Asking for a Friend: Help! I feel so alone, even when I’m surrounded by people

  • Each week, we respond to a question from our readers and give advice and resources you can turn to
  • This week, we speak to a student who feels lonely even when they’re with a group of friends
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It’s not uncommon to feel alone when you’re in a crowd! Photo: Shutterstock

Need an answer to a personal question that you’ve never mustered the courage to ask? We’ve been there. Whether it is about school, family issues or social life, share your thoughts with us.

If you have a question you’d like answered (about anything at all), please fill out this Google form. Don’t worry, you will remain anonymous!

Dear Friend,

Whenever I am in a group, I just feel alone. Why do I feel like I don’t have any friends, even when I am surrounded by them?

Thanks, Lonely Me

My classmate wants to be my friend, but I’m just not interested

Dear Lonely Me,

I am so sorry that you feel like you have no friends, but I hope it brings you some comfort to know that the feeling of not connecting with others, even in a group, is not uncommon.

Being in a group doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re getting the interaction you need. In many of these situations, you seldom get the chance to share your thoughts and feelings or have a true heart-to-heart conversation. This lack of genuine human sharing is a core cause of loneliness.

Being in a group doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting the interaction you need. Photo: Shutterstock

First, it may be helpful to examine why you feel this way. Some people have trouble connecting with others due to depression, social anxiety, or trauma from how they grew up. If you think it might be one of these more serious issues, it would be a good idea to speak to a counsellor or other trusted adult.

However, it could also boil down to a few, more simple explanations: are you letting yourself be vulnerable? Maybe you’re just hanging out with people who don’t get you, and that’s why you don’t feel close to them? Think about the reasons why you feel this way, because this can help you figure out what to do. That being said, here are a few things you can do foster connections and feel less lonely in a crowded room:

I told my friend’s secret, and now everyone is calling me a big mouth

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

When you’re in a group, you might get caught up in how lonely you feel and tune out the conversation even more. Instead, try to ask your friends questions that will help you learn more about each other. Look up “Questions to ask to get to know someone better” and have a few handy, so you’re prepared the next time you’re in a group.

No one takes my stress seriously because I get good grades!

Try small gatherings first

The pandemic has taken away many of our opportunities to gather together, and it’s probably affected your ability to socialise in groups as well.

Alternatively, you could simply be a person who functions better in small group situations. Why not try spending time with one or two very close friends? This allows you to practise your conversation and connection skills in a low pressure setting.

Often when we feel disconnected from others, we are mostly feeling disconnected from ourselves. Take a walk when it’s nice out, or try something you’ve always wanted to do, but were nervous about. This will help you get to know yourself better, which in turn could help you better connect with others.

Hope that helps, Friend of a Friend

The question was answered by clinical psychologists from the Department of Health under Shall We Talk, a mental health initiative launched with the Advisory Committee on Mental Health.

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