Do you ever feel like you’ve simply had enough of people and you just want to be alone? It’s likely that we’ve all craved social isolation at times, and especially whilst at university where we are surrounded by people all day.
But when does social isolation become a problem?
The Problem with Social Isolation
The reasons for seeking isolation are many and varied, from disabilities to mental illness. What started as a bad day or a difficult social interaction can escalate into days or weeks of voluntary seclusion.
“True social isolation over years and decades can be a chronic condition affecting all aspects of a person’s existence. Social isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness, fear of others, or negative self-esteem. Lack of consistent human contact can also cause conflict with the (peripheral) friends the socially isolated person may occasionally talk to or cause problems with family members.” (Source)
The fact is that unless the problem is addressed, it’s probably not going to get better on its own.
Social Isolation in University
While it’s unlikely that university students will suffer from chronic social isolation, it’s easy to see how it can happen.
A student may be socially awkward, feel that they don’t fit in, suffer from loneliness or depression, and be living away from home in student accommodation. A perfect storm, you’ll agree.
Have you noticed a fellow student who withdraws from social occasions more often than not? Are they reclusive and have few, if any friends? Is their behaviour affecting their ability to attend classes?
If so, how can we help?
Reaching out to them on a personal level without judgement is the best way to start. An invitation to coffee or a light chat over lunch may give you an indication of what the underlying problem is.
Perhaps they are simply lonely and on a bit of a downward spiral? If so, why not invite them to small social gatherings with carefully chosen people to gently nudge them back into society? The same approach may work if the problem lies within a personal struggle such as perceived physical abnormalities or a stammer.
However, what if the problem has deeper mental or emotional roots? Chances are, you aren’t equipped to help, but you start by offering a listening ear. You can also suggest some professional help from the counsellor or university psychologist. It’s very possible that the affected person may not be aware that their problem is a serious one and one which needs urgent attention.
Social isolation can be a painful situation for those affected, whatever the reason is. As a fellow student it would be a great kindness to look out for and assist those who may be plagued by this issue.