Why Can’t I Make Friends?

African American middle age woman looking sad.

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If you feel like you don’t have friends or struggle with a sense of loneliness, you’re not alone. As an adult, it might seem difficult or impossible to make new connections, but if you're willing to put in the effort, you can certainly build new relationships.

This article covers possible reasons why you've been unsuccessful in your attempts to make friends and how not having friends negatively impacts your mental health. It also provides tips on how you can make new friends.

Reasons Why You Can’t Make Friends


“It is very common to experience a lack of friendships. ​​Many people feel like they do not have friends or that others do not understand them,” says Jessica Ermilio, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at Humantold.

According to Ermilio, there are many reasons why someone might struggle to make friends. These reasons are outlined below.

Anxiety

A very common reason for this difficulty is that many people experience some degree of anxiety when meeting new people. This anxiety stems from a fear of being rejected or judged by others. 

For some people, these worries can interfere with their ability to connect with the other person because it is tremendously challenging to focus on and engage in a conversation when feeling nervous or uncertain about ourselves. These uncomfortable feelings may also encourage us to avoid making friends. 

The next time you try to make a friend, scan your thoughts and feelings to see if you feel nervous, fearful, or uncertain. Then ask yourself if these thoughts or feelings are aiding or impeding your ability to make a friend. Doing this may help you to better understand why it may be hard for you to make friends.

Avoidance

Are there opportunities you may be turning down or shying away from because you want to avoid the difficulties that come with making friends? Oftentimes our avoidance of hard things can go unnoticed or unquestioned. 

So, when you turn down social opportunities, ask yourself why. Be mindful of that decision and where it is coming from. It is difficult to make new friends when you are not putting yourself out there to do so.

High Expectations

People may put a lot of pressure on themselves to be popular and have several friends. It is not imperative to have a legion of friends; sometimes, all it takes is one or two friends to reap all the psychological benefits that come with deep friendships. 

Focus on making one or two meaningful connections and relieve yourself of any pressure you may be feeling to create an endless list of friends.

Mental Health Impact of Not Having Friends

Friendships and attachments are important. Because they are so important to our overall well-being, a lack of friends or poor, superficial friendships can harm your mental health.

Jessica Ermilio, PsyD

The need for safe and secure attachments begins at birth. As children, the parental figures in our lives typically satisfy that need by providing us with physical and emotional security. As we grow up, however, we look more towards close friendships or partnerships to satisfy these attachment needs.

— Jessica Ermilio, PsyD

Ermilio lists some of the psychological obstacles we may face when our attachment needs go unmet:

  • Lack of belonging: Finding and maintaining close friendships provides us with a sense of belonging, which is a protective factor that helps us manage stress. 
  • Loneliness: A sense of “we-ness” and support, often found within close friendships, can help us cope better with whatever challenges come our way. Conversely, a lack of adequate social support, which may be felt by someone lacking meaningful friendships, fosters loneliness and isolation.
  • Mental health difficulties: Loneliness and isolation are significant risk factors for myriad mental health difficulties because we are social beings who want and need close, meaningful bonds with others.

Tips to Help You to Make Friends 

Ermilio suggests some steps you can take to make friends and experience a sense of belongingness.

Seek Comfortable Environments

It is important to try and find ways to help yourself feel comfortable and at ease while making a new friend. This requires thinking critically about yourself and the type of environment that makes you feel the most comfortable. 

Are you someone who feels more comfortable with one-on-one interactions, or are you someone who feels better with a lot of people around? The answers to these questions could help put you in a better position to find the right environment to foster new friendships. 

Similarly, think about what types of activities or settings help you feel confident about yourself. For example, is there a sport, craft, or activity you enjoy doing that brings you a sense of confidence? Do you have a place that you like to visit or are very familiar with? 

It is very common to feel nervous while making friends, so search for ways to regulate your nerves by cushioning the experience with elements of comfort and familiarity.

Consider Therapy

If you struggle to find that sense of belongingness within friendships, consider reaching out to a therapist who can help you understand your unique difficulties and work with you to overcome them. For instance, there may be aspects of your past that could be influencing your ability to be open and vulnerable to new people in your life. 

Therapy can offer the support and guidance you need to help ease your difficulties.

“If you’re not able to achieve a sense of belongingness within your current relationships, give yourself permission to look elsewhere for it. For example, books, movies, music, online forums, and art can also be ways of finding recognition and acceptance for who you are and what you may be going through,” says Ermilio.

A Word From Verywell

Not being able to make friends can make you feel lonely and isolated, and take a toll on your mental health. It’s important to know that you’re not alone—many people feel like they don’t have friends.

Making friends requires you to put yourself out there and reach out to people. While this can be scary, it helps to choose environments that you’re comfortable in, and to start slow. When things are too scary or overwhelming for you, it may lead to more avoidance and potentially increased anxiety. By taking smaller steps toward your goal, you may feel more accomplished and motivated to move with forward with forming close connections. Doing so with even one or two people can help you develop a sense of belonging.

If you're unable to make friends, or find a sense of belonging in your relationships, consider seeing a therapist, who will work with you on the issues you’re facing.

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