Loneliness can be an overwhelming feeling of emptiness, combined with feelings of separation and or isolation from the world. A person may feel lonely not only when they are in need of connecting to others but also when there is a sense disconnection, rejection and alienation from others.
Some people may find it difficult or even impossible to have any form of meaningful human contact. They may believe they are different from others or may believe people are indifferent to them. Loneliness and being alone are not the same. For example, a person can be in a group with others and still feel lonely; whereas they can be alone by themselves and not necessarily feel lonely.
Some may describe their experience of loneliness in that they don’t feel good enough to have friends let alone have many. Many feel insignificant and unimportant when involved in social interactions and rely upon others to make them feel worthy. Many lonely people suffer because of a faulty belief about themselves, such as - “If I am alone, then something must be wrong with me”.
Symptoms can relate to a lack of self-love or an internalised false view that to be happy is to be surrounded by others at all times regardless of how they may feel in their presence or how they make them feel.
If you can learn to be intimate with yourself, then you will experience lower levels of loneliness. This may involve facing the negative, deficient parts of yourself, as well as focusing on the positive parts of yourself. Rejection from your family during your upbringing may manifest into a mild form of depression throughout childhood and into adulthood.
A lack of social interaction during childhood and adolescence, or the absence of meaningful role models can also be causes for adult loneliness. Combined with loneliness being a symptom of another social or psychological problem i.e. chronic depression or anxiety. Loneliness can also represent a dysfunction of communication.
You will need to explore your vulnerabilities especially coping with change in your life as when certain life or transitional changes occur loneliness can be magnified. For example, changes in employment, relationships, social isolation and exclusion induced by everyone being too busy to interact with you can also be a result of how we live today. All of these examples contribute to loneliness.
Negative attitudes towards certain groups such as single parents, and those who are long-term unemployed or those who have mental health problems, can increase a sense of isolation. A person may come to feel that the loneliness which has been caused by their circumstances is somehow their fault.
All symptoms of loneliness can have a negative impact on your self-worth and self-esteem, which can limit or impair your ability to function. These feelings can then begin to have a negative effect on your emotional wellbeing and functioning capacity.
Chronic loneliness can be an indicator of social maladjustment and/ or dysfunction. For example, chronic loneliness in children can result in social incompetence and socially inappropriate behaviours such as bullying, academic failure, feeling different all of which can lead a child to becoming lonelier and more isolated by their peers.
In adults, loneliness has been found to be a major antecedent of depression and alcoholism. It appears at an increasing rate to be the associated cause of a range of medical problems, some of which can take decades to show up. For example, heart disease, stroke, obesity, mental illness, etc.
Being lonely can exacerbate feelings of misrepresentation, abandonment, rejection, depression, insecurity and anxiety both internally and when with others externally. Prolonged experience of these feelings can eventually prevent a person from being able to obtain and maintain healthy, functioning relationship patterns and lifestyles over their life.
Loneliness can be:
- Situational – bought on by a change in circumstances, such as moving to a new environment.
- Developmental – the need for intimacy coupled with the need for time by yourself is a process that develops throughout our lifespan.
- Internal – which is unrelated to the external situation, it is often seen in those with low self-esteem and vulnerability, probably stemming from their early years.
They may feel depressed, angry, afraid, and misunderstood and generally critical of themselves or overly sensitive or self-pitying and may become critical of others. When these feelings happen, lonely people can begin to do things to perpetuate their loneliness. Some people, for example, become discouraged, lose their sense of desire and motivation to get involved in new situations and isolate themselves from people and activities all together on purpose.
Others may deal with loneliness by becoming too quickly involved and committed to people and activities without understanding or evaluating the consequences of their involvement. They will later find themselves in unsatisfying relationships or over-committed to work or extracurricular activities. This can also serve as a way to compensate for their loneliness initially by immersing themselves in work or social activities.
You will need to look for the symptoms of loneliness in order to develop a plan that will assist a way to resolve the feelings of and associated with loneliness.
- Choose to see that you do have control over your loneliness
- Reach out to connections you already have
- Make a decision to be part of a social circle so that you can share your feelings and experiences, join a community organisation, religious or social group or a club or an online forum with those who have similar interests, problems and goals
- Create something - sketch, paint, knit or write
- Learn something new and meet people at the same time - join an adult education class or take up dancing
- Engage in new hobbies where you are likely to meet new people
- Let go of believing there is something wrong with you and that you are disrespected, useless or that you are a victim
- Let go of feeling self-conscious, angry and untrusting of others
- Let go of the reluctancy to pursue social relationships which will escalate your sense of loneliness
- Let go of being resistant to change or not being able to cope with change
- Let go of the grief of losing a person and choose to see it as a temporary transition until you have addressed the grief and then meet new people to fill the void of loneliness
- Let go of believing that you are only valued by others because of something you possess i.e. status, material possessions, lifestyle or money which, if you lost, would mean you were actually worthless. This is due to a faulty or negative belief system.
- Let go of depression so that you don’t retreat from life otherwise withdrawal can exacerbate your feelings and perceptions of loneliness
- Let go of thinking of yourself as being ‘different’ to others such as culture, race, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status, etc.