Online Relationships and Coping with Depression and Loneliness

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Reader’s Question

Hey, I hope you can help. OK I’ll be blunt, because I believe all details are necessary. I’m a depressed third-year college student (I live at home and commute). I’m 20 years old, single, and I have never even kissed a girl let alone anything else! My mom died when I was 3 years old, so I don’t remember her. I do consider myself average looking. Basically I’ve never been able to go out with friends for two reasons. First, I’ve been scared my whole life to go out and party, even though I want to so badly! And two, these reasons have made me lose friends.

I forged a friendship with a girl from USA. I’ve known her for two years now. We met on a chat site. To this day we still chat. However we used to be much closer.

She doesn’t know how much I love her, which I know is weird considering we never even met! Even more pathetic is that I created fake accounts pretending to be someone else (better looking) to get her to fall for me. She did, and I know it sounds weird but we had cyber sex a lot, and spoke intimately, which she never did with me. I can’t stop thinking of her. She’s so beautiful, and she also feels lonely (she told me she was). I’m so lonely and depressed, and I feel like dying sometimes.

Psychologist’s Reply

Your explanation of your problem is very heartfelt and I can see that you are in emotional pain. First off, I believe it is essential that you start therapy immediately so that you can deal with the issues you are having and begin to treat your depression. You mentioned thoughts about dying. These types of thoughts can be very serious. Perhaps a call to The Samaritans or Befrienders International may help you to sort this out.

Based on the information you have provided, you seem to struggle between wanting a connection with others and yet fearing a connection at the same time. This fear has kept you stuck. You have attempted to have an intimate connection with this female friend that you like, but your fear kept you from pursuing it as yourself. I imagine that although internet relationships may feel better than no relationships at all, they are not a replacement for the real thing. If you start therapy, one of the goals may be to help you begin to establish connections with other people in-person, not just at a distance (via the internet).

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You mentioned that your mother passed away when you were very young. Although you were probably too young to remember much of that time, it can still have an impact on you. Sometimes people who have lost a parent at a young age can feel a sense of abandonment (even if the parent didn’t intentionally leave them).

This sense of abandonment can interfere with creating relationships in adulthood. The fear of abandonment and rejection can be so strong that people isolate and avoid close human contact. However, most humans need connections and relationships with others in order to thrive. At your age, in particular, it can be especially important. One thing that is critical for you to know about anxiety is that the more you avoid what you are fearful of, the bigger the anxiety gets. So if you are fearful of engaging in activities to create new relationships and you avoid these situations, your anxiety and fear gets stronger. Avoidance feeds anxiety. This becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. The longer you wait to address this issue, the more difficult it may become with time. For that reason, and also due to the severity of the depression you describe, therapy is likely an important step toward feeling better.

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