Why Am I Lonely? Possible Answers And Solutions
Current research suggests that chronic loneliness and social isolation have become an epidemic for many. While loneliness can be a painful feeling, it can also be an emotion that can be soothed and overcome. Below, we’ve put together a helpful guide to navigating loneliness, as well as strategies you can use to feel connected again.
What Is Loneliness?
Loneliness can be difficult to measure or explain. At its core, loneliness can be described by many as a feeling of being alone, even when you’re in the company of others.
Since many humans may feel as if they are social creatures, many believe that they need support, interaction and connection with other people to reach their highest quality of life. Feeling alone can be a jarring contrast to this, possibly resulting in many feeling misunderstood, unloved or unwanted by family, friends or peers.
Therapeutic support and ongoing interventions can be helpful in reducing the feelings of loneliness for many. To determine the best possible options for our needs, it can be helpful to identify the possible root causes of loneliness.
Why Am I Lonely?
There can be many different schools of thought when it comes to loneliness and feeling isolated. Some assert that loneliness may have an evolutionary basis (possibly to prompt species propagation) while others might argue that loneliness may have more to do with genetic factors than environmental ones.
So, why might a person be lonely? And why do many crave close bonds with other people?
Here are some possible explanations:
- Biology. Those who argue for the evolutionary definition of loneliness might say loneliness can be the way that nature can ensure people continue to make new connections, mate and produce offspring—possibly perpetuating the human species.
- Your genetic makeup. People who argue for genetic causes may say that loneliness can be ingrained in one’s DNA and can be as much a part of one’s humanness as eye color.
- Social media. Some believe that the advent of social media and countless other ways to communicate can make it more difficult to experience satisfaction with yourself, your surroundings and your relationships—which can all contribute to feeling lonely.
- Your age. Despite increases in communication across numerous devices and channels, loneliness is statistically suggested to have grown in recent years—seeming to be particularly intense for people in their late 20s, mid-50s and late 80s.
Although the epidemic proportions of loneliness can be overwhelming for scientists, researchers and mental health professionals, there are some things that have been suggested to be beneficial for people who may be experiencing loneliness. Therapy, for example, can be particularly useful—generally facilitating a connection to a secondary person in a controlled, supportive environment.
Other Possible Causes Of Loneliness
In addition to the usual suspects, there could be other reasons for feeling lonely—such as a mental health condition. Loneliness has been suggested to be linked to depression or depressive disorders.
The presence of a depressive disorder could explain consistent and unexplained periods of feeling lonely. Anxiety disorders can also be a root cause of loneliness, as different forms of these mental health conditions can create symptoms that increase isolation and withdrawal.
Ways To Decrease Loneliness
It can be difficult to cope with loneliness. However, there are certain supportive steps that can be taken to increase one’s quality of life. Below are some of the most scientifically supported ways to possibly find relief.
Seek comfort. Feeling lonely can be your body and brain’s way of telling you that something might be needed in your life. While you might prefer the feeling of someone's arms around you or social connection, you can instead try to find comfort pouring back into yourself. This can look different across different people but can be done by spending time doing the activities and hobbies you enjoy.
You may choose to engage in certain hobbies, such as reading a good book, watching an episode of your favorite TV show, taking a long walk or curling up and writing down how you're feeling.
Reach out. When you're feeling lonely, you might choose to reach out and connect with another person. The fear of rejection can make this an intimidating step to take, but you never know what might happen.
Not sure where to start? You might choose to see if a coworker you’ve been getting along with wants to get some coffee—or you might ask your friend to chat for a few minutes. You can also try to meet a new friend by joining a book club or an exercise class, as most people might find it easier to talk and connect with someone new when they share similar interests.
Evaluate your behaviors and habits. If you’re experiencing prolonged feelings of loneliness, it may be helpful to determine if you may have cultivated habits that can be contributing to your loneliness. For example, do you tend to draw inward in times of stress instead of moving outward? Do you go home immediately after work or school and shut other people out? Do you try new things and seek new friendships, or do you clamor to get away from them? Walking through some question-led introspection can be a useful tool to help you identify additional needs.
Evaluate your health. Mental health conditions and your physical health can contribute to feelings of isolation and loneliness, so it can be helpful to check in with yourself to figure out how you’re feeling.
Questions to ask here can include: Are you experiencing anxiety or depression consistently enough to warrant concern? Are you feeling unexplained aches and pains, or are you experiencing fatigue that doesn’t seem on par with the amount of energy you’ve been expending? Seeking formalized support or evaluation from a clinician can be a helpful first step to consider in this stage of self-evaluation.
Volunteer. Sharing your time with someone less fortunate can support your goal of mitigating loneliness. Volunteering can allow you to meet people with common interests, spend time with other volunteers and form new relationships. All these positive possibilities can compound to create stronger feelings of contentment and well-being in your personal life and within your personal relationships.
Although no single action can immediately and permanently cure feelings of loneliness, you can develop habits and practices that offer a healthier and more positive understanding of yourself, others and the world around you. These habits can help you feel more connected and aware, even if you are currently living alone. Loneliness can be seen positively as well, possibly giving you a window into your own mental state that can illuminate unmet needs in your life.
Are You Experiencing Loneliness?
Online Therapy With BetterHelp: How Can Online Therapy Impact Those Who Feel Lonely?
While there are steps you can take on your own to move past your lonely feelings, sometimes you may find that you need to enlist the help of a professional. Connecting with an online counselor through BetterHelp can give you the tools you need to cope with your emotions and find your sense of purpose. Your therapist can help you discover the root cause of your loneliness and work with you to combat the difficulties you’re facing from the comfort of your own home. This unique virtual therapy environment can be more accessible and affordable to many, especially when compared to in-person therapeutic methods.
Evaluating The Effectiveness Of Online Therapy: Does It Really Work?
Research suggests that online therapy can be an effective solution for coping with feelings of loneliness or isolation. According to a study published in Behavior Research and Therapy, a peer-reviewed journal of cognitive and behavioral therapy, many people experiencing depression or anxiety disorders may avoid seeking help. The study focused on university students, examining whether internet-guided therapy could be a solution to the lack of accessibility to care (and/or the desire to seek it) among people who are living with depression, anxiety disorders or stress.
Researchers found that students participating in online therapy generally showed a significant decrease in almost all the symptoms of loneliness that they reported. They also found that the positive results were generally maintained after six months of completing the program, possibly suggesting online guided therapy can be a useful tool for managing emotions such as loneliness.
Sometimes feeling lonely can give you an opportunity to find comfort, self-love and self-confidence on your own. Though many may feel that they need healthy, close connections with other humans, it can be helpful to learn how to be okay with being alone. If your loneliness is ever too much to bear, there can be many things you can try to achieve a higher quality of life, including online therapy. BetterHelp can connect you with an online therapist in your area of need.
- Previous Article
- Next Article