Every individual has a different experience with loneliness, which is a common human emotion. The prevention and treatment of this potentially harmful mental state might vary greatly since there is no single cause.
In this article, we discuss what the term “loneliness” means, its various causes, potential health consequences and treatment options.
What is loneliness?
People who are lonely experience empty, isolating, and unwelcome feelings. Lonely individuals frequently crave human interaction, yet their mental state makes socialising challenging.
Many experts agree that loneliness is not always associated with being physically alone. Rather, loneliness affects one’s state of mind and causes an individual to feel isolated from others, even if they may physically be in social settings.
Loneliness VS Solitude
While the two terms are often used interchangeably, loneliness and solitude are actually two different concepts.
Feelings of isolation despite a desire for social relationships are characteristics of loneliness. Some may also perceive loneliness as abandonment and rejection. On the other hand, solitude is voluntary. People who enjoy spending time alone are still able to maintain positive relationships with others.
Causes of loneliness
Situational aspects, including physical isolation, relocation, breakups, bullying, dysfunctional families, and being ostracised by peers, are all examples of contributing elements to loneliness in youths. Loneliness can also result from the loss of a friend or family member in a person’s life.
Internal issues such as poor self-esteem might also be linked to loneliness. Past experiences such as being shamed by others or extremely critical parents can severely damage an individual’s self-esteem, which results in them having negative beliefs about themselves. People who lack self-assurance frequently think they are undeserving of other people’s attention or respect, which can result in exclusion and long-term loneliness. Moreover, they may hesitate to socialise due to the fear of being shamed, ostracised or rejected as well.
How loneliness is associated with depression
Research has shown that loneliness and depression are often connected. The main difference between depression and loneliness is that the former is a mental health issue, whilst the latter is a generalised emotion.
Depression is a complex mental disorder that frequently results from various factors. Feelings of loneliness, especially when it persists for a long time, could be a sign of this mental health condition. In fact, according to research conducted by the National Institute for Health and Care Research, loneliness was linked to nearly one in five cases of depression.
However, loneliness and depression often involve similar emotions. The following are some of the common signs of both loneliness and depression:
- Low energy or restlessness.
- Self-doubt and low self-esteem.
- Tendency to isolate themselves, which further worsens their condition. Individuals suffering from loneliness and depression often struggle between wanting to engage in social interactions, but lacking the confidence and positive self-image to do so.
- Changes in sleep patterns or appetite.
- Irritability or appearing “cold”, when in reality, there is lots of fear in them. This fear prevents them from taking the initiative to approach others or responding in a way that gives off the impression that they are “cold” or arrogant when approached.
While feelings of loneliness are more common than many think, they can sometimes have a serious effect on an individual’s mental health, especially if it goes unresolved for too long.
If loneliness is affecting your well-being or if you are struggling with depression, it is incredibly beneficial to consider therapy. A certified counsellor will be able to help you identify, address and resolve the factors that contribute to these feelings of loneliness. Oftentimes, as mentioned above, loneliness is associated with other deeper and past issues, which can also be resolved in therapy. For instance, an individual who feels lonely after the loss of a loved one may have to address grief, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder alongside loneliness.
For depression counselling in Singapore, Emotional Wellness has got your back. Our professional psychotherapist has a wealth of experience under her belt in providing counselling and therapy services for a range of issues. In a cosy and relaxed setting, we will utilise integrative counselling and psychotherapy techniques to help free you from emotional distress.
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