Feeling lonely is an emotion that no person on earth is a stranger to. While the sensation and experience associated with feeling lonely may differ, at some point, everyone has been there. However, feeling lonely is not to be confused with being alone, for they are not the same. Knowing the difference between the two, and how to get help for psychological health is crucial to individual wellness.
Regardless, feeling lonely can have major health effects if allowed to continue for too long. Not only can excessive loneliness deteriorate our social wellness, but can negatively affect mental health, or disguise other health problems. While experiencing loneliness many feel neverending and hopeless, this is most often a state of mind. Because of that, behavioral health programs are beneficial to help break the cycle, that leads to feeling lonely.
Feeling Lonely Verses Being Alone
Although the two may suggest similarities, feeling lonely and being alone, are very different. Specifically, one is a physical state of being, and the other is emotionally driven. One can be observed, and the other is most often felt, even if it cannot be seen. Differentiating between the two is very important from an emotional perspective. However, understanding that they can be both exclusive and separate, is the first objective of treatment through therapy.
In a sense, being “alone” suggests that there is no one else physically around in the area. However, the consciousness of loneliness is a condition of emotion or feeling. For example, an individual that is physically alone, may not experience the sensation of loneliness. Alternatively, a person that is surrounded by people, may also find themselves feeling lonely. And while being alone and feeling alone do often occur together, one is not required for the other. Regardless, the word “alone” itself, is not a dirty word.
Defining What It Means to Feel Lonely
Every person goes through times where their experiences prompt some sort of sensation classified as lonely. To some degree, it can be considered normal. Specifically, because each of us has a uniqueness to our requirements.
Some people require higher amounts of social interaction than others, which keeps feeling lonely at bay. Others only need minimal interaction and do just fine without as much peer support. Everyone is different, and that is okay. It is all about finding an individual balance that works for you, and foxing what does not.
Feeling Lonely and Psychological Well Being
However, if you often find yourself asking “why am I so lonely,” it may suggest bigger problems. Sometimes the sensation of feeling lonely is a symptom of a mental health disorder that has gone undiagnosed. Other times, it is simply a reaction to unwanted change. Yet to be on the safe side, it’s best to speak with a professional.
Looking for professional help should be considered when one is feeling lonely for several days straight. Or even, when feeling lonely occurs more than once or twice a week. It’s important to recognize thoughts like, “why do I feel so lonely,” and get to the bottom of the reasons why.
Leading Causes of Feeling Lonely
There are many causes of loneliness. Sometimes we don’t even know what exactly caused us to feel this way, to begin with. Yet, some of the reasons that cause us to feel lonely are often associated with change. Any change in routine that can cause unfamiliarity upsets the balance of comfort and security.
Some of the most common reasons for feeling lonely include:
- Divorce or relationship status change or break up
- New home or location
- Job change or retirement from a long-standing position
- New school or group of peers, such as beginning or graduating as college students
- Death of an especially close loved one
- Returning from a traumatic or extremely different location, such as military deployment
- Maternity leave or becoming a new parent
Although loneliness itself is not considered a mental illness, it’s often noted as a symptom of one. Individuals that suffer from depression often describe the experience as feeling lonely, often without reason.
Who is Most Likely to Experience Loneliness?
While everyone may feel alone once in a while, certain individuals are more likely to suffer than others. Feeling lonely can also be contributed to the situational experience of an individual. For example, a person may be more likely to feel alone if they:
- Rarely see friends and/or family.
- Live a distance from their community or relatives.
- Are a caregiver for a parent or children.
- Have little or no time for oneself to build outside relationships.
- Belong to a community where the demographic differs from their own.
- Suffer from a disability and are unable to maintain social relationships.
- Individuals that may be living on a limited budget.
- Have an underlying mental illness that leaves them feeling alienated from their peers.
- Individuals may feel alone when acclimating to their gender identity or sexual preference as a part of coming out.
- Feeling alone can also be a symptom of experiencing a traumatic event.
While there may be many more situations that affect feeling alone, not everyone is affected the same. Because we are all different, different events can trigger different feelings in each person, regardless of their situation. Similarly, everyone copes with their state of being different.
Loneliness and Self Esteem
Prolonged loneliness can have psychological effects on our self-esteem. It can lead to feelings of worthlessness or even hopelessness. Thus, prompting isolating tendencies, feeling lonely can deter effective treatment or diagnosis.
Fortunately, inpatient behavioral treatment is an effective means to treat individuals suffering from loneliness. Residential treatment ensures a sense of community. Within the facility, help, and support will be available around the clock. It’s especially beneficial for those feeling lonely as a symptom of a psychological illness. Within the professional evaluation, diagnosis and treatment are quick and effective.
Building up the courage to break down behaviors that have led to seclusion and loneliness is often difficult at first. But with the help of specialists and peers, healing can begin and you don’t have to do it alone.
Loneliness Can Pose A Threat to Overall Health
While feeling lonely can have serious emotional side effects, it can also lead to physical and psychological illness. What’s worse, is that even if it doesn’t cause the illness per se, it may be responsible for it going unnoticed, diagnosed, or treated.
Often individuals that are trying to hide their physical or psychological suffering, experience loneliness at a greater level. Because of this, it’s important to be aware of the health risks associated with allowing feeling alone to persist.
Some of the impacts of prolonged episodes of feeling lonely include:
- Deterioration of memory or cognitive function
- Development of antisocial tendency that can lead to triggering anxiety or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Undiagnosed and treat Alzheimer’s Disease
- Pulmonary or cardiovascular irregularities, including heart attack or stroke, that go unnoticed
- Increase in stress with a decrease inability to cope
- Depression or suicidal thoughts or behaviors
- Impaired decision making or recklessness
- Neglect of their diet and fitness resulting in further damage and illness
Keep in mind, this is a very short list of unlimited possibilities. If you or someone you know expresses their feelings of loneliness, be sure to help them get help. It may take an enormous amount of courage to have to admit to themselves and another. Be sure to be kind and accepting, while suggesting safe and appropriate avenues for relief.
The Findings and Research on Feeling Alone
Much of the findings on feeling lonely suggest that people who encounter less of it are more satisfied with life. Similarly, people who are said to have experienced feeling alone more often, report less satisfaction, especially socially.
People who most often reported lower levels of feeling alone were:
- Married or in a healthy long-term relationship
- Made more money or enjoyed their careers
- Achieved a higher level of education
- Participated in more frequent social activity
- Acknowledged time spent alone as alone-time, as opposed to associating negatively
Alternatively, individuals that encounter feeling lonely more often without intervention, had much in common as well. For example, many feeling lonely more often:
- Had higher incidence with physical and mental health
- Lived alone or spent the maximum amount of time in solitude
- Had difficulty maintaining quality peer relationships on a long term basis
The good news is that loneliness does not have to be a permanent or chronic situation. Being alone doesn’t have to be a negative thing at all. Utilizing the time spent in the company of only yourself can even be beneficial. Including practices such as meditation can break up the silence and even help to better cope with stress moving forward.
Being Alone Can Be Part of The Healing Process
Although a prolonged state of feeling lonely is not the answer, it can be comforting in the sense of solitude. Although feeling lonely is not always associated with a negative sensation, the line is very thin and can be confusing. Holistic healing and art therapy may be suitable to encourage a new perspective on time alone.
However, for the healing to progress, the individual must be aware of their state of mind and make necessary changes. Often this is not easy, and usually requires professional guidance and behavioral treatment.
Why Do I Feel Lonely, and What Can I Do?
Some alternative activities that can help alleviate feeling lonely immediately may be beneficial. However, in the case of an underlying dual diagnosis, or co-occurring illness, it is advisable to seek treatment. Dual diagnosis occurs when one or more co-occurring illness is affecting an individual’s psychological health.
However, that doesn’t mean that there are no other ways to manage feeling lonely and care for your health in the process.
Some of the other ways to overcome feeling alone include:
- Doing things you have fun doing to pass the time or be productive.
- Sometimes being alone is a byproduct of feeling bored. Keep yourself busy and do something you enjoy and can be proud of.
- Stay positive and remember time alone is not permanent.
- Just like everything, nothing is forever. Instead of letting time alone makes you feel alone, embrace it. Play your favorite music, write in a journal or work out. Not only does it combat loneliness, but it’s good for you too.
- Make some new friends and get involved with new groups.
- If you are alone, you are at higher risk of feeling lonely. Get out there and have some fun. Even if you start alone, chances are it won’t last long among other individuals. People are inherently social by nature. Take advantage of that when you are feeling alone.
- Acknowledge that feeling lonely may be a symptom of a bigger problem and reach out for help.
- Instead of letting feeling alone eat away at your mental health, choose to do something about it. Behavioral specialists are available to help, and may even be able to help with underlying health conditions.
Coping With Feeling Lonely
One of the most common thoughts had by those that feel chronically alone, is “why do i feel so lonely?” The answer is more simple than you think. The most likely reason for feeling alone is that it has become part of a routine. You may have even preferred it at first. The fact of the matter is, loneliness can become part of a cycle. It can become a routine that is difficult to break. However, it’s important to remember that feeling alone is nothing to be ashamed of. More importantly, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Although many people can describe what feeling lonely means to them, it is a very individual experience. The complexity can vary from person to person, and so will the effects feeling alone will have on mental wellbeing. For some individuals, it can be part of the healing process. Individual therapy can be a great option to explore experiences of feeling alone, and triggers that encourage these feelings.
Get Help To Face Feeling Lonely Without Being Alone
Feeling lonely can have major health effects if allowed to continue for too long. Not only can excessive loneliness deteriorate our social wellness, but can negatively affect mental health, or disguise other health problems. While experiencing loneliness many feel neverending and hopeless, this is most often a state of mind.
Reaching out for help might seem scary at first, especially when you don’t know where to turn. That’s why there are people and places equipped with the answers to overcome feeling lonely. Instead of letting feeling alone eat away at your mental health, choose to do something about it. Get started on wellness, today.