about another student:
We also have a factsheet with suggestions about what can help which you can download and keep by you.
In exceptional circumstances, where you feel your friend´s personal safety is at risk, you may need to act without their consent. In an emergency you can contact Security or call 999.