Learning to manage social anxiety and loneliness

Updated on 19 September 2023

There is an expectation that when you come to university, you will make friends instantly and get involved in all aspects of university life. Sometimes it can be tough making those initial connections, especially if you aren’t immediately around like-minded people, or you haven’t found a group that you connect with.  

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Feeling shy, nervous, or awkward in social university settings is a very real and common thing, and it can make it harder to start conversations and get to know new people. As time goes on, if you haven’t managed to make friends or connect with people on your course, it can contribute to you feeling lonely and make you feel more isolated from your peers.  

Overcoming loneliness

Having a good support network around you can help you to get the most out of your university experience. It’s never too late to get involved and make new friends, and there will definitely be others in a similar position to you.

Here are some suggestions of ways you can get to know more people and build your support network:  

Tips on how to make friends at university and dealing with loneliness:

Symptoms of social anxiety

Social anxiety is an ongoing and often intense fear of social situations, and is much more than feelings of shyness.

  • Avoiding social situations (missing lectures/tutorials where you may need to speak, attending society events) 
  • Feel worried about everyday activities (starting conversations with classmates, making phone calls, asking lecturers for help) 
  • Struggling doing things when people are watching, and feeling like you’re being judged  
  • Feeling sick, sweating, pounding heartbeat when in social situations or thinking about social situations 

When to get help 

It’s good to speak to your GP if you think you have social anxiety, or if it is preventing you from living life to the full. It can be difficult taking that first step in getting help, but there are various types of treatments and support that can help you to overcome and manage social anxiety.  

Your GP will ask you about how you’ve been feeling and what kinds of symptoms you have, and this is to find out how your social anxiety affects you. They could refer you to a mental health specialist to have a full assessment and to discuss ongoing treatments. 

Self-help for social anxiety 

There are things that you can do for yourself to help manage your social anxiety: 

  • Acknowledging and understanding your anxiety, and recognising how your body responds to being put in social situations .
  • Try grounding and breathing relaxation techniques to manage anxiety symptoms
  • Take a social situation that would normally make you feel anxious and make a plan of how you could make it more manageable . 
  • Work on building your resilience and self-esteem to help combat negative self-beliefs. 

Further resources for managing social anxiety