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The Wellness Center
 
 

General Info
Student Wellbeing

Contact:  (713) 348-3311 or wellbeing@rice.edu
Business Hours:  Monday - Friday (9:00 AM - 5:00 PM); closed weekends and University holidays
Located:  Gibbs Wellness Center (next door to the Recreation Center)

Counseling Center

Contact: 713-348-4867 (24 hours) Get emergency information
Business Hours: Monday - Friday (9:00am-5:00pm), closed weekends and University holidays.
Located: Rich Health Service Center (next to the Brown Masters House) and Gibbs Wellness Center

Let's Talk

We're here to help. Click here for more information on how to make an appointment with someone from the Rice Counseling Center.

For answers to common questions and concerns about going to the Counseling Center, check out the Counseling Center FAQs.

Loneliness

What is loneliness?

Feeling lonely is a common part of transitioning and adjusting to college life. Loneliness isn’t limited to big transitions or disruptions, and certainly not just freshman year.   

Loneliness is a state of feeling isolated, empty, or withdrawn from connection with others. Loneliness is subjective: virtually anyone can feel lonely, and you don’t have to literally be by yourself to feel lonely, either. You could be in the middle of the crowd, or in a serious relationship, and still experience loneliness in either situation.   

So, feeling lonely? Almost everyone does from time to time. But it’s something that, in order to be a healthy, successful Rice student, you need to be able to identify and constructively cope with so that it doesn’t bog you down or negatively impact your quality of life. Check out the rest of this page for more resources and information. 

Solitude vs. loneliness

The big difference between loneliness and solitude is whether or not you feel lonely. While loneliness is marked by feelings of isolation, solitude is a state of being alone without feeling isolated or withdrawn. In fact, solitude can help someone “recharge” from overstimulation, and help develop one’s self-awareness.

Causes

Some of the common causes of loneliness include:

  • Loss of a significant relationship (i.e. breakup, loss of significant friendship and/or social circle)
  • Separation from familiar people and places (changing jobs, moving to a new geographical location)
  • Feeling like you don’t belong  
  • Low self esteem (afraid of being rejected, feel unworthy of having lots of friends, etc.)
  • Lack of social skills (don’t know how to approach or contact others socially)
  • Social phobia (irrational fear of being judged or criticized by others if they engage in social activities) 
  • Other mental health disorder (i.e., depression, anxiety disorder)
  • Pessimism/burn out (jaded from a series of prior negative/discouraging social experiences)
  • Unrealistic expectations (setting unrealistic expectations for involvement of a friendship which the other person cannot reach or maintain, such as regular time together, to share their lives in a big way, to often accommodate them)    

Common Effects

Note: All of these behaviors are self-defeating because, while they may provide immediate emotional relief, they tend to confirm the lonely person's irrational self-beliefs about not being worthy of others' friendship or companionship. (not your words) 

  • Feeling depressed, anxious, and/or angry.
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach pain, and reduced self-energy
  • Overly self-critical and self-absorbed in unhappiness
  • Engage in defensive behaviors that perpetuate feelings of loneliness (i.e. withdrawing from existing social contacts for fear of rejection, avoiding social engagement for security)
  • Overactivity (i.e. immersion in constant campus activities, working long hours to avoid painful feelings of loneliness )
  • Overindulgence in food, alcohol, and/or other drugs  
  • Exhibiting overly possessive behavior.    

Coping with loneliness

  •  Find new ways to meet people – explore new ways to meet and connect with people. Rice offers a variety of ways to connect with new people, from getting involved in clubs, sports teams, college activities, student government, to study groups and classes.  
  • Be patient – developing solid friendships takes time. Be open to the possibility of friendships – you may be surprised by who you connect with!
  • Don’t expect or rely on an intimate relationship to get you out of a “loneliness” rut –an intimate relationship should not be a way of avoiding or losing friendships, and the other person should not be considered a way to resolve your loneliness problem, because it may only be temporary. 
  • Get involved – get outside of your college, find new ways to meet people, join sports or clubs that you like, and explore activities you’ve never tried before.
  • Take care of yourself – stick to healthy habits in other areas of your life to ensure that other aspects of your wellbeing are healthy, such as getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night, exercising regularly, and eating right.
  • Find fun, creative things to do by yourself – get to know yourself better. There a plenty of activities that can help you develop your internal self, from writing, reading, exercising, watching a movie, painting, creating something, constructing something, decorating, etc. Consider taking time to develop or hone a skill or technique, from cooking to a foreign language.      

FAQ

1) I think I’m experiencing severe loneliness, but I don’t feel comfortable talking with a counselor. What should I do?  

Even if you think that you can manage the symptoms on your own, it never hurts to seek help early for more support, advice, and tips on coping with what you’re experiencing. Consider talking with someone you trust, like a close friend, member of the college personnel team, or RHA, about any issues you’re struggling with. If you’re exhibiting some of the symptoms of homesickness or loneliness, consider the intensity, duration, and frequency of the symptoms before you write off going to a counselor. If any or all of these factors are significant, then you should consider talking with someone from the CounselingCenter to figure out better ways to address it. 

2) I’m experiencing some of the signs and symptoms of  loneliness, but not enough that I feel I need to seek professional help. What should I do?  

  • If you’re not ready or comfortable talking with someone from the Counseling Center, consider talking with someone you trust, such as a close friend, college master, RA, RHA, or faculty mentor. They may be able to help guide you to appropriate resources.
  • If you’re afraid that going to the Counseling Center implies that you’re “weak,” or “crazy,” feel reassured that this an incorrect perception. In fact, the majority of people who use the Counseling Center have very typical college concerns which have become burdensome. Also, seeking counseling is actually seen as a sign of strength, not weakness. 

3) How do I tell my friends about my loneliness?  

What and how you tell your friends about your depression is completely up to you. However, make sure you know the parameters of the information you choose to divulge before having the conversation, whether that concerns addressing your symptoms, struggles, and/or treatment, etc. Consider asking a close friend to check in with you regularly about how you’re doing with managing your depression.

4) I think one of my friends is experiencing severe loneliness, what should I do now? 

If your friend is in immediate danger or having an urgent health crisis, don’t hesitate to call RUPD at 713-348-6000.

Having a conversation with a friend about your concerns can be hard. For tips on ways to approach the conversation, check out the “Get Help for a friend” page. If you’re still unsure about how to have an effective conversation, consider contacting the Counseling Center. A staff member can help you figure out better ways to talk with your friend based on your specific situation. If you’re uncomfortable speaking with someone from the Counseling Center, start with a trusted mentor or adult in your life, such as a member of the college personnel team.  

5) How do I deal with my loneliness in my everyday life?


To get help or talk to someone, contact the Counseling Center. For more suggestions for ways to cope with homesickness/loneliness, see our “Depression” page. Please keep in mind that these are only suggestions, and are not a substitute for professional help or medical advice. On the other hand, if you’ve tried these suggestions for a period of time and they don’t seem to be alleviating your symptoms, consider talking with a counselor from the Counseling Center to figure out better ways to address your issues. See the Get Help page for more contact information.  

References

“Loneliness.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?db=mesh&term=%22Loneliness%22’  

Marano, Hara. “The Dangers of Loneliness.” 12 Sept 2007. Psychology Today. http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200308/the-dangers-loneliness   

Miller, Greg. “Why Loneliness is Hazardous to Your Health.”

 http://www.sciencemag.org/content/331/6014/138.full   

“Solitude vs. Loneliness.” Psychology Today. http://www.psychologytoday.com/collections/201105/solitude-vs-loneliness/what-is-solitude  

 “The Basics of Loneliness.” Psychology Today.

 http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/loneliness 

Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D. “The Roots of Loneliness.” http://psychcentral.com/lib/2011/the-roots-of-loneliness/   

Thurber, Christopher A., PhD, Walton, Edward, MD, and Council on School Health. “Preventing and Treating Homesickness.” PubMed. American Academy of Pediatrics. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/119/1/192.long