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Is it normal not to have any friends?

Having friends is an important part of life for most people. Friends provide companionship, emotional support, and a sense of belonging. However, some people find themselves without any close friendships. Is this normal? Here we’ll explore the reasons why some people don’t have friends, whether it’s truly abnormal to be friendless, and tips for making friends as an adult.

Why Don’t Some People Have Friends?

There are a few key reasons why an individual may not have any friendships:

  • Social anxiety or shyness – Social anxiety disorder and extreme shyness can make it very difficult to interact with others and form connections. People with social anxiety often avoid social situations out of fear of embarrassment or judgment.
  • Isolation – Physical isolation from others due to location, employment, or other factors can prevent friendship formation. Those working remotely or who live in very rural areas may have limited opportunities to meet potential friends.
  • Trouble relating to others – Some neurodiverse conditions like autism spectrum disorder can make it difficult to pick up on social cues, understand norms, and relate to the interests of others. This can inhibit friendship development.
  • Low self-esteem – Poor self-image and low self-worth can cause people to feel they don’t deserve friends or are unworthy of friendship. This results in avoiding social interactions.
  • History of trauma or abuse – Past trauma from bullying, abuse, or adverse childhood experiences can erode self-esteem and the ability to trust others, making friendship difficult.
  • Highly independent personality – Some individuals are highly solitary and prefer minimal social contact. They may actively choose to not have friends.
  • Mood disorders – The apathy, social withdrawal, and low motivation associated with depression and other mood disorders can interfere with making and keeping friends.
  • Life circumstances – Major life changes like divorce, losing a loved one, changing jobs or location, or illness can result in losing touch with friends. Some people have difficulty reconnecting socially.

The most common thread is that social challenges and anxieties frequently sabotage people’s ability to initiate and maintain friendships. However, certain personalities and life situations also naturally lend themselves to social isolation and friendlessness.

Is It Truly Abnormal to Have No Friends?

While the majority of adults have at least a few close friendships, it’s difficult to definitively state what constitutes “normal.” Surveys do provide some insights:

  • A 2022 survey by OnePoll found that the average American has 5 close friendships.
  • A 2019 YouGov survey found that 22% of millennials report having no friends.
  • A 2012 study published in the Journal of Psychology found that 15% of respondents indicated having no confidant at all.

So while most people do have friends, anywhere from 15-25% of certain demographics report having none.

Factors that influence how common it is to have no friends include:

Age – Friendlessness is more common in older age. A study in the journal Personal Relationships found that friendlessness rose from 3% for those aged 25-35 up to 15% for those 55 and older.

Gender – Men are more likely to report having no friends than women. In one study, 10% of men vs 5% of women had no confidant.

Personality – Those with social anxiety, neurodivergence, or tendencies towards isolation are far more likely to be friendless.

Mental health – Diagnoses like depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia are often accompanied by withdrawal from social relationships.

Physical health – Serious, chronic illnesses can drastically limit one’s energy and opportunities to maintain social bonds.

Location – Rural isolation, living abroad where one doesn’t speak the language, and having few neighborhood amenities to meet people all increase odds of having no friends.

Life transitions – Life stages like parenthood, empty nesting, retirement, losing a partner, and moving impact friendship stability.

While having no close friendships is atypical, it’s not so rare as to be inherently pathological. In certain circumstances and demographics, it’s within the realm of normal human behavior. Nonetheless, most are believed to benefit both mentally and physically from having meaningful friendships.

Is There a Problem with Having No Friends?

Why do the majority have friends in the first place? What purpose do friendships serve?

Some key benefits friendships provide include:

  • Improved mood and well-being – Friends can alleviate loneliness, provide joy, and give a sense of belonging.
  • Managing stress – Sharing problems or laughs with friends can reduce anxiety, anger, and depression.
  • Support in hard times – Friends provide emotional and tangible support during crises, transitions, and trauma.
  • Sense of identity – Friends validate our perceptions and can influence our sense of self.
  • Intellectual stimulation – Friends introduce us to new ideas, perspectives, information, and experiences.
  • Health benefits – Those with social connections tend to live longer and have better physical health.
  • Practical support – Friends provide favors, advice, pet sitting, carpooling, etc.

While having no friends doesn’t mean someone has poor well-being, lacking these proven social, emotional, and health benefits can put friendless individuals at risk in many regards. Some downsides may include:

  • Chronic loneliness, isolation, and disconnection from society.
  • Bottling up emotions and thoughts without an outlet.
  • Decreased self-understanding and lack of feedback on perceptions.
  • Greater difficulty coping with major life stressors or trauma.
  • No one to share activities and interests or try new experiences.
  • Limited physical health and cognitive functioning benefits of social ties.
  • No social safety net in times of need.

Again, having no friends doesn’t guarantee suffering. But losing access to friendship’s many boons does increase susceptibility to lowered well-being.

Is It Possible to Go Through Life Without Friends?

It’s absolutely possible to live an entire lifetime without close friendships. This was likely more common in earlier eras, especially for those living in rural settings. Yet modern pervasive digital connectivity makes friendlessness an active choice.

Here are some examples of how people navigate life without friends:

  • Focus heavily on family relationships – Spouses, children, parents, and siblings become sole sources of companionship.
  • Immerse themselves in work – Treating career or education as primary source of fulfillment.
  • Pursue solitary hobbies – Reading, gaming, art, music, and the internet provide entertainment.
  • Bond with pets – Dogs, cats, etc can provide affection without social demands.
  • Join online communities – Digital spaces like forums and social media for connections without vulnerability.
  • Embrace the freedom – Some feel liberated without the duties of friendship maintenance.
  • Seek professional help – Therapists and support groups manage mental health challenges.
  • Attend non-social public events – Concerts, classes, conferences, restaurants, parks.
  • Make acquaintances – Superficial casual social ties to meet limited needs.

While challenging, all social needs can theoretically be met without true friendships via tactics like these. However, most humans experience profound innate drives for belonging and intimacy that may make lifelong isolation difficult to fulfill.

How to Cope With Having No Friends

If you currently have no friends, here are some constructive ways to manage this situation:

  • Consider therapy – Counseling can help build social skills, manage anxiety, and boost self-esteem. Group therapy connects you with others working to make friends.
  • Join an interest group – Book clubs, sports teams, and hobby meetups provide low-pressure social exposure.
  • Volunteer – Giving back leads to meeting kind, like-minded people.
  • Adopt a pet – Furry friends provide unconditional love and comfort.
  • Try online friendships – Bond with people via social media, forums, and multiplayer games.
  • Focus on acquaintances – Loosen definitions of friendship and get social needs met casually.
  • Work on yourself – Build confidence, interests, and social skills through classes or experiences.
  • Accept occasional loneliness – Let go of feeling abnormal or ashamed when loneliness arises.

Meeting even a few foundational social needs in creative ways can often provide adequate fulfillment. Determine if no friends is a temporary or permanent scenario for you, and customize your coping approach accordingly.

How to Make Friends as an Adult

If you’d like to develop fulfilling friendships, it’s absolutely possible. Here are some tips:

Overcome barriers:

  • Seek counseling for social anxiety, trauma, or low self-esteem.
  • Treat any mental health conditions like depression that affect social drive.
  • Join hobby, career, or special interest groups to find like-minded people.
  • Move to a more populated area with more social opportunities.

Put yourself out there:

  • Talk to acquaintances you see regularly, like baristas or fellow volunteers.
  • Make conversation with neighbors you run into.
  • Accept invitations even if you feel awkward at first.
  • Host low-key get-togethers like potlucks or movie nights.
  • Offer help and favors that let you connect with others.

Bond over shared interests:

  • Attend classes – cooking, art, language, etc.
  • Join a recreational sports league.
  • Volunteer for a cause you care about.
  • Go regularly to a community center, pool, park, etc.
  • Join special interest clubs related to hobbies.

Nurture connections:

  • Follow up after social interactions to build rapport over time.
  • Open up gradually about your thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
  • Provide emotional support when others share problems.
  • Remember and celebrate important milestones.
  • Arrange low-key hangouts to deepen bonds.

Meeting kindred spirits unlocks our highest potential for health, joy, and meaning. By taking social risks and engaging authentically, you can build the nourishing friendships that make life wonderful.


While most people form close friendships, it’s not inherently pathological or problematic to live without them. Certain personalities and situations naturally lend themselves to having no friends. If you don’t have friends, focus on meeting core social needs through other creative connections. However, since humans are wired for companionship, nurturing even just a few authentic friendships can vastly enrich your well-being and life experiences.