Chronic loneliness

Am I Lonely or Alone? Understanding The Basics Of Chronic Loneliness

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Written by Emma Reliason

B.A. - Psychologist

01 Nov, 2022

In a world that now can connect with anyone, anywhere, anytime, you’d imagine we’d feel far from lonely.

But, the truth is, that 1 in 4 Australians feel a deep sense of loneliness.

Despite social media, text messaging, phone calls, video chat, and voice memos, people are feeling more disconnected than ever before.

Feeling chronically lonely is quite different than feeling ‘alone’. If you’re someone that thrives off of being an introvert, you may not ever feel lonely.

However, if you’re someone that needs, even a little bit of social interaction and this need is consistently unmet you might find yourself falling into a dark hole of sadness and despair.

Don’t worry - if you’re struggling with chronic loneliness you’re far from alone. Let’s talk about a few ways you can help cope with these feelings and return to a more connected state of mind.

How Do I Know I’m Experiencing Chronic Loneliness?

Certain life changes such as having a new baby or moving to a new city can trigger feelings of loneliness. A life you once knew has suddenly been pulled out from under you and it can feel difficult to cope without anyone to turn to.

But how can you tell if you’re experiencing loneliness or you’re just merely alone?

Chronic loneliness is different from alone as it lasts long term and doesn’t go away over a few days. The feelings of loneliness and isolation only intensify as time goes on, rather than dissipate.

A few signs you may be experiencing chronic loneliness are:

  • Inability to connect with others on a deeper level

  • Many surface-level relationships

  • No interactions with others feel fulfilling

  • No “best friends” or even close friends

  • An overwhelming feeling of isolation even if you’re in public

  • Feeling ‘separate’ or ‘disengaged’ even at work or at a party

  • Feelings of self-doubt or worth

  • When you try to reach out, it’s often unmet

  • Burnout when engaging socially

  • Sleep problems

  • Weak immune system

  • Poor diet and self-care

Human beings are meant to be in connection with others. Chronic loneliness can cause much more than feelings of sadness or despair. It can even cause health problems like depression, anxiety, stroke, or heart disease.

Who Is At Risk For Chronic Loneliness?

Like any other condition, chronic loneliness has a targeted group of people who may be more at risk than others to experience this debilitating phenomenon.

Chronic loneliness may stem from a traumatic past or childhood and create an inability to connect with others on a deeper level. Someone with an avoidant attachment style may experience chronic loneliness.

In addition, past abuse or mistreatment may make it incredibly difficult to trust others with personal information, keeping many relationships surface level, and making someone who has been hurt in the past at risk for chronic loneliness.

Other people who may be at risk for developing this condition are:

  • Individuals who have substance abuse problems

  • Individuals who suffer from depression or mental health issues

  • Individuals who have serious illnesses or diseases

  • Individuals with Autism or Asperger's Syndrome

  • Individuals with sexual orientation confusion

  • Individuals 50 years of age or older

Chronic loneliness and even loneliness in general is a complex state of mind with no clear rhyme or reason, however, if you fall into any of these categories above and are experiencing feelings of profound loneliness it’s important to talk with your primary medical or mental health professional.

Tips For Overcoming Chronic Loneliness:

While it may take some time and patience, chronic loneliness can be cured as long as you keep a positive mindset and stay motivated. If you fall back into old patterns of isolation and self-doubt, it’s unlikely that feeling lonely will go away on its own.

Practice Inner Self Work:

Feeling separated from our peers, family, and the general society can make us doubt our self-worth.

This can deplete our confidence and make it more difficult to attempt connection with others. Practising self-love techniques such as taking better care of your hygiene, eating whole meals, exercising, journaling, meditation, and inner healing can in turn boost your self-esteem.

When you take time to heal the wounds within you, you’ll begin to feel more confident in who you are and more likely to reach out to others.

Find a Support Group:

As we’ve discussed, you can be in a room full of people and still feel alone.

This is why finding a positive, healthy environment that focuses on deep connection is powerful.

This may be a relationship with a therapist or a support group of others who are struggling with similar feelings.

The more you become in touch with your loneliness and can express these feelings, the lighter you will feel. Sometimes we just need to find others who are experiencing the same troubles as we are to feel safe and secure.

Get Your Body Moving:

Exercise has been proven to work wonders for mental health problems, and getting out for a walk or going to the gym can give you the mood boost you need.

When we get out bodies moving our brain releases endorphins - happy chemicals that provide you with a calm, positive state of mind.

When these endorphins flood our brain through physical movement we feel a greater sense of overall contentment with life, and start to view our problems as less intimidating than they are.

If Your Loneliness Is Only Getting Worse:

If you’ve been struggling with loneliness for a while now, and you feel as though nothing you do is working it may be time to seek professional help.

Chronic loneliness can lead to many mental and physical health problems, creating a bigger problem than you originally started with.

A psychologist can help you work through these feelings, understand your obstacles, and create a plan to help you get back on track with socialising. Not only this, your psychologist can help you learn better ways of communicating and interacting with others to deepen connections past surface-level relationships.

Many therapists and psychologists on Talked who have dedicated their lives to helping you through this difficult time. Just remember, no matter how lonely you are, you don’t have to face it alone. If you are continuing to struggle, don't struggle alone and find help today for chronic loneliness.

Resources:

Psychology Today

Psychweek

This Way Up

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Emma Reliason

B.A. - Psychologist

Emma is an accomplished writer with a passion for mental health. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology where she gained insight into why people think, feel and behave the way they do.

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