Are You Feeling Lonely? How Online Counseling Can Help

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated March 20, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Loneliness can occur for many reasons, whether you have people in your life or not. For example, someone might feel lonely after moving to a new city, breaking up with a partner, or growing apart from old friends, among other reasons. Speaking with a professional counselor might ease loneliness and allow you a safe person to vent to. You do not have to have a mental illness to talk to a therapist, but loneliness can sometimes be a symptom of an underlying concern, so talking to a provider may prove beneficial. 

Consider online therapy if you're concerned about your emotional health or want someone to listen. Online counseling can allow you to receive care in a healthy way while helping you feel less lonely. This game plan can be a crucial step in taking care of your mental and physical health.

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Work with a professional to identify the roots of your feelings

Why am I lonely? 

Feeling lonely might be a symptom of a mental health condition related to feelings of depression or anxiety. However, it can also be unrelated to your emotional or mental health state. 

Self-esteem and perceptions 

It may not matter how many people you have in your life; loneliness means feeling isolated due to your perceptions of connections with others, your self-esteem, or a depressed mood. Many individuals may feel lonely in a romantic relationship, with similar interests, or in public. Regardless of why you experience social isolation, pay attention to what your emotions tell you. Understanding the root of your loneliness could be the key to increased happiness. 

Depression and social anxiety 

Two common mental illnesses that might cause feelings of loneliness include social anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder. Depression might cause an urge to withdraw or feelings that others no longer like you. It might come from feeling unlovable, not having the energy to socialize, or a sense of overwhelming sadness. Social anxiety might cause loneliness if you are afraid of making friends, socializing, or going out in public but crave social connection and don't know how to find it. In all of these cases, a counselor may be beneficial.

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Social uncertainty 

Many individuals experience a loss of skill in certain interests if they don't frequently practice them. This phenomenon might also occur with socialization. The longer you spend time without connecting with humans, the more difficult it might feel to know how to put yourself out there. You may have lost touch with the art of making conversation or knowing what to do in social situations, increasing a feeling of loneliness and reminding you of the importance of meaningful connections.

Life changes or location 

Feeling lonely or alone might also occur after a significant life transition. Maybe you have grown apart emotionally from friends or have moved to a new city where you haven't made friends yet. Living in rural areas with few people has been linked to loneliness, isolation, and higher rates of depression. Although time and more opportunities to connect with people may benefit you, speaking to a professional, like a therapist, may also be valuable. Therapists might also know about local events, social causes, or groups you can join in on. Some people find that support groups are beneficial for getting rid of loneliness. 

You may also consider getting more involved in your community through volunteering or picking up a new interest that encourages interaction with others. If you're in a rural area, consider starting a local group, going to the local library, or meeting people online. 

Challenging relationships 

Some people might feel lonely if they have several shallow or casual relationships and no close ones, impacting their lives. For example, a person who attends job-related parties with acquaintances but has no one to talk to about personal challenges might feel that they don't have "real" friends. They might assume that they're not being true to themselves or putting forward a "false" self to feel accepted. Over time, doing so might make an individual feel that other people don't know them, and it may contribute to lonely thoughts or a feeling of emptiness.

With social media being a significant part of our world, many people might compete or post false images to feel connected. Friendships might exist primarily online for some, which could cause feelings of loneliness or difficulty connecting in person. In addition, studies have found that loneliness is linked to increased risk of negative social media experiences

Poor self-image 

At times, a feeling of loneliness may indicate a poor self-image, affecting both your physical health and mental well-being. If you struggle to feel lovable, likable, or engaging, you might feel that others see you that way too. In addition, some individuals with identity issues might feel they rely on others for their self-worth. If others cannot provide validation or care, they may feel they are not worthy of social connection, which could cause loneliness. 

When you have a healthy sense of self, you may feel comfortable by yourself more often, taking care of your body and mind. You might also have the ability to know that other people's opinions of you do not define your worth. If you struggle with self-worth or identity, a therapist can offer guidance. They can teach you to engage differently with your thoughts and feelings of loneliness, challenge negative, self-defeating beliefs, and develop a stronger sense of personal values and goal-driven behavior.

In addition, for those struggling with self-esteem due to an insecure attachment style, therapy can help you develop safe patterns in relationships to feel more empowered through self-love.

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Work with a professional to identify the roots of your feelings

How online counseling might help 

If you feel embarrassed about your loneliness, know you're not alone. Being lonely can be part of being human, and many people have felt this way before. However, support is available if your loneliness is chronic or feels unbearable. 

Speaking with a professional therapist can give you research-based insight into your feelings and gain compassionate support. Therapists are not there to judge you and can provide validation, kindness, and understanding. A mental health professional can also help you understand why you might be feeling lonely and develop techniques to address it. They can help you address symptoms of mental health conditions that may be related to loneliness, such as depression, bipolar disorder, or eating disorders.

Speaking with a therapist such as an assistant professor in psychology, can also help you practice interacting with others, talk about yourself, and feel comfortable with letting others get to know you. At that moment, you'll experience an increased sense of belonging and support. It's important to remind yourself that therapy is a safe space to be heard and understood.

Online counseling has unique benefits you might not find in traditional in-person therapy. For example, it can be challenging for those living in rural locations to find a therapist. You can have several options with online therapy and attend counseling from home. In addition, some platforms offer unlimited messaging with your therapist, allowing you to stay connected as needed, unlike traditional therapy, which may feel more lonely and disconnected. 

Online counseling options

Several online counseling platforms are available, and personal practice therapists in your area might also offer telehealth services. If you're interested in getting started, you can try a popular platform like BetterHelp, which offers over 30,000 therapists. Through the platform, you can choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions and meet with a therapist once a week, with messaging in between sessions. 

In addition, a recent study found that online therapy was especially effective in treating loneliness, isolation, and depression. Study participants felt they were respected and could connect with their therapist on the same level as they might have in person. If you're feeling alone, talking to someone might help. Your therapist can be a stable force in your life and support you through challenging emotions. 

Takeaway

Loneliness can be challenging and may have several causes. Regardless of why you're feeling lonely, you're not alone. Over 41.7 million Americans saw a therapist in 2021, and therapy is becoming more popular. Consider reaching out to a therapist for further compassionate advice and guidance.

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