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Im 21 years old, depressed, stressed, and never been in a relationship. Is it all in my mind or do I need to see a doc for this?
November 16, 2011 12:13 PM   Subscribe

Im 21 years old, depressed, stressed, and never had a girlfriend. What am I doing wrong?

This is my 3rd year in college and I live with my parents who are supporting and too caring. I have never worked and they have provided me with everything all along. I’m a friendly guy but when it comes to meeting girls, I get scared and nervous. I even get nervous when I try to initiate a conversation because I have nothing to talk about since my life is pretty much boring (school and home and nothing in between). I have been stressed and depressed lately because of this and as well as school (majoring in mechanical engineering). My friends have told me I look depressed too since my eyes are getting baggy and just from looking at my eyes. Because of all this going, I’m failing all my classes this semester as well. Sometimes, I just feel lost thinking I don’t deserve all the good girls out there. I have liked few girls but never bothered to ask them out in fear of rejection or loosing friendship. So am I missing something here? I’m an outgoing guy and loves to be around people but this has just bothered me all my life.
posted by Parh6512 to Human Relations (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
You are admittedly depressed, failing all your classes, it's affecting your interpersonal relationships - it sounds like what you're doing wrong is not seeking help for your depression.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:15 PM on November 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yes--work on the depression first. You may need medication, and definitely counseling. A book that has helped me in the past has been Breaking the Patterns of Depression, which might address a lot of the negative statements you've made in your question. Other people here will probably also have good suggestions.

But also--you are twenty-one years old. Yes, college is a good time to be looking for a serious long-term relationship, but you need to take care of yourself first. You have plenty of time to worry about finding a girlfriend. Believe me, you do. For now, focus on getting your depression treated and passing your classes. The rest will follow, and possibly sooner than you think--treating the depression will definitely help you feel more confident about asking girls out and dealing with possible rejection (which is normal and something everyone experiences occasionally).

And get outside and do something! Ride a bike. Walk in a nearby park. Go hiking in a local state park and enjoy the last colors of autumn and do some birdwatching (this is a good time to see migrating species just about everywhere). That will make you feel much, much better and less stressed. And it might even give you something new to talk about.
posted by tully_monster at 12:26 PM on November 16, 2011


It's great that you have supportive and loving parents, but they don't necessarily have the tools to help you overcome your depression.

Many colleges have counseling programs available for their students. I would encourage you to check and see if yours does. If not, talk to your parents about looking for a therapist.

(In the meantime, you can also talk to a dean about your trouble in your classes. Schools don't tend to want their students to fail, and you'd be surprised at the amount of support that's available for students who are struggling due to psychological issues.)

Once you've managed to become more psychologically healthy, it's all about baby steps. Taking part in social activities (it wouldn't surprise me if the isolating nature of your life is contributing to your depression), volunteering, joining a team (whether sports or something else), etc. This will also give you something to talk about that isn't "boring," and you can meet a lot of new friends this way, including girls, some of whom may or may not end up developing a romantic feelings for you.

Things can and will get better. It's just a matter of asking for help, taking it step-by-step, and being patient and kind to yourself.

Good luck.
posted by duvatney at 12:27 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


1. What treehorn said.
2. He may not have emphasised enough. Depression is insidious and attacks different people in different ways, and all of the issues you've laid out here could be contributing to or resulting from depression (that doesn't mean they are in this case, just that they might be). There is nothing inherently wrong with never having had a girlfriend, but if you want one, then you'd be wise to tackle the depression first. Being in a relationship doesn't fix depression.

My main advice to you (I'll leave everyone else to repeat "therapy" at you) is this: make sure you're sleeping a full 8 hours in a regular time slot, and find a social hobby, i.e. something that makes you meet more people, gives you something to be interested in and interesting to talk about and stops you from brooding.

Oh, and forget about 'deserving' someone. Nobody earns a relationship through good deeds, it's more of a gift. The only deserving involved is for honesty and respect for both people from the other.
posted by fearnothing at 12:32 PM on November 16, 2011


Break down your goals and prioritize them. There probably won't be one big thing that'll solve all your academic and psychological and dating issues in one instant. Put dating on the back burner. It's a fine goal, but get the depression and academics under control first (get therapy, talk to your professors or academic adviser, etc.). Then, once you've gotten things in order -- not necessarily perfect but more under control and happy than they are now -- you can look at dating. If you approach dating first, you'll be offering a depressed, low-confidence version of yourself, which is not likely to lead to a great relationship.

Also realize it's not so weird that you haven't had a girlfriend yet. I know it seems like 21 is really old, but it's actually really young. Some day you will have a girlfriend, and then no one will care about what age you were when you first had a girlfriend. So unlike improving your grades, there is just no need to get a girlfriend right away.

I also agree with fearnothing: forget about whether you "deserve" to be in a relationship with someone. That word is thrown around a lot, but it's essentially meaningless. It creates the impression that there's some objective measure of people's worth; but meanwhile, in the real world, dating is driven by wildly unpredictable individual preferences. Any two people will either be in a relationship or not based on whether two individuals are mutually willing and able to do so, not based on some mystical quality of deserving-ness or worthiness.
posted by John Cohen at 12:41 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


John Cohen: "Also realize it's not so weird that you haven't had a girlfriend yet."

Seconded. If you ask around, I think you'll find that many people don't actually have long term relationships until they're in their 20s (I'm in my first, which started when I was 25).

Also, you put your concerns in the right order: first, work on the depression, which will help with the stress. Then, work on the stress itself. Then, when you feel like you're on a reasonably even keel, you can start thinking about dating.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:17 PM on November 16, 2011


Your question reads like a laundry list of things you can do to make yourself less fearful and depressed:

This is my 3rd year in college and I live with my parents who are supporting and too caring.
-Make plans to move out and live with roommates. Sounds like it's important to you to know whether or not you can take care of yourself. Get out there and find out.

I have never worked and they have provided me with everything all along.
-Get a part time job/internship, or volunteer somewhere. Assume and meet responsibilities.

I’m a friendly guy but when it comes to meeting girls, I get scared and nervous.
-Everyone gets scared and nervous talking to people they really really like. EVERYONE. It only gets better with practice. You just have to jump in and hope for the best.

I even get nervous when I try to initiate a conversation because I have nothing to talk about since my life is pretty much boring (school and home and nothing in between).
-Find things to do that don't bore you. You are starting from zero here. Say yes to anything that sounds even a little interesting. When you get engaged in something you find interesting, you'll find that you have a lot to say.

Because of all this going, I’m failing all my classes this semester as well.
-You are a student, so grades seem to matter a lot right now. But: they don't. They are not who you are, and one semester of bad grades isn't going to ruin your future. Talk to your professors and see what you can do about your grades. Drop a class if you have to. Even if you do end up failing all your classes, it's going to be okay. Think about what went wrong and find ways to improve the following semester.

Sometimes, I just feel lost thinking I don’t deserve all the good girls out there.
-They don't necessarily deserve you either. Do you deserve the love your parents give you? Do you deserve your friends? This is a silly way to think about relationships. Be respectful and take interest in their lives. Find out if you have anything in common. See where that takes you. Don't talk yourself out of a potential relationship because you aren't perfect enough. That just sets you up to get used by someone.

I have liked few girls but never bothered to ask them out in fear of rejection or loosing friendship.
-Ask them out. Rejection really isn't that bad. It is nowhere near as hating yourself because you didn't have the guts to ask them out. Also, if you behave respectfully after the rejection and it's a good friendship, you won't lose your friend.

So am I missing something here? I’m an outgoing guy and loves to be around people but this has just bothered me all my life.
-You need to get out there and take some risks. You don't sound depressed to me; you sound afraid of the unknown. You sound like you think you are powerless. Get out there and try things. Have experiences. Learn that you are not helpless. Even when you fail, you will feel like you are in control of your life.
posted by millions of peaches at 1:21 PM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


So many other people have said it, but go speak to counselling services. You don't mention WHY you are truly depressed, but I don't think it's because your lack of relationships. It seems like there is a greater problem at hand which might still be an underlying issue for you.

As for the girls, there is nothing wrong with being single at the age of 21. I haven't been in a relationship either and I'm 21 too. There are thousands of people in our position too, but if you honestly look around not that many people our age are in a relationship and at most it's 50/50. Some people are ready for a relationship at this age and some people aren't. Being single now doesn't mean that you will be single forever. I'm assuming that the reason why you aren't in a relationship yet is because you don't put yourself out there enough and you are not in the best place emotionally right now which can make it difficult to develop a relationship.

I also agree with millions of peaches in the sense that many of these 'things' can be changed for the better, but if you are in a bad place emotionally then seek help from a therapist soon. I say this because it's one thing to know solutions, but it's another thing to have the energy (physically and emotionally) to do those things.
posted by sincerely-s at 1:33 PM on November 16, 2011


I noticed from your previous questions that you were not happy with your major. Did you seek help or explore your options there? There's nothing quite as depressing as locking yourself down into a career you don't want.
posted by millions of peaches at 1:36 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Parh6512  I live with my parents who are supporting and too caring. I have never worked and they have provided me with everything all along [...] my life is pretty much boring (school and home and nothing in between). [...] I’m an outgoing guy and loves to be around people but this has just bothered me all my life.

You're a people person, hating your current course of study, lacking social confidence, and isolated to school and home with your parents. From this and your previous question, it sounds like you really wish you had some experience in the work world, living separately from your parents, and relying on yourself.

Please make an appointment to speak with someone at your university's counseling services and tell them what you're telling us. Hashing things out out loud with a counselor may help you figure out how to make the changes in your life that you need to be happier. It is possible that you're depressed enough to need medication, but it's also possible that you'd be happier moving out of your parents' house, getting a job, and supporting yourself for a while before returning to school to do something else.

From your previous question, you talked to your engineering academic advisor and she gave you advice on switching to a different type of program. Speaking with her again and with counseling services can help you decide whether you want to switch and how to do it.

The hard part is that just talking about it is not going to be enough — you are going to have to make a decision and act on it, and it may be one your parents don't like. Sometimes acting against the wishes of parents from a different culture is very difficult, which is something you should discuss with your counselor if you foresee it being an issue.
posted by hat at 2:09 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't have a serious girlfriend till 24 (I'm now 40 and married with kids) I felt terrible about it at your age but its really not that unusual or something you should beat yourself up about. Try to get some counselling and I hope you can get back on top of your studies.
posted by crocomancer at 2:15 PM on November 16, 2011


Do move out and get a place of your own. You will find that the sense of independence it gives you will make you grow up fast, and that will be apparent to other people. Yes, you will be poor (and if your parents are wealthy, do try to live on your own means as far as that is possible. It will help you feel independent, and that will boost confidence immeasurably). Struggling a bit when we first fly the nest is what happens to most of us. But it's so, so worth it.
posted by Decani at 2:28 PM on November 16, 2011


This sounds quite a bit like me: though there were plenty of girls I would have liked to ask out, but was too damned nervous. My parents provided me with college money so I didn't have to work (though I rented an apartment with a friend), though my friends were struggling to pay their way through college. I wasn't in love with my major, and was kind of depressed about it all.

But my first girlfriend took me from zero to a "normal" college relationship in a matter of weeks. I was lucky enough that she initiated the relationship, but that broke the ice for me. Sure, there were lots of awkward moments, but there were more in my next relationship, too, because every relationship is different.

I changed majors (and graduated), ended my first relationship and moved on (and now I'm married with a kid), and employed full-time. It gets better, but you have to take the first steps. You may want to start by talking with a school councilor about your depression, or spend time out of your house and with friends, and ask someone out on a date. As for your living situation: you don't need to move out, though it would probably make dating less awkward. But if you find someone great, they can cope with the fact you're living with your parents. You'll just go on more dates out of home, or to her place more often.

And if you fear that you're too boring: join clubs, try classes that sound interesting (even if they have no relevance to your major or what you imagine to be your future profession), go on mini-vacations with friends. College is a great time to explore your interests.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:25 PM on November 16, 2011


With the relationship stuff, what you're doing wrong is not asking girls out because you're afraid of rejection. Rejection is no big deal, you will learn, and it's certainly better than waiting and doing nothing and getting mad at yourself for doing nothing. Incidentally, it's not unusual not to have had a girlfriend at 21.

Also, see someone about your depression.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:49 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Im 21 years old, depressed, stressed, and never had a girlfriend. What am I doing wrong?"

I am a woman, and people who are depressed and stressed are generally not attractive to me.
posted by Shouraku at 4:40 PM on November 16, 2011


those are some pretty significant problems, it's understandable that you'd feel pretty bad right now.

definitely talk to professors, your adviser, the dean, etc. to see what you can do. getting some kind of diagnosis for depression may be necessary.

keeping up with grades while also spending more time socializing and working somewhere to afford an apartment may be too much to take on at once. you may have to prioritize and make some compromises.

if i were you, this is what i'd do:

talk to the parents to see if they will help pay for rent/living on your own. for example, you work 15 hours a week and they pay 1/2 of rent. spread the word among your friends that you are looking for a room mate. when the semester is over, start looking harder for an apartment. try to take a lighter class load next semester. this will give more time for the job + hanging out with friends. ask a girl that you like out on a DATE, not just "hang out".

your "depression" sounds more situational as opposed to chemical. personally, i'd work on changing the things you mentioned, and not "therapy" or drugs, but it's up to you. i just thing that those things won't get you a girl friend or a job or better grades.
posted by cupcake1337 at 8:47 PM on November 16, 2011


Okcupid is a great online dating site. I think online dating can help for people who can be really shy with girls. I always find it easier to email someone than to talk to them in person. I found it gave me a huge boost of confidence (even though I was still nervous at every date and email I sent) when I started seeing all sorts of profiles that were interesting as well as getting responses from a bunch of guys.

Also focusing on school is a good thing. it is important to get your education and get into a good career.

Also, if you find a girl who likes talking a lot, then you may not need to work too hard on coming up with conversations.

Dating is not easy and it may not work out all the time. You may have to go on 20 dates before you get a girl who is compatible. So you will have to get used to rejection. If you do online dating you may have to send 100 emails to get 20 dates. You just need to stay positive. There are a lot of good things about you and a girl out there will notice that if you give them the chance. Although, make sure you are picky. You may want a girlfriend but make sure you are selective about it because that shows maturity and respect for who you are dating. I have found too often guys seem desperate and seem like they will latch onto anyone and that is not healthy or attractive. I would focus on what you want in a relationship, ie you like an intelligent girl who is a gamer, or maybe someone who is artsy and carefree or an artsy gamer ect.
posted by Jaelma24 at 11:48 PM on November 16, 2011


You stated "I even get nervous when I try to initiate a conversation because I have nothing to talk about since my life is pretty much boring (school and home and nothing in between)" -- if you have nothing to talk about, it's time to change something in your life. Change always gives people something to talk about.

It sounds as though you are unhappy with your major. Do consider changing it, and after doing that, perhaps picking up a hobby would work.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 12:04 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh darling,

it's totally normal to not have had a girlfriend at your age. Most of my friends who went to odd-ball or really intense college experiences didn't even lose their virginity until they were into their mid-twenties.

I'm guessing as soon as you address the depression the other stuff is going to fall in line. play ball with your shrink and take the advice to heart.

really, twenty one is super super young. don't sweat it too hard and get your ass to the shrink. Everything will get better.
posted by Blisterlips at 2:51 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


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