As human beings, we are wired for connection. We possess a deep need to feel seen, cared for and understood by others. If this need goes unmet, a person may experience feelings of loneliness. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals have reported increased levels of loneliness and social isolation.
Throughout this article we will explore the potential causes of loneliness, how feeling lonely can impact our mental health, and strategies for managing loneliness.
What is Loneliness?
‘Loneliness’ can mean different things to different individuals. For some, it may indicate a lack of social interaction or feeling isolated from others. Some individuals may feel lonely even if they are surrounded by other people. It is important to acknowledge that each unique individual has different needs for connection. Some individuals find themselves perfectly content spending most of their days at home by themselves, while others would find this extremely distressing.
There are various potential reasons a person may feel lonely. Significant life transitions, such as the loss of a relationship, going away to college, moving to a new area, changing jobs, or retirement can contribute to feelings of loneliness. Certain groups are thought to be at a higher risk of experiencing loneliness, such as those who belong to minority groups, or face discrimination due to their race, sexual orientation, or a long-term health problem or disability.
Individuals who have a lack of social support from friends and/or family members are more likely to feel lonely. However, some individuals may feel lonely even if they are surrounded by people who care for them. They may feel like they have to ‘wear a mask’ to present a certain image to others, or are otherwise unable to be seen as their authentic selves. Some individuals may feel lonely and not be able to fully pinpoint why.
For more information about loneliness, visit BetterHelp.
How Does Loneliness Impact Mental Health?
Loneliness can significantly impact an individual’s mental health. Over time, feelings of loneliness can increase one’s risk of developing depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
At the same time, living with a mental health condition can enhance an individual’s feelings of loneliness. It is common for people with a mental health disorder to isolate themselves due to the severity of their symptoms, or to experience challenges with carrying out every-day activities. This may interfere with a person’s ability to form and maintain meaningful social connections. In addition, some individuals living with a mental health condition may feel as though no one can truly understand what they are going through. They may feel hesitant to open up to others about their experiences due to fear of judgment. Feeling like they need to hide certain parts of themselves can certainly contribute to loneliness.
Strategies for Managing Loneliness
- If you are feeling socially isolated, you might think about potential opportunities for forming new social connections. You might look into community groups based on your hobbies and interests. This might look like joining a group fitness class, or trying a board game Meetup group. Volunteering can also provide an excellent avenue for meeting others who also value contributing to the community in positive ways. If you are specifically looking to find others who might be able to relate to current challenges you are facing, consider joining a peer support group to be able to talk with others who understand.
- If you are surrounded by people yet still find yourself feeling lonely, think about one step you could take towards sharing yourself more fully. Maybe this is taking a risk and opening up with a friend or family member about your feelings of loneliness, or something else you have been going through. Being able to share openly and authentically with others may help to provide more of the meaningful connection you are craving.
- If you continue to experience feelings of loneliness that are causing distress and impacting your mental health, consider seeking out further support from a mental health professional. Working with a therapist can help you to process your emotions and determine what could be contributing to feelings of loneliness. From there, you can establish goals and develop strategies to move towards more fulfilling connections with others.
Marie Miguel Biography
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.
A professional writer with over a decade of incessant writing skills. Her topics of interest and expertise range from health, nutrition and psychology.