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Going away to college can complicate social fears!

answered 05:16 PM EST, Mon November 14, 2011
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I’m a very shy person and I can only really feel comfortable with members of my immediate family. At home I’m outgoing and funny but in any kind of social situation I just shut up totally and never know what to say and anything I try to say always comes out wrong.

Obviously, I don’t have many friends outside of my family, but I had a really great relationship with my sisters, so it wasn’t so bad. Now I am away at school and living in a dorm and it’s so stressful and I feel like my inadequacy is on constant display…and I feel like I can’t take it anymore.

My roommate already thinks I’m a freak and I’ve heard her calling me like a Mormon homeschooler to her friends who are always camped out in our room.

I got here on a partial scholarship and it would kill my family if I quit but I don’t know how much longer I can hold on when every social moment of everyday is like torture.

I don’t ever expect to be popular but here I have nobody and no break from the stress. I am desperate. What can I do to stop feeling like such a loser whenever I am in social company?

Prof. Jane Ballis Says...

Hello, thanks for having the courage to write about your concerns on a public forum. It is great that you can allow yourself to be vulnerable in a public avenue! I'm glad to hear that you have family that you are connected to at home. It is really hard to leave the comfort and security of your family to stay in a unsusal place. This transition sometimes brings up feelings that are difficult to process by ourselves, and especially for young adults leaving home for the first time. Additionally, the stress of adjusting to new surroundings and routines can also be challenging. I can suggest a few different things that might help.

One is to connect with your family every time you can, on the phone, visiting, video calls, and talk about the changes with your family. This will do two things, one help to continue feeling connected and decrease the stress. The second is to try and bring something from home that helps you feel connected to the memories, pictures, stuffed animals, and letters might help to bring back some of those postiive feelings. The third, is to find others that have a similiar background or concerns as yourself. One such suggestion is to find a group that welcomes students from foreign countries. Students from foreign countries tend to experience difficulties with theses transitions to a greater degree. That group may be a great place to connect, and sometimes knowing that others may be experiencing similiar difficulties, decreases social fears. Lastly, joining a group where you share a common interest or activities can help break ice and let you get to know others slowly.

A therapist or counselor can help you with this or come up with other ways to help you get past this transitional period. Most schools have free counselors that can discuss with you the concerns you are experiencing, they may be able to include you in a group of students that is having similiar struggles. Yes, you are not alone, many people experience shyness in social settings too! Or if you prefer, the school may be able to refer you to a therapist outside school, without you having to reveal to explore your concerns. Good Luck!

P.S. Just as a disclaimer, to be cautious, I always recomend a meeting with a live therapist who can help assess what you may need more accurately. If you or anyone reading this can't wait, and you are experiencing any immediate needs or symptoms. Some of these symptoms might include extreme feelings or thoughts that you might hurt yourself or others, or just can't cope anymore, go to an emergency room or local call your local 911!

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Page last updated Nov 16, 2011

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