You have a roommate that never seems to leave their room. After days or weeks, you are yearning for some alone time without them constantly present. Slowly, you feel like you are losing your patience with them. After all, why can’t they just leave?
If this sounds like you, know that you are not alone. I’ve been in a very similar situation myself, and trust me, it is not hopeless! There are many steps you can take to resolve this issue.
Here are the 8 steps that helped me in my situation:
1) Check for signs of mental illness
I am putting this step as number one, as mental illness can be one of the main reasons why someone would choose to stay in their room all day long.
Three mental illnesses that immediately come to mind when thinking of someone not leaving their room are depression, anxiety, and agoraphobia.
Depression could be a reason your roommate doesn’t want to leave their room. That doesn’t mean that it has to be severe, they could just be mildly depressed.
Signs your roommate might be depressed are:
- They seem sad or depressed most of the day, almost every day
- They don’t seem to enjoy the things they used to like
- Their weight and appetite changes drastically
- They have trouble sleeping or sleep too much
- They don’t have much energy, neither physically nor mentally
- They don’t move much, or they move a lot due to restlessness
For more information, you can look at medical websites like WebMD Depression Diagnosis.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Something that could be the reason for your roommate not to leave the room is a social anxiety disorder. Especially in settings such as university, the thought of leaving the room and being met with tons of strangers can be overwhelming.
There are many causes of social anxiety, so if you don’t know your roommate and their history very well, it can be a shot in the dark.
To find helpful resources, check out medical websites such as WebMD Social Anxiety Disorder.
If you’ve never heard of this, don’t worry, before my situation with my roommate, I hadn’t, either. Agoraphobia is the fear of going outside and being out in the world.
This can show up as intense fear, or even panic attacks when going outside.
Websites like WebMD Agoraphobia will give you a bit more in-depth information about this mental illness.
What can you do when your roommate shows signs of a mental illness?
You are not a mental health specialist, and by no means need to be. When you suspect that your roommate’s reason for being inside all day is a mental illness, decide on either talking to them or talking to a professional for help.
When talking to them, keep in mind that you shouldn’t blame them for not leaving the room. Be as compassionate and empathetic as you can.
Don’t focus the conversation on how them not leaving makes YOU feel, and emphasize that you are concerned about them and want to help.
Be a good listener. That way, your roommate can talk about what is going on for them and you can offer emotional support. By doing so, you might also find out why it is exactly that they never leave their room, and strike up a conversation about it.
Offer them some resources for Online Therapy, such as BetterHelp, so that they can talk to a licensed professional from the comfort of their room.
Especially when dealing with one of these mental health issues, going out to therapy can feel even more daunting. That is why online services are a great alternative.
If nothing changes, or you are seriously worried about your roommate, consider reaching out to a professional yourself. Also, if you need to, get support from good friends that you can share your concerns with.
Mental illness is common, and we’re at a point in time where we can thankfully be more open about it. That does not mean we should underestimate it, it needs to be taken seriously!
2) Think about what other reasons there could be for them to stay in their room all day long
If mental health is out of the picture, try to think about what other reason there could be for your roommate to stay inside all day long.
Maybe they don’t have friends in the area yet to hang out with? Or do they have a physical illness or limitation that keeps them from going out? Are they just homebody?
When you don’t know your roommate very well yet, it can be hard to find out what the reason for them being inside all the time could be. But after a few conversations, it shouldn’t be too hard to get a general idea!
If they just moved to the city, it could be that they are just lonely and haven’t found any friends yet. That brings me to my next step:
3) Get other people to invite them out
Granted the reason for them being at home all the time is that they just haven’t found any friends yet, a great idea to help them would be becoming a matchmaker.
If you know some people that you think would potentially like them, ask them if they can invite your roommate out!
Maybe your friend plays the same videogame as your roommate or watches the same shows – that could be the beginning of a new friendship!
Asking other people to invite your roommate out can be a really nice thing to do, and is a win-win situation in the end! You get more alone time, while they make new friends!
4) Become friends with your roommate
This should probably be among the first steps you can take to make the situation better for both of you.
Becoming friends with your roommate will help you get along easier, and will also enable you to understand them a bit better, to solve the problems you have living together.
Invite them out to do things, and build a good relationship with them. Be genuinely positive and maybe you can even help them leave the room over time.
Of course, it can be really hard not to be annoyed with your roommate if you can never get any alone time because of them, but hating each other will do more harm than good.
Not everyone will be a good match for a friendship, of course, and that’s okay. If you put in the effort and notice that you just don’t seem to get along very well, at least keep things positive between the two of you. You don’t need to be friends with someone to be friendly.
5) Talk about the issue with them, and have a schedule ready
If none of these things seem to work, you might have to sit down and have a serious conversation with your roommate, directly addressing the issue at hand.
There are a few things to keep in mind for this conversation:
Be friendly, but stern. You have just as much right to the room as them, so asking for a bit of alone time is more than valid.
Do it in person. Conversations like this rarely go well over text. First of all, it will be easy for your roommate to dismiss the subject and change the topic, but it can also be an emotional thing to talk about, and being able to talk face to face will help you both to come to an agreement.
Have a fixed schedule laid out. I know, I know, this might sound extreme, but if you’ve tried everything, and nothing seems to change, this might be your best bet!
Being vague about the topic and saying things like “I feel like you’re here all the time” will probably not change much. Instead, approach them in a nice and friendly way, which leaves little room for argument. You could say something along the lines of this:
“I know this is a bit weird and awkward to talk about, and you really like our room, which is why you stay here a lot, but I feel like I lack some alone time and it’s taking a toll on my wellbeing and mental health. Can we arrange something, so that I have the room during XYZ hours on XYZ days for example, and you have it on ABC hours?”
Of course, having to set a schedule might feel a bit crazy at first, but it can be very useful. Plus, it ensures that your roommate sticks to your agreement. After all, we are much more likely to follow through with habits when we have concise plans.
If your roommate agrees on setting up a schedule, be flexible and honor their needs as well instead of demanding certain times.
6) Create more privacy in the room
If you can’t get your roommate to leave, you can stick to the saying “improvise, adapt, overcome”.
A good way to do that in this situation is to simply transform your room a little bit. If you have enough space, get a bookcase or a dresser and put it in between the two of you.
You can also put some high things on your desk, to create that sort of separation.
Another great way to transform a room into two separate parts is to use a screen like they often have in offices. There are plenty to choose from, and you can buy them at most office supply stores. Or you could get some cheap fabric screens that you can put around your bed for some added privacy.
If this is the option you are going with, remember that you also have to create psychological space. When in your part of the room, try to block out your roommate as best as you can. Do your own thing, and act like they are not there. Otherwise, you will feel just as trapped as before, just in a smaller space.
7) Find your own space somewhere else
If all else fails, you can go and find space somewhere else.
Of course, you might not be able to get your own room due to a number of things (after all, you have a roommate for a reason), but that doesn’t mean you can’t find your own space.
Make a public area your own, whether that’s a library, a coffee shop, a park, or any other quiet place you can think of.
This is so helpful because it will give you the feeling that no matter what, you always have a safe space to escape to when feeling overwhelmed.
8) Sort it out as soon as possible
Don’t wait with talking about this. Of course, it can feel a lot easier to just leave the subject be and hope that things will improve on their own, but more often than not, these things don’t resolve themselves.
Your room is your sanctuary, it’s your home. When you don’t feel comfortable in it or don’t get any alone time, it is hard to feel safe.
When you talk about this issue right away, you can avoid making the situation super awkward, as habits have not yet established themselves (at least not too much).
Leaving the room from time to time is a normal part of being a roommate. The earlier the two of you establish that, the better.
Don’t give up
As overwhelming as this situation can feel at first, know that it will get better. There are all these steps you can take to help your roommate leave their room more and to navigate a calm, peaceful life together.
Living with someone is all about compromise. This way, you can both feel safe and at home. Don’t sacrifice your needs for temporary comfort. Yes, taking these steps is not always fun, but in the long run, it will pay off, and your relationship with your roommate might even improve drastically, as there is gonna be less tension!