If you are reading this article you have probably already felt or are feeling lonely. You will then know that it is not the same as being alone and that a desired or sought-after loneliness is different from imposed and unwanted loneliness.
Last update: June 02, 2020
We live in an age of changes that lead us to be more alone than in the past: an aging population, changes in social relationships, an increase in single-parent families or people who want to live alone, habits that imply isolation. However, this is not the same as feeling alone.
Loneliness does not correspond to objective social isolation. According to some authors, it has an emotional component as it is experienced as an unpleasant experience, and cognitive as a decrease in social relations or their inadequacy is perceived.
The feeling of loneliness is linked more to the level of subjective satisfaction achieved in relationships than to the frequency of contacts.
What is loneliness?
Loneliness can be defined in different ways depending on the mood caused by this situation or feeling.
- Being alone: one is physically alone. We may, however, be lonely people and not suffer from it. Loneliness can be a voluntary condition, chosen because you prefer your own company to that of others. In other words, it is a question of social isolation by choice.
- Loneliness: you feel the need or desire to connect with others, but are unable to do so. Perhaps the conditions would allow it, but it feels insecure. This feeling causes or contributes to loneliness. In addition, uselessness, rejection, dejection, inertia, poor eye contact are experienced. Isolation is not due to a choice, but to not feeling capable.
- Positive loneliness: sometimes spending time alone is a need, a way to rest. In these cases, solitude is pleasant. It is perceived as an opportunity to recharge the batteries, stimulate creativity and reconnect with oneself.
- Alienation: it is the extreme condition of loneliness. The person feels an inner emptiness that separates him from his own identity. It is equivalent to disconnecting from oneself, therefore from others.
How does feeling alone affect our psyche?
Feeling alone is an unpleasant sensation that can invade us even if we are surrounded by people, and even if these people care about us. This state of mind hides a more serious problem, in some cases a neglected ailment.
Those who suffer from it generally do not express it to others, and do not admit that it makes them feel bad. It is difficult to recognize and accept the feeling of loneliness when it is not sought, as we easily feel ashamed of it and, above all, we feel that it is a difficult condition to overcome.
The main difficulty with feeling lonely is that you don't usually seek specialist help. We do not consider it, that is, a disorder but a normal condition. As for the consequences, in addition to the emotional impact, the feeling of loneliness is considered a risk factor for comorbid diseases that can even be fatal or very aggressive.
For example, loneliness has been related to physical problems such as cardiovascular disease and eating or sleeping disorders. From a mental health perspective, however, it can lead to depression, addiction to alcohol or other drugs, and even suicide.
What to do?
Although it may be difficult to accept the idea of feeling alone and even more difficult to remedy it, we can act on the perception of loneliness.
First of all, it is necessary to identify the origin of this sensation; one way to do this may be to think: “what would I need to not feel alone anymore?”. Once the reason is identified, a solution is thought of. Improve social skills? Meet new friends? Participate in group activities?
One piece of advice is to invest some of your time in helping others, for example through a voluntary association. This kind of activity helps us to think that we are useful and that our presence is important to someone. It is essential to keep busy and reduce the time spent thinking about your loneliness.
Another option is to take part in group activities. Signing up for a dance or painting course, a reading group or other, is a way to spend quality time, but also to meet new people.
Finally, we take advantage of the possibility of creating new contacts online. There are several platforms designed to make new friends based on common needs and interests. In short, look for the situation that best suits your needs and preferences, but above all try to fill the perceived emptiness without fear of facing it.