Loneliness and academic life

Education | Brighten Youth Education Centre 23 Apr 2019

a recent study assessed the impact of loneliness on academic success. The research, which polled 213 undergraduates, found a significant correlation between loneliness and academic performance.

Students who feel socially isolated tend to spend their time idly, which in turn negatively impacts their studies (files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1143922.pdf).

Clearly loneliness takes not only an emotional toll on those who suffer from it but also a pragmatic one.

Loneliness has little to do with physical surroundings. You can have friends, professional connections, a close family and perhaps even a partner (more than 60 percent of lonely people are married) and still feel totally alone.

Loneliness distorts our perceptions of relationships. Studies have found that merely asking people to recall occasions when they have felt lonely was enough to make them devalue their existing relationships. These distortions can cause lonely people to withdraw even further.

Deep feelings of loneliness can have little to do with the present and everything to do with the past.

These feelings might mask a fear of real intimacy, a fear of letting anyone see the "real you."

Lonely people might also be struggling to connect with others. Some people aren't lucky enough to have such behavior modelled for them as children, particularly if a caregiver was unreliable or frequently absent. This can result in the development of an anxious attachment style, in which any kind of connection with others becomes overwhelming.

This means that sufferers can avoid forming any connections because they feel safer alone, although this can also leave them feeling lonely.

In some cases the opposite is true, and parenting styles were overwhelming. Perhaps love was only offered on the condition of success, or when a parent was in the right mood. As a result, the child learned that love was dependent on these factors.

Childhood trauma can also fracture any ability to feel a connection. Those who have suffered can fear any connection, or feel unworthy of love, so they unconsciously push others away. Therapy to explore repressed emotions can help with any of these issues.

Some people really do feel more comfortable alone. But if there are more fundamental reasons why someone chooses to avoid deep connections, then choosing not to acknowledge these reasons might mean missing out on some aspects of life.

Ingrained loneliness might also exacerbate more serious psychological disorders, including depression, social anxiety, addiction and hoarding.

Even if loneliness isn't part of broader psychopathologies, big cities like Hong Kong can be a hard place.

Sometimes, it is only intimate networks that keep you afloat. Barriers to these connections should be evaluated in a quiet moment of cool judgement.

If you have any questions about our column, or the issues raised within it, please e-mail them to us: enquiry@englishlearning.edu.hk

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