What You Should Know About Depression Loneliness

Updated July 07, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Nicole Gaines, LPC

Loneliness is a complex phenomenon that affects our mental and emotional well-being. Loneliness is such a powerful state that even in a crowded room, you could still feel lonely, just as you can be alone and not feel lonely. However, when it hinders your ability to relate well with others, then it becomes a serious reason for concern. Unresolved feelings of loneliness happen to be one of the major causes of depression.

Unlike depression, loneliness rarely figures in conversations related to mental health issues. However, that is changing because many within the mental health community are discovering the impact of loneliness on depression and vice versa. While this article seeks to address some of the concerns surrounding loneliness and depression, it is important to understand that you can be lonely without feeling depressed, and you can be depressed without being lonely.

Since both conditions are not mutually exclusive, we will examine them separately, and help you come to a broad understanding of what both entail when they come together. In this article, we will also give you tips on ways to keep loneliness from turning into depression.

What Is Loneliness?

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The Merriam-Webster Online dictionary defines loneliness as the state of being without a company. This definition is quite simplistic, as it only considers the physical aspect of loneliness. Loneliness is the condition and state of being lonely, especially when this results in feelings of self-disgust. Loneliness is often an unpleasant emotional response that stems from perceived feelings of isolation and abandonment. When you’re feeling lonely, you crave a sense of belonging, the lack of which can lead to depression. It is fair to say that chronic loneliness is a depressive symptom.

Causes Of Loneliness

Due to how subjective loneliness is, its origins are as numerous as they are various. Research has shown that more people are admitting to being lonely at an alarming rate. Whether this phenomenon has anything to do with the increase in people living alone, or the rising cases of people feeling dissatisfied with their social circles, the leading cause of loneliness in modern society is still a subject of much debate within the health community. But there are some leading causes of loneliness, and there are as follows:

Insecurity

Due to feelings of inadequacy, many people find themselves unable to connect with others. This may be as a result of past experiences with rejection, abuse, neglect, humiliation, or the fear of societal stigmatization. People who feel unworthy of attention and affection often choose to limit, or in some instances, shun all forms of social interaction. This kind of loneliness is referred to as emotional loneliness.

Lack Of Social Life

It’s one thing to lack the skills and confidence to relate with people; it’s another not to have anyone around you can easily connect with. It’s easy to choose the comfort of your own company when they aren’t better alternatives around you. Most times, people who are settling into new environments or who have to live away from their family and friends experience the lack of social life, either as a result of a communication barrier, sociocultural differences, or the absence of shared interests.

The Absence Of Love

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A research study discovered that people in romantic relationships are less likely to be lonely than single people. Romantic relationships are often a source of emotional intimacy, and the lack of a partner to provide emotional fulfillment can lead to loneliness. Equally, the loss of a partner can lead to a detachment from the wider world, with many preferring to grieve and heal in isolation. People in abusive or unstable relationships are also likely to feel lonely in response to their partner’s attitude and actions. This kind of loneliness is referred to as romantic loneliness.

Mental Health Issues

There is a close relationship between mental health challenges and loneliness, with loneliness being one of the major signs of depression. Being lonely can make you exhibit depressive symptoms, just like how feeling depressed may result in wanting to be away from people, in a recent study, loneliness scores high among the leading causes of health decline. Depression is synonymous with having a pessimistic and somber outlook on the world, and chronic loneliness could lead to a state where such negative thoughts become internalized to the point of self-loathing.

When Loneliness Turns Into A Depressive Symptom

Though young people between the ages of 16 and 24 are more likely to feel lonely than any other age group, loneliness happens to be one of those inconveniences that do not discriminate. Anyone can feel lonely, but when you continuously spend long periods in seclusion, it may be indicative of a deeper problem. Those who are high up on the loneliness scale, often exhibit some of the following depressive symptoms:

Inability to connect with others on an emotional level

Lack of interest or desire towards social engagements

Low self-esteem and a lack of confidence

An overwhelming feeling of anxiety or paranoia when around people

A non-committed and individualistic attitude to life

An overriding sense of isolation when around people

What Is Depression?

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Depression is more than just a momentary feeling of sadness in reaction to distressing life situations. It is a medical illness characterized by mood disorders or loss of interest in activities. The condition can affect your feelings, your thoughts, and your general well-being negatively. Depression is prevalent around the world, with more than 264 million people suffering from the condition. There are four common types of depression they are major depression, persistent depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder. While there is currently no cure for depression, there are many procedures that are effective for depression treatment.

Causes Of Depression

Just like loneliness, a variety of factors can cause depression. Depression can occur in the aftermath of a health challenge, in response to the loss of a loved one, and sometimes it can be a function of an individual’s genetic makeup. Trauma arising from physical and emotional abuse also increases the risk of depression. The use of certain medications and drugs has also been noted to be a contributing factor to depression. No matter the cause of your depression, or how severe it is, never lose hope in your search for lasting solutions.

Ways To Keep The Loneliness Away

Finding a way to overcome loneliness is never easy, and you may not be able to do it all on your own. There is no cure for loneliness, but there are ways it can be managed and treated. Here are some ways you can overcome loneliness and depression.

One of the most effective ways to keep loneliness from turning into depression is to reach out to friends and family whenever you are feeling lonely. Humans are social creatures, and having the support of people who care about your well-being could provide all the motivation you need to overcome your loneliness. Make an effort to spend quality time in the company of others, and allow yourself to enjoy every moment.

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Get a pet. A pet can provide you with a feeling of companionship that will deal with loneliness. Pets, especially dogs and cats, can reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. The playful nature of these animals could prevent your loneliness from turning into depression. The thought of being responsible for a pet could also imbibe in you a sense of purpose.

Engage with your community. Volunteer to help with the development of community projects and make yourself accessible to others. This will enable you to meet new people, reduce your social anxiety, and build your self-esteem with every positive impact you make.

Join a support group. Being around people experiencing the same thing you are going through as the potential to make you feel less lonely. Find a group that suits you, one that allows you to be yourself and connects you with other lonely people whose efforts can challenge you to be a better person.

Ultimately, depending on how difficult your situation is, you may need to go through counseling and therapy to overcome your struggle with loneliness and depression. You can sign up for online therapy at ReGain and connect with over 8,000 health care professionals that will help you on your journey to change the way you live and see the world.

FAQ’s Frequently Asked Questions

Is loneliness the same as solitude?

Loneliness is a feeling that we often don’t have control over. With loneliness, the overriding feeling is the absence of others and an aching sense of isolation. Solitude, on the other hand, is the state of being that prioritizes productive self-engagement unhindered by the absence of others. Solitude allows you to step away from the chaos of the world and provides a means to open your mind to the benefits of communing with your inner self. Loneliness isn’t the same as solitude because when a person feels lonely, they are more likely to feel sad rather than spirited.

Does social media contribute to loneliness?

We spend a lot of time on social media. Constant social media engagement increases the need to isolate from people in the real world. There is a study that suggests that negative encounters on social media can crossover to the real world, thereby creating a need to withdraw from others and be more reclusive. While social media offers us the chance to connect with millions of people at the click of a button, not many can form deep intimate relationships with their virtual friends, thereby leading to feelings of disillusionment that may expose the lack of real-world connections.


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