Overcoming loneliness in new college settings

Rachel Duthie

As anxiety and depression plague college students nationwide, many wonder why these mental illnesses are on the rise. A common answer is loneliness.

According to data provided by University Health Services, loneliness is the third most reported problem by students in counseling at Kent State.

Freshmen and commuter students are the most likely candidates to suffer from loneliness, said Jason Miller, clinical director at the Counseling and Human Development Center.

“You go from being around the people who you know, to 30,000 strangers,” Miller said. “It’s very normal to experience loneliness your first couple of semesters as you try to meet people and find your friends.”

It’s a normal transition for everyone, and is commonly mixed with other negative feelings such as homesickness, anxiety and depression.

“When I first started college, I was socially anxious living alone in an apartment as a commuter,” said Marisa Shepard, a junior Russian translation major. “Lonely was my full-time job.”

However, persistent loneliness is becoming more common, especially among younger adults. Constantly feeling socially restrained has serious consequences, including feeling less independent and more vulnerable.

Those experiencing persistent loneliness are often more withdrawn than usual, typically hiding in their bedrooms or cutting off activities they used to enjoy.

The internet isn’t helping either. According to a study by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, people who reported spending more time on social media had twice the amount of perceived isolation as compared to people who do not.

“Social media undervalues the importance of physical interaction,” Miller said. “Humans need to hang out with their friends in real life, as opposed to keeping up with them electronically. There is a psychological benefit to sharing space.”

He suggests that people who feel lonely make an effort to hang out with others, whether that be shopping with friends, going to a concert or playing a game of pick-up basketball.

“It’s about stepping outside of your comfort zone,” Miller said.

Rachel Duthie is the student life reporter, contact her at [email protected]