Published on: 18 Oct 2023
Loneliness is a universal human emotion, something that everyone experiences at one point or another in life. Though it’s normal, feeling lonely can be a devastating, crushing experience.
If you’ve ever felt so lonely that it’s affecting your life, social relationships, job, or ability to function, it’s time to get help. Excessive loneliness can lead to more significant issues, like depression, anxiety, or, in extreme cases, thoughts of suicide.
Knowing why you feel so lonely is essential to overcome your feelings and find ways to connect with others. When you understand the root cause of your loneliness, you can start implementing effective coping tools.
Learn about the common causes of loneliness and how to address them here.
1. Lack of Meaningful Connections
Not having deep connections or meaningful relationships with others can seriously impact psychological well-being, and feeling lonely often stems from a lack of these connections. People often feel lonely in college as they navigate new crowds of people they don’t know. It’s rarely about the number of people you know, and generally more about how significant your relationships are.
Even in a large social setting or crowd, people can still feel isolated. This phenomenon is known as perceived social isolation, and it can occur anytime you’re physically present with others but don’t feel connected on either an emotional or an intellectual level.
2. Social Anxiety & Shyness
Social anxiety and shyness can be the culprit for feelings of loneliness.
Social anxiety can prevent you from forming lasting relationships throughout life. The condition is about more than being shy, though — social anxiety manifests as a profound, paralyzing fear of social interactions and situations that’s so severe that it can lead to avoidant behaviors, especially in social activities.
“Individuals with social anxiety are at greater risk for loneliness. Feelings of loneliness may be caused by a lack of interpersonal relationships, physical isolation, and divorce.”
3. Loss of Loved Ones
Losing a loved one can create a void that ultimately leads to loneliness. Loss and grief can intensely impact mental well-being, and it’s not uncommon to feel extreme loneliness when someone close to you is no longer in your life.
Relocating to a new place can be a catalyst for loneliness for some people. While moving can be exciting, feeling lonely is common if you can’t establish a strong social connection with people in your new environment.
5. Lack of Hobbies or Shared Interests
The sensation of loneliness can take over every aspect of your world. It can leave you without the desire or energy to invest time into hobbies or shared interests — things that might be able to bring you joy and help you foster connections. Without having hobbies, you might feel further isolated from others.
6. Life Transitions & Aging
The journey through life and aging can bring about feelings of loneliness. Every major life transition we experience later in life — from retirement to losing people, to children growing up and leaving home, to going through or watching loved ones battle serious health problems — can all bring about a sense of loneliness as you come to terms with the fact that your life is progressing.
8. The Isolating Feeling of the Digital Age
Technology and the digital age offer significant benefits regarding connectivity and access to others. Yet, for all its good, some aspects of the digital age, like social media, are known to increase feelings of loneliness. Instead of participating in social activities and creating meaningful relationships, younger people and older adults, spend more time behind a screen.
Research shows us that prolonged use of social media might be linked to symptoms of depression. The great paradox here is that the very thing social media intends to do — connect us — might have the opposite effect, instead driving isolation and loneliness even though we think we’re connected to others.
9. Low Self-Esteem
People with low levels of self-worth are more likely to experience chronic or persistent loneliness — low self-esteem has even been linked to feeling lonely in studies. It seems that feelings of worthlessness and concern about how others perceive you can prevent deep connections in your life.
“Research studies show that low self-esteem and loneliness can influence one another. Self-esteem can lead to feelings of loneliness when individuals perceive lack of acceptance from others.”
What to Do When You Feel So Lonely
It’s important to remember that loneliness isn’t a sign of weakness. Recognizing your feelings is the first and most important step you can take toward improving negative thoughts tied to loneliness.
Acknowledge your feelings
Acknowledging your emotions and feelings plays a significant role in emotional well-being. Identifying when you’re lonely or feeling disconnected from others can alleviate some of the distress you’re experiencing.
Join a support group
Support groups can be powerful resources. They can allow you to spend time with others with a similar relationship with loneliness. The comfort you gain from these social support meetings might even help you overcome some of the emotional isolation you experience and even make a new friend in the process.
“It’s beneficial to join a support group if you feel lonely. It allows you to connect with new people who may be sharing similar feelings and can understand what you are going through. The group can lead to shared problem solving, learning about helpful community resources, and gaining a sense of belonging.”
Working out increases endorphins, known mood enhancers that can give you energy and motivation to break out of your cycle of loneliness.
Get involved or volunteer
Getting involved or volunteering will help you make social connections effortlessly, allowing you to gradually become mentally stronger and more willing to reach out to others.
Do yoga & meditate
Yoga and mindfulness meditation help center you, so you can focus on the present, rather than worry about the past or the future. Both activities benefit mental well-being by reducing stress, improving overall mood, and keeping you grounded — all of which are ways to combat feelings of loneliness.
Studies have demonstrated that journaling is an effective strategy for enhancing mental health. Journaling for mental health can foster emotional regulation and help you identify negative thoughts and behavior patterns that might contribute to social isolation.
Keep a structured routine
Humans thrive on routine. Maintaining structure can offer stability and reassurance, even during periods of loneliness.
Talk Through Your Feelings at Talkspace
Feeling lonely can stem from a variety of causes. Lacking meaningful connections in your life can intensify these feelings. If you’re feeling very lonely, Talkspace is an online therapy platform that can offer tools like individualized therapy and coping techniques to help you deal with loneliness.
Reach out to Talkspace today to learn more about taking steps toward understanding your loneliness. With help, you can find a way to build solid and meaningful connections that ultimately offer you a healthier mental state.
- Steen OD, Ori AP, Wardenaar KJ, van Loo HM. Loneliness Associates strongly with anxiety and depression during the COVID pandemic, especially in men and younger adults. Scientific Reports. 2022;12(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-13049-9. Accessed August 19, 2023.
- Pantic I. Online social networking and Mental Health. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. 2014;17(10):652-657. https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2014.0070. Accessed August 19, 2023.
- Szcześniak M, Bielecka G, Madej D, Pieńkowska E, Rodzeń W. <P>the role of self-esteem in the relationship between loneliness and life satisfaction in late adulthood: Evidence from Poland</p>. Psychology Research and Behavior Management. 2020;Volume 13:1201-1212. doi:10.2147/prbm.s275902. https://doi.org/10.2147/prbm.s275902. Accessed August 19, 2023.
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