The Cycle Of Loneliness and Depression

Updated February 6, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Depression and loneliness are two words that most everyone can identify with. Many people have experienced these conditions at one time or another in life. Although feeling isolated is usually associated with actually being alone, you can also be surrounded by people you know and love, and still feel the sting of these challenging emotions. Rather than being a measure of physical isolation, isolation really describes a feeling of being alone. This feeling may crop up because you don't feel as though the people around you understand you, because you feel that you can never really be yourself, or because you don't feel like being around people.

One thing many people don't realize is how connected these two words (loneliness, depression) really are to each other. To understand the ways depression and loneliness relate to and play off each other, let's first look at the two words separately.

Understanding Your Feelings

Negative Emotions Can Seem Overwhelming

One study found that loneliness functions as both a symptom and predictor of depression. This suggests that addressing loneliness as soon as possible after it has developed could be helpful in mitigating the onset of depressive symptoms. Although loneliness is not a formal psychological diagnosis, many people benefit from therapy to alleviate feelings of depression and loneliness. Through therapy, you can learn how to forge stronger connections with others, how to communicate more effectively, and even how to see yourself in a more positive light. Some people may find themselves withdrawing from the company of other people in response to a perceived flaw when in the cycle of depression and loneliness.

Depression and loneliness are often intertwined. Which precedes the other is not entirely certain, but the presence of one could signal the onset of the other. This is because loneliness can trigger feelings of depression, which can create feelings of isolation and alienation. These are all feelings that can, in turn, lead to loneliness. As the depressive disorder worsens, feelings of loneliness increase. And as loneliness increases, depressive symptoms increase. Although this loop of loneliness and depression can feel impossible to step out of, treating one symptom can actually help the other.

Feelings of depression and loneliness are often treated as something of a taboo subject, as though people who are lonely are in some way deficient or broken. Despite this perception, most everyone has experienced feelings of loneliness at some point or another. Moreover, physical beauty, success, and other standard markers of attractiveness are not necessarily indicative of a person's level of loneliness. One popular hypothesis about depression is Depressive Realism, implying that depressed persons are more realistic and less susceptible to optimistic bias. However, some new studies stated that the belief is not replicable. Nonetheless, every individual suffering from depression deserves to break free from the cycle of loneliness.

What Is Depression?

Feeling depressed is usually characterized by feelings of despair, overwhelm, apathy, and (in some cases) sadness. These feelings can be accompanied by changes in weight (loss or gain), disrupted sleep, and increased irritability, anger, and confusion. These symptoms can come on simultaneously or may develop separately, leading some people to develop a sense of normalcy after each new symptom has arrived. Over time, these symptoms can reach pitches that make day-to-day functioning almost impossible, resulting in the need for treatment.

Breaking the Cycle

Depression and loneliness can both be isolating. Yet, isolation can be more problematic than helpful, and can perpetuate the ongoing cycle of depression and loneliness. Perhaps the easiest way to break the cycle of depression and loneliness is to catch it before it starts. You can put processes into your daily life that will help you keep from circling through the depression and loneliness cycle again and again. But even if you find yourself stuck in the middle of it, you can still break the cycle of depression and loneliness. Here are some suggestions on how to put a stop to this harmful cycle in your life.

Make Real Connections And Beat Loneliness

Being "friends" on social media may not be the same as having a meaningful friendship with a person. After all, it might not be feasible to be close friends with 100 different people. Instead of focusing on growing your social media following, you may want to consider working on forming some good connections in "real life".

When you have real friends, you will have people you can be authentic with. These are people whom you can reach out to when you are feeling depression and loneliness. They will also be the people who may reach out to you when they notice you are withdrawing from others. These are the types of connections that you can work on building when you are having good days because they will help you through the bad days.

Healthy Life, Strong Mind

Lifestyle interventions can also be helpful in treating people with depression and loneliness. Improving your diet, creating exercise regimens, and engaging in mindfulness practices can all improve your mental and physical health as a whole, which can positively impact your depressive symptoms. These interventions don’t usually need to be  severe or dramatic. They can include changes as small as limiting caffeine intake and exercising 20 minutes a day a few days per week.

Negative Emotions Can Seem Overwhelming

Get A Pet

Therapy animals are more common now than ever before, and many studies suggest that they are useful in treating the symptoms of anxiety. Having an animal like a Therapy Animal or Emotional Support Animal to care for, hold onto, and come home to can make the isolation that often accompanies these conditions less severe. A pet can also give you a renewed sense of purpose.

Seek Help

One of the most effective treatments for depression and loneliness is talk therapy. For some, the presence of a therapist and the space provided by a physical office is a no-brainer. Others, especially those who are severely depressed may have certain symptoms that make leaving the house difficult. These could include fatigue or social withdrawal, for example. For these people, online therapy from home might be a better option. This type of therapy can be accessed from anywhere you have an internet connection. Plus, scheduling is more convenient since appointment slots are available day or night. 

This type of remote therapy has been found effective in treating symptoms of depression, including those brought on by loneliness. One study found that individuals undergoing internet-based counseling for depression experienced a reduction in symptoms compared to those on a wait list. Researchers suggested that this type of therapy was also associated with better retention rates when compared to in-person counseling. 

One provider of online therapy is BetterHelp. Although in-person therapy can be helpful for people with depression and loneliness, online services provide many of the same benefits. Some of these include the option to create a treatment plan and the ability to work one-on-one with your therapy provider. 

Because online therapists do not pay rent for the office space to deliver in-person therapy, some may offer their services for lower prices. This makes online therapy a realistic, affordable option for many people. Services on our platform are not covered by health insurers. However, BetterHelp offers very affordable pricing options that are comparable with copays of most insurance plans.

Below are some reviews of BetterHelp therapists, from people experiencing similar issues of depression and loneliness:

Therapist Reviews

"Patricia is excellent, very knowledgeable, empathetic, and helpful. Her professionalism helped make my journey less lonely, and gave me so much more clarity."

"Her balance between empathy and perseverance have kept me focused on my goals without burning out. She has stayed with me as I go through life and overcame obstacles. As I maneuver through difficulties, Krista has made the experience a little bit easier, less lonely, and something of a challenge to overcome rather than a reason to be stagnant… Krista really understands my values and aspirations. She encourages me to pursue my passion and chase my dream no matter the many, long-lasting, face-scrunching hiccups along the way."


Although depression and loneliness both have the potential to make people feel isolated, nervous, and unsure of their place in the world, both of these issues are treatable. In fact, well over half of the people treated for depressive symptoms report recovery from their symptoms. You, too, can move toward recovery through effective treatment, greater self-love and self-care, and an improved understanding of depression and loneliness symptoms. With a qualified, caring healthcare professional by your side, you can take steps toward healing today.

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