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20 Year Old Female: No Friends, Depressed, What Should I Do?

Question:

My whole life I have never been 100% happy. There were times where everything was going great, but there was that feeling of insecurity that something would soon go wrong, and I would become depressed once again. Throughout my life I always found myself being friends with people who weren’t really true friends, and leaving behind those who would really be there for me when I needed them and were true. But by the time I realized what I had been doing wrong (a senior in High School), it was too late and the only friend I had left was just considered my "friend" to me because I didnt have anyone else. They would be people with problems themselves (bipolar disorder, cutting themselves, shoplifting, drug using, getting arrested, putting me in situations that I got arrested for, etc.). I have always been extremely shy, but when times were good and I had at least a few friends, I found it so much easier to be more friendly and introduce myself around people. Entering college, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to meet new people. But my 3 roomates made the situation worse. One was depressed and overweight, she never spoke, had no social skills and only left the room to go to work. The other one was bulemic- she would eat enormous amounts, throw up and then tell me about it after she did it. She would also fill her wall with pictures of anorexics and keep an online blog about how little she ate or how many times she threw up. My other roomate became I guess my "best friend" of the group. She hated our school and would complain and cry about it everyday, and did not make any effort to meet any friends and only talked about transferring. Although I liked the school itself, she made me feel hatred toward the people and everything associated with it. Because I am so shy I was hoping that since I chose to have 3 roomates at least one of them would want to meet new people and then as long as I had one by my side I would have the confidence to meet new people. But none of them wanted to go out, so I too stayed in our dorm room all the time. Now it is sophmore year, one of those girls transferred, and the other two are in singles. I have a new roomate from the virgin islands. Shes really nice and we get along great but we have virtually nothing in common with each other. My weeks at school basically consist of nothing, I work out daily, get mostly "A"s, and eat extremely healthy. I sleep way too much, though (till 12:30). Because I have no friends, I lack confidence. I think, "why would anyone want to be friends with someone who has none." People come up to me all the time in the elevator of my dorm or in my classes and I feel like I have nothing to say, and make the simplest situation awkward. I go to one of the top 40 universities in the US, and I want to be successful so bad but lack the social skills. I want to apply for an internship at Goldman Sachs I have all the credentials and know it would be great experience, but I know I don’t have the social skills to make it in that atmosphere. I am honestly terrified of talking to people, I will avoid all talking situations at any cost. I honestly don’t know what do: any suggestions?

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Answer:

Yes, I am pleased to say that I have many suggestions.

It appears from what you describe of yourself that you are struggling with two big problems:

The first problem is that you experience a lot of depression. One aspect of your depression is that you lack self confidence and experience low self esteem even though you are clearly very intelligent and are an excellent student.

The second problem is that you are suffering from a social anxiety disorder. As a result of this social anxiety you avoid situations in which you can be with people. In your dorm situation you accepted who ever happened to be there. The trouble is that roommates in dorms are rarely satisfying and I hear lots of complaints from myriad numbers of student. Your hope was to have dorm mates with whom you could go out and socialize but none of them were able to do that.

What to do:

1. I am fairly certain that you have a health center on campus that includes a counseling center, a psychiatrist to administer medications and counselors with whom you could talk. I want to urge you to take advantage of the service. I want to strongly recommend anti depressant medication that will also help reduce your anxiety.

2. In addition, you really need to start talking to a professional who can begin training you in behavioral strategies to help you learn how to interact in social situations. If the University only provides short term psychotherapy allow them to refer you to someone who practices in the community near the school. Your parents will have to pay for the therapy unless you have student health insurance through the school. Most university counseling centers keep a list of good therapists in the community to whom they refer students.

3. Also, follow this rule: When you feel like you do not want to go out, do the opposite and go out. When you feel too nervous or shy to be with people, be with people. Do the opposite of avoiding regardless of your anxiety. When you feel like you have nothing to say, look people in the eye or at their face, SMILE and say: "Hi, how ya doing?" Force your self. Social anxiety is something you can reduce but you have to start taking some chances, like going to parties, saying "hi" in the elevator, etc.

4. Do more than just going to classes. To this end, there are various clubs and organizations on campus made up of students who want to be involved. As someone who wants to work for Goldman Sachs someday (and you will be able to) get involved in business types of clubs. Get involved, involved, involved. If you are too afraid to do so…do it anyway.

With the help of medication, psychotherapy and your own courage, you can overcome these problems.

At the moment I would guess that your depression results from your social anxiety and once you get that resolved you may not need medication.

Be courageous, meet people.

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