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Combating isolation and loneliness in medical school

Discussion in 'Medical Students - MD' started by jackofclubs, Sep 25, 2010.

  1. jackofclubs

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    I am a first year struggling with feelings of isolation. I knew coming in that long hours of hard work and studying would be expected of me as a medical student, but what has hit me hard now that I'm here is the feeling of isolation I get while I'm doing it. I have asked around to see if people are interested in forming study groups, but it seems that either I am not asking the right people, or that medical students in general are just recluses at heart (or maybe nobody likes me :p). It is affecting me to the point that my studying is suffering. I am an extrovert and I would like to hear from people (a) what you do to combat loneliness in medical school and (b) if there is anybody out there feeling like I am. I get that I am making a sacrifice for my career, but its to the point where I no longer feel like I am "working hard, playing hard." Its more like work hard, have a little bit of fun, rinse and repeat. Any thoughts?
     
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  3. themule

    themule Donkey Punch Central
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    I don't know about your school but at my school social events are organized with great frequency. If they aren't already set up for you then set one up. Call a local bar and see if they will give you a discount if you bring in X number of people or the putt-putt golf center or someplace else. Join a gym, play on a soccer team, join a book club. I'm sure that the opportunities are out there if you look for them, and if they aren't create them.
     
  4. Bernoull

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    I'm dealing with some loneliness too, i moved from a big city (with everything and anything) to a very small city where I know no-one and have no family. I am definitely outgoing and did my fair share of stuff with friends back home. I'm friendly with a couple of people in my class and we've gone out for drinks and stuff a couple of times but I guess i don't have buddies yet, but it's still early...

    Regarding study groups, i study best on my own, but I'll join one for anatomy lab bcos that's more efficient i guess..

    I feel you though, it's good that u're extroverted so just keep talking to people and pretty soon u'll click with some people. Just don't withdraw/isolate urself unnecessary, be out there when u can, join some groups (if u have the time), talk to neighbors in anatomy lab and soon u'll click with someone...

    Keep ur head up, med school's quite a transition but I believe thing will eventually fall in place..:thumbup:
     
  5. sunset823

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    you should transfer to my school. We took the Myers-Briggs personality test recently and the dean said there was far more than the usual number of extroverts in our class. I'm not one of them, and I actually get sick of seeing my classmates all the time, so I rarely go to the many social events my classmates plan. I think the size of the school also contributes (our school is really small, only a little over 50 people in each class, so it's kinda hard to be completely antisocial).

    That being said, as stated above, going to the gym is a good option. Our school gave us free movie tickets and also we get the opportunity to go to local plays and symphony orchestra concerts. I just talked to a couple of other people during class yesterday and a gang of 8 med students turned out last night to watch a late showing of 'The Town', which was fun (I don't mind going to movies alone though). If your school has similar opportunities, take them up. I don't think study groups are the ideal setting to 'play hard'.

    Also, there are, and should be, people outside of medical school you can interact with. I talk to my best friend, who lives on another continent, every day on Gchat (and have become quite well known for my in-lecture furious typing lol) and call my mom most days. Maintaining those relationships should keep you from being isolated.
     
  6. Brigade4Radiant

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    Due to my financial situation I had to work a lot in college. I had no car and I felt isolated. It just gives you a sense of self hatred that pushes you to study more. I realize that the it is something you just must accept. In med school I study in groups on occasion but outside of that I don't interact with anyone...

    Just baccept the isolation and abuse drugs to get by :thumbup:
     
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  7. houseobsessed

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    One of the many times I love being a misanthrope
     
  8. VenusinFurs

    VenusinFurs I am tired, I am weary
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    for your health!

    I second the calling your friends and family suggestion. I would strongly caution against abusing drugs.
     
  9. bomgd3

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    Are you on the Champaign-Urbana campus? Because you can always go to Joe's and hit on freshmen when you get lonely :thumbup::thumbup::thumbup:
     
  10. brianmartin

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    Everyone is under so much stress that people either retreat into themselves and become kind of reclusive, or they form random little groups which become insular. It's pretty hard to summon the energy to take an interest in and connect with people when you are constantly under pressure. When I look around at my class sometimes, many people appear to be "zoned out", including me. I don't think I've found my balance yet and as a result I am tired and most of the time just don't have the energy to reach out to people.
     
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  11. searun

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    I joined my med school running club and my med school a capella choir. I live with three other guys who are med students and we go out alot, to clubs and concerts and generally have alot of fun. My med school class has various social events during the year which I usually attend. I joined my med school's wine tasting society so I could become a wine snob, although I am actually a microbrew snob. I started dating a great girl during my second year of med school and we are still together.

    My social life during third year of med school took a hit but I am finding 4th year pretty chill and I am being social again.

    You can have a social life in med school. You just have to take the initiative. I have had some good times.
     
  12. MossPoh

    MossPoh Textures intrigue me
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    Sometimes when I feel like "studying" I go to a local cafe or whatever and just sit there and read and people watch. We have a little place that is by a lake where people bring their dogs. It is like multiple avenues to happiness for me. I get some pet therapy, watch cute girls walking around the lake and awesome coffee (but expensive). Studying was in quotation marks because while I'm studying, it is really more of a regain sanity time. I'm a very introverted person, but I still just feel the need to be around people sometimes and that kind of deal fits the bill.

    Other options provided are good too. I study at school a ton and people always ask me why I don't just study at home, but it is really very intentional for me. When I take a break, I like to just be around someone else, even if it is just to vent. I've befriended the janitorial staff, security guards, and first years (probably in that order). In a weird way, it is kind of nice to have a little exchange with some of the people, especially if they are working as late as you are.
     
  13. dr zaius

    Physician 7+ Year Member

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    I misread your username as jackoffclubs, to which I thought "how can he/she be lonely as a member of such a club?"

    For content: If no one in your med school class seems to want a normal social life (normal for being in med school I guess) check out some of the clubs and groups associated with the graduate/undergrad side of campus. Political, social, etc. Maybe you can find some people there. If not you can always party up with Frank Netter.
     
  14. VoiceofReason

    VoiceofReason all i care about is money
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  15. CecilJacobson

    CecilJacobson Member At Large
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    Loved that one. :smuggrin:

    You're not alone; there's nothing wrong with you. Remind yourself of the awesome things that you're doing.

    Confide in your family, your lifelong friends, and your classmates. Actively seek out connections. If all else fails, you can leave med school and do something else that makes you happier. There are always options, and things always get better.

    -C.J.
     
  16. Fleur de Me

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    Jackofclubs- if it makes you feel better, I don't think you're alone!! I'm a super outgoing person who usually makes tons of friends, and I feel lonely as hell. I even moved overseas not knowing a soul, not speaking the language, and still made friends. How the hell can med school be harder than that?

    I think a lot of people feel that way- my roommate definitely does. So do some of the other people who seem like they are having the time of their lives. Trust me, they show up drunk at my apartment sometimes saying how much their lives suck.

    I'm trying to hold onto the fact that 1) it gets better or 2) I get better at finding a life and people outside of school. My roommate and I decided to make an effort to do 1 happy hour a week, for 2 hour or so, go hang out in town and try to meet some new people. We're both tired of feeling lonely and med-schoolish.

    I also talk a lot to my old friends, many of whom have already been through this and say that everyone feels this way.

    Hang in there, know that you're not alone and nothing is wrong with you, we're all trying to figure it out. It sucks, because I love med school, but I just hate the rest of my life!!! As painful as it is though, I'm the only one who can fix that, and I think it is worth the time and effort to find balance and happiness outside of school.
     
  17. coup de chance

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    You def have less time in med school than undergrad. (unless maybe if you were a double engineering major who also ran your own company)

    If you're an outgoing person... maybe you could try going out.

    You need to destress in b/w studying. Or else you can't maintain the same quality of studying.

    So go ahead. Enjoy life. Guilt-free. :thumbup::thumbup:

    Time management is key in med school. Do all your crap in an allotted time, and then really be off during break time.

    If you can't study, then don't, but make sure to plan the study time in. REally cut yourself off when the study time comes. But before it comes, you can PAR-TAY!!! :cool:

     
  18. coup de chance

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    Good point. Go to the gym and you're settting yourself up to meet some hotties OUTSIDE of medicine. THat is quite refreshing sometimes :cool:

     
  19. Ragman

    Ragman Member

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    Isolation fosters depression.
     
  20. muhali3

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    Are you Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or of some other faith. They should have some type of weekly congregation where I think it should be much easier to make friends.
     
  21. cormorant1

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    OP, I can definitely relate. I go to lecture hall every day, even though at my school attending lecture is a pointless waste of time, tbh. The only reason I go is out of hope that I'll get to talk to somebody and make a friend.

    Most of the time, though, everybody is just plugged into their iDevice and wrapped up in their own little world, and I wind up surrounded by people yet completely alone.

    I recommend hitting up the gym (can't hurt right?) and/or getting a roomate from your class. The latter is always a good way of getting plugged into a social pipeline.


    ... and anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something" :D
     
  22. fowler54

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    I'm an M1 and I can definitely relate on these feelings of isolation and depression. The problem is I don't think the students at my school fit the description of being antisocial. I think I'm the only one who's having trouble finding my niche. :(
     
  23. ar2388

    ar2388 rads resident
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    i know that feeling of sitting in lecture cormorant.
    what i would suggest is when your sitting in lecture, to look around for people who you know at least a tiny bit and think are good people and try to walk near them after lecture and maybe strike a conversation, even a simple "hey. any fun plans for the weekend?" type of thing :)
     
  24. keisler

    keisler MSIV
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    This is really rough. I'm MS2, and I know lots of people in my class are getting down. We are all tired, and it feels like we've been doing nothing but studying, and we don't have a purpose. And everyone, it seems, is lonely.

    I have been dealing with some depression this year, and my biggest issue is that I feel alone. I'm hardly ever at home, because I live by myself now, and I feel too isolated.

    Confiding in some people from your class can be really helpful. You will be surprised how many other people feel the way you do, and are willing to hang out, study, sleep, or whatever else around you. Don't be afraid to ask for help! Also, does your school offer counseling for med students? Ours does, and it's been a real blessing to talk to someone that understands what we go through.

    You will make it!
     
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  25. HTxFrog

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    boyfriend/girlfriend = instant solution
     
  26. fowler54

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    Surely you're not suggesting dating within the class...

    Also, how would a med student find time for dating?
     
  27. taratm

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    :laugh:
     
  28. DrYoda

    DrYoda Space Cowboy
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    They'll have to choose primary care.
     
  29. Benu

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    Why would anyone want to be friends with medical students anyways....:confused:
     
  30. Benu

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    Seriously though, I don't think you're looking hard enough.
    I spent the first few weeks feeling like **** everytime I had to go to school. Seriously, my stomach would turn, I was in a group where I didn't know anyone, and honestly, they all seemed so horrible, I had no desire to even try talking to them.
    Then after I spent some time sitting all silently and awkwardly, I turned around and saw a girl and a boy sitting all the way in the back. Next morning I walked in, and instead of sitting in my usual place I approached them and asked if I could sit there. We started talking and we've been good friends ever since.
    It's just a matter of your attitude, I guess.....How willing are you to just go out there and do what needs to be done.

    Plus my school organizes lots of events, like parties and movie nights. I mostly go alone, but I always end up talking to a bunch of people, it's fun.

    Oh and there's always the chess club ! :D


    Also, I realized that all those people that I thought were terrible, truly are lame and terrible, but I don't care. Mostly I'm not looking to make deep friendships, I just want a light conversation, someone to have coffee with, lol at something......things like that.
    Don't be too picky, give people a chance.
     
  31. sunset823

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    Peoria - drier than the Mojave desert in potential "friend-making" opportunities - and I'm a chick, and a non-trad, even if I tried hitting on freshman my first year in Chambana, that would have made me a certified card carrying cougar - no thanks

    dating other med students = very bad idea, because breaking up with said med student causes lots of unnecessary drama - of course, I don't believe in such silly things as love, so that might be a confounding factor, but if you're just looking for companionship filler, I'd avoid it

    :thumbup: I visited some undergrad friends a couple of weeks ago and hung out with one's very cool, very laid back physical therapy friends, and I was like, wow dude, now I confirmed how not fun it is to be around med students

    I'm guessing most people are lucky and are in a campus where they have other types of people, students, non-students, whatever, and definitely take advantage of that. However, those, like me, in satellite campuses with nobody else under age 35 except med students are SOL, so you do what you can. I'm an odd case cuz I thrive on being alone, but obviously you need at least a few friends you can kick back and enjoy a Burgundy wine (for me) or beer (for most people) with, so if med students are your only option, make do.

    But yeah, 1 1/2 more years and I'm away rotationing away my 4th year and then skipping out far far away from the cornfields and engine plants of my youth.
     
  32. ArcGurren

    ArcGurren only one will survive
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    Find friends who aren't med students and relax. I'm also pretty extroverted but I got tired of being around my med school friends. There are also people I just gave up on because they would do nothing but try to be intimidating while they studied.
     
  33. sindadel

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    First, you should not be studying every available minute. Study smart and focussed (turn OFF your access to SDN and Facebook, lol) and you should have lots of social time available without forming study groups.

    It's your responsibility to find things to do to feel less isolated. If your medical school has no clubs, activities, intramural sports teams, organized social events etc. you could start some! Or you could join some activities at the university. Or you could join some activities associated with your community.

    Go to a wine tasting, go climbing, join a rec sports team, take a yoga class, invite classmates out for a movie, or dessert, or dinner after class and before studying. Keep in touch with old friends and family, but you will be in this location for FOUR years, so you need to put out some roots and take responsibility for being social.

    Good luck! Sometimes you feel the loneliest just before everything clicks and you start meeting and interacting with people in your class, as well as other new friends.
     
  34. Domino34

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    OP,

    I basically joined SDN to write this. I found the thread because I share your sentiments and was searching around for other reasons. I'm also a MS1 but now that the year is almost over, I can say I've made gains on a lot of the issues you posted about.

    Most of the advice given here is good. The problem, as you might find, is that it's hard to be proactive about getting out these kinds of slumps in medical school, when the isolation seems to compound every hour of every day.

    The best advice you can get is from someone who knows you, i.e. friends and family. The only way out of that feeling of isolation is to dig deep and figure out what really bothers you about it all. That's not always the same for everyone.

    What I can safely say is you are definitely not alone.

    That may not make you feel better to know but it is a fact. I guarantee there are students at your school who feel the same way (or close to it). You may not know them because like you, they don't want to say anything. In all likelihood you might suspect who they are and if you actually don't feel like anyone feels that way, you need to take a step back and just scope out the people in your class. Or if you're feeling up to it, start asking people broad questions about whether they feel like school is isolating.

    What's the big deal about this? For me it was the single best solution.

    I reached out to a student in the same boat. He did not judge me (though most of my classmates really wouldn't anyways), and I actually found we have more in common than a disdain for the BS of med school life. After that, making the other changes to my life came much easier. I stopped taking most people seriously, I don't waste my time going to lectures that don't motivate (and I could learn by myself in half the time), and I spend the extra free time doing the activities I used to love in undergrad.

    Now, instead of feeling like med school is taking me on a roller coaster ride, I feel like I'm in control and operating the entire theme park.

    Hope you will give that a shot if you haven't. And lastly, just to validate you, your concerns ARE important. These are the kinds of issues that can cloud your thinking and negatively affect your ability to learn.

    Keep up the good work.
     
  35. rxlea

    rxlea Almost a unicorn
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    I will be a P2 at your neighboring pharm school this coming year. We should grab lunch at the UMC!

    I can relate. Pharmacy school is somewhat similar, although we do hold a lot of events to promote morale. For me, the issue is that many of my classmates are much younger than I am (I am 28). Since a 4 year degree is not required for pharmacy school (yet), there are a number of 20-22 year olds in my class. Also, we have some serious gunners in my class- people who will throw another student under the bus to get an A. It is sad. So, I don't trust many people.

    Many of my classmates study and do stuff together. I just never get invited :laugh: I can't do the study group thing anyway because people end up blabbing too much and wasting time. I prefer to lock myself up at my house or at the medical library.

    Does your school do any interprofessional events? We do some at bars and stuff- I have seen the e-mails about them but I never had the opportunity to go because I work 20 hours on the weekends in an entirely different city. I wish our school did more of that. I would love to hang out with the medical/nursing/public health students more :(
     
  36. UAAWolf

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    I have 2 takes on this:

    My first take is...[​IMG]

    Seriously...deal with it! You have an opportunity that 99.9% of people on earth will NEVER have. So what if you have to sacrifice a lot in the beginning...I personally am damn happy that I'm here, even if I can't party a lot or w/e. It's all about how you think of it.

    2nd take is...

    You don't have to be: [​IMG]

    There are TONS of things you can do. Go to the gym..make friends there and workout with them a few times a week. Make time to socialize with classmates/friends on the weekend. Date a girl in your class. There are tons of options...I'm sure people would be down to hang out with ya. Seriously though...you've over thinking this- I was pretty depressed during 1st year and had some rough stuff I went through (relationships/family drama), but I finally go to a point where I just told myself I'm going to be happy and make the best of this...and it worked. Goodluck OP
     
  37. officedepot

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    This might sound dumb but you can try internet dating in your area if you are single. It's a good way to meet people and I know lots of people who have done it. I will probably start doing so once I feel like I have the chance (I'm MS3).

    Also, go to social events at your school. It takes time to find that good friend but other people are looking as well - assuming you started recently.
     
  38. Marcus Brody

    Marcus Brody Already has the grail.
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    My advice is to start drinking. Heavily.
     
  39. gluck

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    Hi!! I am an incoming 1st year and this is definitely an issue that I am preparing to deal with:p. You're def def not alone.

    If I understand you correctly and you are like me, it's not that you want to go out and party more but that studying is such a lonely job~ Going out to socialize one or two nights a week may be fun for the time being, but it doesn't take the loneliness out of the studying for the rest of the time.

    When I'm alone but not studying, I don't feel lonely...but when I study alone, it feels lonely HAHA Is that how you feel too? Maybe not...this doesn't make sense in words but it makes sense in my head:D

    I'm really hoping to find someone to study next to every day, like I did in undergrad. Sadly, none of my friends are going to the same school as me~
     
  40. Food

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    go out drinking with the people in your class. Unfortunately everyone in med school loves to drink. And the few that don't naturally get somewhat isolated because there are so few non-drinking activities in medical school. its a rite of passage. once you get drunk with a few people in your class, you'll eventually start studying with them. okay that's not necessarily true, my first main friend in my class started off as a gym partner and fellow house/trance music enthusiast. find people with common interests, just talk to them. and go out drinking afterwards.
     
  41. PTPoeny

    PTPoeny Senior Member
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    I don't know if it is what the OP wants or not, but to gluck: That really won't be a problem. If you just want to study near other people there are designated places to do that (at least at my school). Different floors in the library have different rules about how quiet you have to be so you pick whatever works for your study style and go study next to people. You don't even have to actually know them to start with, just figure out how much space they are using and sit far enough away not to intrude. You will end up acquaintances with most of the people on your chosen study floor. At least this was my experience, maybe other schools are different.
     
  42. Long Dong

    Long Dong My middle name is Duc.
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  43. muhali3

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    sucks for Muslims and Mormons. But everything in moderation. I understand the reasons for why it is forbidden, but as long as you're responsible with how you drink, I don't see a problem.
     
  44. Skillset

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    I'm an MS3 and I feel exactly the same way. I think confiding in people from your class can be really helpful- it often seems like we're the only ones who feel a certain way. Truth is, if you actually open up to friends (which obviously can be hard to do) you'd find that you're definitely not the only one. Someone in my class just developed a website that actually lets you have an anonymous invite-only discussion forum where you know everyone who was invited to the conversation, but not who's saying what. It's an interesting idea and may be helpful for situations like these.

    In any case, you're not the only one, just keep your head up and try to seek out people and experiences that make you happy.
     
  45. shadowfox87

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    Well get used to it, most of the REAL studying comes in isolation. Sure you can do group studying to clear concepts and such, but that for me is 1 hour max. I don't like to study in isolation though, that's why I go to the library where I can see other people. From time to time, your friends will come to the library and you can have short conversation breaks.
     
  46. ArcGurren

    ArcGurren only one will survive
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    Not to be nitpicky but I also know plenty of Christians, Hindus, and Buddhists who don't drink either.

    Regarding the culture of drinking in med school... I occasionally drink and think it's fine within moderation, but there are plenty of people who get by just fine in medical school (and in fact really well) without touching a drop. It's all about finding people who you relate to, regardless of who's going into what field or doing better than you at school or studying with you, period.
     
  47. KnuxNole

    KnuxNole Sweets Addict
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    Can you actually make friends at a gym? The only thing I do is run(I never lift weights) and people only use headphones...same with pickup sports, they all have friends so being the guy who has to squeeze into a new group is tough, especially if most guys are clique-ish
     
  48. muhali3

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    Nice to know. I don't drink, but I feel like if I did, I'd have a much more diverse group of friends. The non-drinking friends I do have are pretty cool, but I kind of feel excluded from being friends with drinkers simply because I don't drink.
     
    #47 muhali3, May 26, 2011
    Last edited: May 26, 2011
  49. ArcGurren

    ArcGurren only one will survive
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    *shrug* if people are going to judge you or exclude you based on whether or not you drink, I dunno if they're worth your time.
     
  50. Curlyfriez12

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    This is my personal experience.... I get ONE person who I can talk to, and it doesnt have to be a fellow medical student. It could be your mom or brother or girlfriend... for me, first year it was my girlfriend, and now, i'm getting pretty close to my roommate. I just talk to them constantly and with vigor, and my instinctual need for acceptance is fulfilled.

    However, I am an extrovert, and every once in a while I go to a group, take over (in a nice way) and make small talk for 5 minutes and say bye, just to prove to myself I still got social skills. Because social skills need to be honed from time to time.

    Good luck
     
  51. qmcat

    qmcat Heat
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    I don't drink either, but I still go out with friends occasionally and order a coke instead of beer or a drink.

    As far as the lonely when studying/living alone issue... it sucks during your first year or so, but once you start clinic and seeing patients, you'll probably want that time to yourself when you get home after a long day.

    Otherwise, if I don't have anyone to talk to, I usually end up watching TV/hulu or re-runs of shows like The Hills. I guess seeing other people go out reminds me that normal people exist outside of the med school bubble.
     

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