Everyone experiences loneliness from time to time. It comes in many forms. It often arises when you have little contact with people but it can also occur when you feel you have little importance or value in other people's lives. Or when the people you are with see things very differently from you.
If you feel lonely for a long time it can bring with it a deep and long-term feeling of thinking everything is useless and a sensation of separateness or isolation (thinking you are separate or different from everyone else).
Loneliness and depression seem to be very closely linked. Sometimes loneliness can be confused with depression. Depression can also bring about feelings of loneliness. If you feel overwhelmed with loneliness or depression seek help.
Remember you are not alone and that help is available to you.
There are many different reasons why you might feel isolated or lonely. Here are some examples.
The way things are where you live
- Physical or geographic isolation can separate you from other people
- Discrimination or harassment because of your sexuality, race, gender, religious beliefs, intellectual or physical ability, looks etc. This can make you feel separate from others
- Moving to a new place. This can be especially difficult if people speak a different language, have different customs or cultural expectations to you
- Lack of opportunities to "get involved". Things like high rates of unemployment, lack of money, having children (being a young parent you may also face undue criticism or judgement) or lack of affordable recreation places in a community can mean you spend most of your time at home
- You live with a controlling or abusive parent, adult or partner. They might force you to stay home, tell you who you can and can't be friends with or drive away your friends and family with their abuse
- You have been removed from your parents by the courts, your parents have divorced or you (or a parent) have moved away.
The way you think about yourself and other people
- You feel you have little to share with others – so you don't bother!
- You don't like yourself – it's hard to believe others will like you if you don't!
- You criticise or judge yourself – we can be our own harshest critics!
- You don't trust people – this can be especially difficult if you've had an experience of abuse or violence. We have topics on these for further information
- You are embarrassed or ashamed of yourself – you might feel guilty, dirty, ugly or stupid. These feelings tell you that you are not a worthwhile person and that no-one will want to care for you or be your friend. These feelings too can be the result of an experience of abuse, harassment or forms of violence. We have topics on these for further information
- You feel "different to other people". This comes with living in a world where certain "ways of being" have come to be expected. You might feel isolated if you cannot celebrate or show part of your identity. For example if you are gay, have personal religious or spiritual beliefs or because of your skin colour
- You have a mental health condition that makes it difficult for you to get out or mix with other people.
Loneliness and health
Loneliness can become a health problem when it is in your life for a long time and joins forces with things like:
- Self harming or suicidal thoughts
- Drugs and alcohol
- Anxiety or fear
- Criminal Activity
- Mental illness.
These are all things that many of us come into contact with at different times of our life. They become a problem when they become stronger with the help of loneliness.
For example some people smoke or use drugs or alcohol because they feel lonely. Sometimes it can become something they need all the time. Not only can this reduce possibilities of making new friends, it can mean losing the ones they had. A turn off for new friends is the smelly clothes, bad breath and dull looking skin that cigarette smoking can do to you. This can lead to feeling lonelier. The vicious circle takes control and they lose control of your life.
Long term loneliness can become a real health problem for many people.