Tuesday, May 12, 2009

LONELINESS: THE ROLE THAT IT PLAYS ON A STUDENT'S ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE

Loneliness is the unpleasant feeling of the inability to have satisfying relationships. The person desires to be in intimate, long-lasting relationships, but is unable to do so. It is an unfulfilled need for intimacy.

Loneliness is experienced by all age groups, some time or the other, but it is most prevalent among adolescents. It is also highly prevalent among children, which is not very well known.

The experience of loneliness, depending on its intensity, is very disturbing and is accompanied with many other problems or difficulties.

A person who is lonely gets the feeling of being unwanted and rejected by others. Due to this the feeling of worthlessness begins to creep in within the individual, which eventually lowers the self-esteem of that person. The person begins lose self-confidence and there is a lack of self-belief within the individual. This lack of self-belief and self-esteem has a negative affect on various aspects of the individual’s life, including his/her academic performance.

The person starts to feel that there is no use of studying and that he/she is not going to gain anything by studies. The loss in self-belief makes the student feel that studying and getting good grades will not do any good for him/her. Gradually the student begins to lose interest in studies itself. The feeling of being unwanted and rejected has a severe affect on his/her academic interests.This ultimately, and obviously, leads to a decline in the student’s academic performance.

Loneliness also leads to depression. The inability to have good relationships makes the person dejected, morose, and completely saddened. Due to all this, the depression can be so severe that at times the person may have thoughts of committing suicide.

If this persists then the severity increases and the person becomes completely helpless. A kind of suffocation begins to develop. In such a mood, the person loses interest in absolutely everything in life and studying is one of those things. In fact, studies might be the last thing that the person would like to do. If the student does not study then it is very unlikely that he/she may academically perform well.

There is also a feeling of hopelessness that begins to develop within the individual. The individual might feel that he/she is going to fail in everything that he/she indulges into. Perhaps the continuous failure of being able to develop satisfying relationships is generalized in every other aspect of the person’s life.

In such a situation even if the student wants to study, he/she does not do so. The student feels that he/she lacks the ability to learn and no matter how much he/she studies, it is not in any way going to affect the scores in the examination. This makes the student not to study, which leads him/her to perform poorly academically.

Loneliness causes problems in sleeping. The person may develop abnormal sleeping patterns. The person may either have too much or too little of sleep. Both are harmful and can have severe effects on an individual’s lifestyle.

A disturbed sleeping pattern can make the individual feel lackadaisical and phlegmatic. This leads to an inability to concentrate. The person develops a short attention span and cannot focus on anything for a longer period of time.

This lack of concentration obviously comes in between the studies of a student. The student easily gets distracted, which inhibits his/her ability to learn and may also lead to irritability. Thus, the student cannot concentrate on his/her studies and therefore has a decline in academic performance.

It is obvious that a person who is lonely does not have anybody to talk to and share his/her feelings with. This means that a lonely individual lacks social support. Social support plays a major contribution in releasing any kind of stress.

The pressure to perform well in school, comparisons with high achieving students, unrealistic expectations, all can become very stressful for a student. A good social network helps a lot in releasing this stress. A small talk with friends before an examination does a great deal in decreasing examination phobia and fear of failure.

A student who is lonely does not have such privileges. Loneliness in itself is very stressful. All the other stressors added to the stress of loneliness can prove to be fatal for the student. In severe cases, it may also lead to a nervous breakdown. A lack of social support can, thus, have a severe affect on a student’s mental health, which has a direct negative effect on his/her academic performance.

It has been found that loneliness is a major cause for absenteeism in schools. A student who is lonely might have the feeling that he/she has nobody to talk to in school. This can be quite a saddening experience. Due to this, the student does not desire to go to school and prefers to stay at home. At home, the student will at least have his/her parents and siblings.

Being absent from school does not help as it causes a lot of loss in studies. Since the student does not have any friends, he/she has little information of what he/she has missed in the classroom. It becomes difficult to catch up with the other students because they do not have anybody to help them out.

Being regularly absent not only creates a bad impression among the teachers, but it also leads to a bad performance in the classroom and other activities, loss of important information, and ultimately a poor performance in examinations.

Loneliness can be a highly unpleasant and disturbing feeling. It is highly stressful, causes depression, and leads to many other psychological problems. It has a severely negative affect on every aspect of a person’s life. In a way, it almost ruins the whole personality of an individual.

Somehow, the effect of loneliness on a student’s academic performance has been ignored for reasons unknown. Perhaps its role in academic performance is not taken as seriously as it should be.

Teachers and parents should take special care in identifying the symptoms of loneliness in children and adolescents. Performing well in school is very important for students. A good academic performance becomes the basis for many of the future prospects of a student.

Teachers in schools should always try to have a good rapport with their students, so that students do not hesitate in talking to them about their problems. Similarly, parents should always try talk to their children and discuss about all their problems and issues with them. Especially in loneliness, a simple talk can prove to be of a lot of help.

Identification of loneliness and making necessary psychological interventions will prove to be very helpful for students. It will not only enable them to excel in their academic performance, but they will also excel in many other aspects of their life, in the present as well as in their future.

If a student performs poorly in studies, it may not necessarily be that he/she lacks in intellectual abilities. It is quite possible that the major reason for a decline in a student's academic performance is loneliness.


PS: To read more on loneliness and similar concepts, refer to my articles, Loneliness: A Harbinger To Aloneness and When Trait and State Loneliness Come Together

27 comments:

Sheeba Riyas said...

Yes, there could be many reasons behind the inefficiency of a good academic performance and I do believe that loneliness is one of them.

I suffered from loneliness during the initial phase of my academic years in U.K, when I had to spend away from my family. The emotion was so intense that I it affected my focus on my studies.

It took time for me to overcome it but sometimes, loneliness can hurt far more than one expects.

Thank you for bringing it up. I am sure it would add value to many lives.

Ashutosh said...

There are two things loneliness and solitude. Loneliness is a negative state of mind in which a person ends up most of the time not due to social isolation but mental isolation. The restlessness when left unattended and unrecognized forces one to look outside.

On the other hand when one is at peace with one self there is no real need for an external validation. There exits a calm within and one actually enjoys "being alone". Its no longer a scary experience.

I think there is where the problem is. In our budding/ shaping years we are never trained or taught about this leading to several painful situations in adulthood.

Rakesh Vanamali said...

Very relevant and insightful thoughts here! Your space is very informative!

Am blogrolling U!

Saif said...

@ Sheeba
Yeah! Truly, loneliness can be an extremely painful experience. Those who have gone through it, know about it more than anybody else.



@ Ashutosh
You're right, that we're never taught the finer aspects of living our life in a more adjustable manner (during childhood and adolescence) and this is where the problem lies. Regarding that i had also written a post on how should schools help in building social and emotional competence in students to lead a better life.

Since you have mentioned about loneliness, being alone, and solitude, do read my first post (http://lifepsychologyandalotmore.blogspot.com/2008/05/loneliness-harbinger-to-aloneness.html) in which i have written about how loneliness and aloneness are different, yet related and how aloneness can be both good and bad.



@ Rakesh
Thanks! I'm glad to know that you found it insightful and informative :)

KSK said...

well Great blog I happened to find this thing through an orkut community.. Nice Layout and content

Rana Sinha said...

Great blog with valuable topics. Thanks. Loneliness can be a huge problem leading to misadjustment and eventual alienation. It seems that developing our personalities to enjoy solitude in mainstream education is discouraged.

Earlier, only monastic communities and living like a hermit trained people for solitude. But nowadays there are fortunately other information sources available for maturing through solitude without being disabled by loneliness. All the best to you and your intelligent readers.

Saif said...

@ KSK
Good to know that you feel like that ...


@ Rana
Nice to know that you like my blog.

Loneliness and solitude are quite different. Solitude is by choice and is a pleasurable experience, whereas loneliness is not by choice and is of course unpleasant. There's no relation between solitude and loneliness.

Yeah, loneliness leads to maladjustment, which has many negative effects, one of them being a poor academic performance.

Sara said...

I totally agree with Ashutosh.
And really liked this post!
Thanks =)

Saif said...

@ Ashutosh
One of the points that you have made is slightly incorrect (I didn't mention it earlier,I had some how missed it out).

You had written that, "Loneliness ... mental isolation. The restlessness when left unattended and unrecognized forces one to look outside."

What you're talking about is more of existential crisis rather than loneliness. True that loneliness is more of a mental isolation, but loneliness is a dissatisfaction due to not having the quality of relationships that one desires. The inner unattended and unrecognized restlessness that you're talking about is due to an existential crisis and not loneliness.

Saif said...

@ Sara
I'm glad that you liked this post.

timethief said...

I liked this post too. I am an intuitive introvert - a loner. I do not become energized when in the company of others for sustained periods of time. After a couple of hours I feel drained. Periods of solitude are important times for me. They are times when I can re-energize and tap my creative potential.

However, when I was in college and university I had two friends who were desperately lonely. They both suffered from homesickness, sleep disorders and depression as a consequence of their loneliness.

In college made a point to gathering the three of us together and forming a small study group with three other students. It didn't take long for us to become a support group for the two lonely members. By the time we left college we were all very closely bonded and we remain friends now, decades later.

I hadn't really thought of loneliness in terms of declining academic performance until I read your article and it evoked my memories. Without doubt the loneliness did negatively affect the academic performance of my friends.

Thanks for publishing this thought provoking post and please accept my apology for taking so long to visit your blog and read it.

Saif said...

@ timetheif
What you did during your college days is commendable. This shows the role that peers can play in alleviating the feelings of loneliness in others. Such behaviour, by peers can be very helpful for loneliness. It's great to know that you are all still friends and more importantly they could overcome their loneliness because of your kind gesture.

Yeah, I can't think of anybody who feels that loneliness can have a decline on a student's academic performance. I was an extremely lonely person in school.I had an inconsistent academic record, during that time and I feel loneliness was a reason for that. This is what made me write this article.

There's no need for an apology. In fact I should thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a very relevant comment.

SRISHTI said...

thanx sir for writing these types of things.you know this all is showing me my personality.whatever you have written is true.

Saif said...

@ Srishti
I'm glad to know that you like my posts :) ... and yes, you don't need to call me "sir" :D :) ... thanks for dropping by :)

Sidhant said...

My question to you is : What is a person supposed to do if he/she feels lonely at home and not in school..though he might be having many friends in school but has no one to speak to at home..when that's the scenario , then what should he/she do??
Will that affect his/her academic performance in some way?

Saif said...

@ Sidhant
What you're talking about (feeling lonely at home) is called emotional loneliness. What can be done depends on various factors. Emotional loneliness can be felt in many ways. The individual may feel lonely at home if he/she is the only child (doesn't have any siblings), siblings are too dominating, one of the parents has passed away, parents have divorced, parents are too busy in work and can't give any time to the child, parents stay together but don't have a very good relationship, etc. All these different situations can play a role in different ways.
In emotional loneliness, usually it has been found that the individual becomes more and more outgoing and makes many friends.
How will it affect academic performance again depends on many factors. If the person has friends who are good in studies then emotional loneliness may not affect academic performance in a negative way, it may in fact enhance it. On the other hand, if emotional loneliness leads the person to get into bad company then it might have a negative affect on academic performance. However, having friends that are good in studies may not necessarily prevent a negative affect on academic performance. It may be possible that the individual may feel a lot of stress because of the home environment. For instance, if parents at home continuously fight with each other then it is going to have a very negative impact on the child's psyche and one of those negative impacts can very well be a poor academic performance.
So, to answer your question ... in emotional loneliness, people usually make many friends and become outgoing. Yes, it can affect academic performance, but the relationship between the two is not that simple.

Sidhant said...

But it may also happen that the person might not be so outgoing , he/she may be an introvert and might not have people around him/her in the neighborhood. Even though , friends may be very good in studies but that may have no connection with his/her academic performance. It may be the case of what you told in your previous article , state-trait loneliness. With all these psychological problems and adolescence as well , the person can get into a highly miserable state.

Saif said...

@ Sidhant
Well, that's what I said. It may help, but it is may not necessarily happen all the time. There may be many reasons that may affect the academic performance of a student. Loneliness may be one of those reasons. And even if an individual has friends who are good in studies, it may or may not have a direct connection with ones academic performance (which I had mentioned in the reply to your previous comment).
As far as state-trait loneliness goes, that's a completely different thing. That phase occurs when a person has trait loneliness and goes to a completely new place ... so, the person may then feel a combination of trait loneliness as well as state loneliness.

Taru said...

Found the article quite useful :)

I am a loner at home. I don't have any sibling. I just can't concentrate on my studies. I want to study but I find it very difficult to stay focussed. It is so difficult to arise interest in studies. I have friends at school who are good in studies and I also want to excel in my academics but to concentrate and remain focussed is very difficult. I have no one at home to share my feelings with. At times I think that if I had a few siblings then concentrating on studies would not have been a Herculean Task for me. What am I to do? Can you give the remedy?

Anonymous said...

hey i just love your blog from now onwards i have starting developing interest in cycology thnxx to u fr this.

my question to you is: this year i am appearing for my board examination. my boards are starting from 28 febuary and the problem is this that i am not able to concentrate on my studies. there are long coaching hours and on top of that whenever i sit with my book open then i realized that the course is just too much athough i know i can perform well while utilizing these days but still at the end of the day i am left with nothing .
i just get fizzed of every day.this is happening from one month . my friends completed thier course and they are revising it for 3-4 times. this also pricks my consciousness. and on top of that teacher's high expectations make the situation worse.also i dont understand which is the best time for me to study. as night after 10 o clock i felt sleepy too study and early in the morning my alarm clock doesnt help me . i am just becoming lazy and worthless. althogh i have a very strong will power but at the end i got failed .the thought of bringing in just 80s and 70s is scaring me a lot
Kindly help me out from this situation.

Saif said...

@ Taru
Not being able to focus on studies is something that many people experience. One thing that you can do is to study in short intervals. Doing this, you will not have put in an extra amount of effort in order to sustain your attention. You can also make adjustable deadlines to complete a particular section of your course. Making deadlines will help you concentrate in a better way. If you're having difficulties in generating interest, then first study those topics that you find to be good or easy to study. By doing that you'll start enjoying your studies and it will also build in your confidence in order to study the topics that are relatively difficult and also the ones that are somewhat boring.
You also said that you have friends who are good in studies. Try to discuss things related your studies with those friends. They don't have to be formal discussions, they can be very casual ones. Getting different point of views on the same topic also helps in generating some kind of interest.

These are few things that you can try ... if you need any other help then you can always contact me again.
Take care!

Saif said...

@ Anonymous
Glad that know that my blog has got you interested in psychology.

Well, to start with you can do a few things that i mentioned in my previous comment. Don't study for long hours, it becomes difficult to concentrate for a long period. You should rather study for short periods of time and keep taking breaks in between.
If you're finding the course too long, then again like i said in the previous comment, first study the easy topics and the topics that you find interesting. You will be able to cover up these topics very quickly. Once you do that, it will boost your confidence to study the rest of the topics.
I'd also like to say that don't compare yourself with your friends. They might have completed their course, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you're lagging behind. You may not really need that much of time to complete your course, so don't worry about others who have completed their course. Each person has a different style of studying, you don't have to do what your friends are doing.
Forget about the teacher's and others' expectations. Work according to your own potential, don't burden yourself by what others' want from you. If you feel that you can perform up to a certain level, then don't try to unnecessarily exceed that. That won't help you in any way and as you said it will make matters worse.
You also mentioned that you're worried about scoring less in your exams. I know that marks are important, but its not the only thing. Study from the perspective of knowing something and gaining knowledge rather then scoring good marks. The more you think about getting marks, the more you'll pressurize yourself. Forget about the marks that you're going to get, just think that you're learning something new.

Hope this may be able to help you in some way.

Take care and all the best for your boards.

Anonymous said...

thnxx for guiding me ...

Anonymous said...

hey i am in class 11,commerce student. can u plz suggest me some interesting books based on pscycology at my level.

radhika said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Saif said...

@ Anonymous
Since you're in 11th standard, I'll suggest you to read the NCERT Psychology books that are meant for the students of 11th and 12th. They will work well, for you, as a good introductory study of Psychology.

reginald surict said...

Totally agree that loneliness has to do with depression after all. And in such a state the person becomes reluctant to do anything. So this is very important to have someone close you can rely on and open yourself to. It is important to have some friends at uni to share opinions, find some similar interests and just be supportive to each other in difficult life situations. I am planning to study in one of those best universities and hope I will find some good friends.

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