We’ve all been lonely in our lives at one time or another, it’s part of the human condition. But what does loneliness really mean? At its core, loneliness is a feeling of isolation and disconnection from those around you. The term chronic loneliness indicates feelings of loneliness that persist over an extended period. There are many reasons why someone might be experiencing loneliness, and it’s important to remember that there are things you can do to help you through these feelings.
From making lifestyle adjustments to seeking out professional support from a therapist for loneliness, there are a number of different strategies you can employ if you’re feeling a prolonged sense of isolation.
Where Does Loneliness Come From?
It’s important to note here that being alone and feeling lonely aren’t necessarily interconnected. Many people enjoy spending time alone- it can often re-energize you, give you some much-needed time to relax, and also be an outlet for personal growth. Loneliness doesn’t necessarily come from spending time alone, however, it is possible that there is a connection between other types of life changes and feelings of loneliness.
Some of the root causes of loneliness might be living alone for the first time, moving to a new city, beginning a new job, or starting a new school program, ending a relationship, or having the people close to you move to a different place. For many people, feelings of loneliness might be present for a short period, however, they will begin to pass as an individual continues to go about their daily life. If those feelings persist for an extended period of time, this begins to enter chronic loneliness territory.
Another potential cause of chronic loneliness might be a lack of meaningful connections in daily life. Even if a person has many people in their social network, they might still experience feelings of loneliness if these connections are all more topical than meaningful. Similarly, being around others who are in a relationship for someone who is single can also bring forward feelings of loneliness and isolation. A final root cause that we think is important to mention is experiencing any sort of physical or mental health challenges can also bring forth feelings of isolation and disconnection from those around you.
Symptoms of Chronic Loneliness
While you might be under the impression that chronic loneliness involves simply feelings of isolation, there are also several other symptoms that are often tied to loneliness. These include but are not limited to decreased or increased appetite, brain fog, decreased energy, sleep issues, feelings of hopelessness or self-doubt, frequent illness, anxiety, body aches, cravings for physical warmth, and substance misuse.
General Health Impacts
A 2017 review of 40 scientific studies on loneliness and isolation found that there were several different health challenges linked to chronic loneliness. As we know, a person’s physical and mental health is deeply interconnected, and research shows that chronic loneliness also commonly has wider impacts in the following areas.
- Sleep: Research shows that individuals who identify feelings of chronic loneliness also regularly experience challenges with sleep quality. A 2011 article published in Health Psychology explored how loneliness impacts sleep which in turn impacts someone’s daily functioning, and a 2018 study focused on older adults published in Quality-of-Life Research explored the link between social isolation and poor sleep.
- Depression: There is also scientific evidence linking chronic loneliness and depression. According to a 2018 article in The International Journal of Social Psychiatry which looked at 88 different studies on loneliness and depression, loneliness has a “moderately significant” impact on depression risk.
- Stress: Research has also demonstrated that the combination of loneliness and depression can also have an impact on overall cognitive functioning, causing stress, anxiety, and other internal mental health challenges.
If you or someone you know is experiencing chronic loneliness, one of the first places to explore, if you’re looking to tackle this issue, is pinpointing the root cause of loneliness. Is it new environmental factors that are causing these feelings like a move or a breakup? Or is it internalized things like self-confidence or anxiety?
One of the best places to explore these root causes and work on tackling them in a safe and supportive way is with a therapist for loneliness. Professional support can often provide valuable perspective in helping to ascertain where these feelings are coming from and finding ways to address them head-on.
There are also some lifestyle changes you can work on to help widen your social networks and build meaningful connections. Things like adopting a pet, signing up for a new hobby, creating a regular schedule to check in with loved ones, and volunteering in community events are all great ways to work on building connections with those around you and feeling less alone.
If you’re looking for some professional support to help you tackle chronic loneliness or isolation, get in touch with us today at ACT Teletherapy. Our expertly trained therapists for loneliness will work with you to explore the root causes of your loneliness and work on a treatment plan to help you address the feelings and make your lifestyle changes. Give us a call and book your appointment today and let our mental health professionals support you on this journey to feel more connected to the world.