Loneliness is a universal human emotion that is both complex and unique to each individual.
Some say it is the feeling of sadness and unhappiness about being socially isolated – and this has been particularly true given what many are experiencing due to Covid restrictions.
However, while common definitions of loneliness describe it as a state of solitude or being alone, loneliness is actually a state of mind. Feeling lonely doesn’t only happen when you’re alone; some people enjoy time to themselves.
Loneliness is defined by researchers as feeling lonely more than once a week. In order to understand loneliness, it is helpful to bring awareness to the term lonely, in addition to the various causes, health consequences, symptoms and potential treatments for loneliness.
Loneliness is not necessarily about being alone, instead if you feel alone and isolated then this is how loneliness plays on your mind.
Just because you’re around other people doesn’t mean you can’t feel lonely – you might even feel lonely when you are in a room full of people. When you don’t feel connected with anyone or you feel like no-one understands you, you might feel you are completely alone even if you are around friends and family.
Loneliness has no single common cause, the prevention and treatment of this potentially damaging state of mind can vary dramatically. For example, when a young child at school feels lonely as they struggle to build friendships, their needs are very different from a lonely older adult who has recently divorced, or their partner has died.
The Consequences of Loneliness
Loneliness has a wide range of negative effects on both physical and mental health including:
- Higher stress
- Brain Changes
- Heart Problems
- Decreased Memory
- Drug Abuse Risk
- Low Self-Esteem
- Sleep Problems
There are many factors that contribute to loneliness. These may include situational variables like we have seen during COVID-19, such as physical isolation. It might arise following a move to a new location and /or the ending of a relationship. The death of someone significant in a person’s life can also lead to feelings of loneliness.
Loneliness can also be attributed to internal factors such as low self-esteem. When a person lacks confidence in themselves, there is often a belief that they are not good enough or worthy of someone’s attention, which can lead to isolation and loneliness.
Loneliness can also be a symptom of a psychological disorder such as depression.
Coping with Loneliness
Loneliness doesn’t have to be suffered in silence – it can be overcome. The objective through counselling is to identify ways to decrease your feelings of loneliness.
In addition, we look at various ways in which you can prevent, cope and even overcome loneliness. This does require a conscious effort on your part to make a change. However, in the long run, making changes can help you to be happier, healthier and enable you to impact others as you are in relationship with others in a more positive way.
In counselling, we will work together to help you through this stage in your life, and find ways of combating the consequences and causes of loneliness.
If you are feeling lonely, it is important to address this feeling, as loneliness can take a serious toll on your health and wellbeing. Here are 10 things you can do right away when you feel lonely:
- Acknowledge you feel lonely
- Develop a Plan
- Connect with People from your Past
- Join a Group
- Read a Book
- Find an Online Forum
- Learn Something New
- Engage in a Hobby
- Perform an Act of Kindness
- Get Professional Help.
Fiona is a registered counsellor working with both individuals and couples. Having previously worked with women’s groups, aged care, child care, pre-marriage counselling and community outreach programs, and married for nearly 30 years with two young adult children, Fiona’s experiences have given her a greater understanding and empathy of the many challenges and losses that life brings.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3067 9129.