Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn, LMFT, MA
Feeling lonely hurts us, but we all experience it. Loneliness is a familiar feeling to many of us. Human beings are social creatures, and we want to be around other people for the most part. Being in a community provides a sense of reassurance. When you feel like you’re a member of a tribe, it’s comforting. We don’t necessarily want to be around others all the time. It’s even healthy to have alone time, but when you feel like the ratio is unequal, there could be a problem. Being by yourself for extended periods can make you feel sad, lead to depression, isolation, and other mental health issues. You may be wondering “am I lonely?” So, what is loneliness?
There’s a difference between being by yourself and being lonely. Loneliness is when you are excessively by yourself, and you’re yearning to be around others. Loneliness can lead to depression. Moreover, if you’re feeling lonely, you need to take action so that you can feel better. What do you do when you feel lonely? One of the best things you can do is reach out to someone, but it’s not that easy. Loneliness makes people feel isolated and like nobody cares about them. It’s not the truth, but it’s a genuine feeling. There’s a sense of hopelessness associated with loneliness. It’s essential to break through that lonely feeling and see that things can change.
There are many reasons why people might feel lonely. Maybe you moved away to college, and don’t feel like you have anyone who understands you. Loneliness doesn’t have to be an abstract concept. You could miss a specific person or place. Think about the term homesick. When a person misses the place they grew up, that is a form of loneliness. Another way an individual could feel lonely is when they miss a specific person, such as a close friend or family member. Being misunderstood can make you feel alone. Imagine a child who goes to a school where she feels like she’s an outcast. She doesn’t fit in, and maybe she’s even bullied. She's surrounded by other children, yet she feels like she is by herself. She’s lonely, and her feelings are understandable. There’s a difference between being by yourself and being around others and feeling misunderstood. In this situation, the child feels misunderstood, and that triggers loneliness. She could benefit from talking to her parents or a guidance counselor about feeling lonely.
Some people prefer to be alone. If you’ve ever taken the Myers Briggs Inventory (MBTI) you might fall on the introvert spectrum. That means that you prefer to be alone rather than around others. You like to hang around a couple of close friends but avoid large social gatherings. These people don’t feel sad being by themselves, but if they’re exposed to prolonged periods of isolation, they might feel down. If introverts go to a social occasion, they need time to recharge, afterward. They love their alone time, but there needs to be a balance. Too much of anything isn’t a good thing, and that includes alone time. Being by yourself for a long time can lead to feeling lonely. And whether you’re an introvert or not, if you’re feeling lonely much of the time, you need to seek help in the form of mental health treatment. One place to start is with therapy or counseling.
Loneliness is a painful feeling, but there’s help out there. One excellent way to get support is through online counseling. You may not know why you feel lonely, and that’s why it’s a great resource to be able to talk about your feelings with a trained mental health professional. Search the network of counselors at BetterHelp and find one who you can talk through your feelings of loneliness and isolation with and develop a plan to get out there and meet people. You are not alone, even if it feels that way.