The Cycle Of Depression Loneliness

By: Corrina Horne

Updated July 29, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Juan Angel

Depression and loneliness are two words that we all hate to hear. There is just something about them that sounds sad. They are words that we can all identify with, and we have all experienced at one time or another in life. But, one thing that many people don't realize is how connected these two words, depression and loneliness, really are to each other.

To understand the ways they relate to and play off each other, let's first look at the two words separately.

Depression And Loneliness Can Be Heavily Intertwined
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Understanding Loneliness

"Lonely" is a word most people are familiar with. Although loneliness is usually associated with actually being alone, you can be surrounded by people you know and love, and still feel the sting of loneliness. Rather than being a measure of physical isolation, loneliness 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 that you can find people you want to be around.

One study found that loneliness functions as both a symptom of depression and a predictor of depression, suggesting 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 loneliness. This can be achieved by learning how to forge stronger connections with others, how to communicate more effectively, and even how to see yourself in a more positive light, as many people find themselves withdrawing from the company of other people in response to a perceived flaw or the onslaught of insecurity.

Depression and loneliness are often intertwined. Whether the chicken or the egg came first is not entirely certain, but it might not matter; the presence of one could signal the onset of the other. This is because loneliness can trigger feelings of depression, and depression can create feelings of isolation and alienation-both feelings that can, in turn, lead to loneliness. As the depressive disorder worsens, feelings of loneliness increase, and as loneliness increases, symptoms of depression increase. Although this loop can feel impossible to step out of, treating one symptom can actually help the other, and there does not necessarily need to be a more intensive form of treatment to treat both.

Feeling lonely is often treated as something of a taboo subject, as though people who are lonely are in some way deficient or broken. Despite this perception-and the frequent tendency to apply it primarily to ourselves-everyone has experienced feelings of loneliness at some point or another, and physical beauty, success, and other standard markers of attractiveness are not necessarily indicative of a person's feelings (or lack) of loneliness.

What Is Depression?

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

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Breaking the Cycle

Depression and loneliness can both be isolating. You might feel embarrassed by feeling lonely or depressed, and try to hide these traits instead of sharing them freely. Doing so can be more problematic than helpful, and can perpetuate the ongoing cycle of depression and loneliness. The easiest way to break the cycle 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 loneliness cycle again and again. But, even if you find yourself stuck in the middle of it you can still break the cycle. Here are some suggestions on how to put a stop to the cycle in your life.

Make Real Connections

Being "friends" on social media is not the same as having a meaningful friendship with a person. If we are honest, we know that it's not possible to be close friends with 100 different people. Instead of focusing on growing your social media following work on forming some good connections in "real life."

Depression And Loneliness Can Be Heavily Intertwined
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When you have real friends, you will have people that you can be authentic with. They will be people that you can reach out to when you are feeling lonely or depressed, and they want to help you make it through your struggles. They will also be the people that will reach out to you when they notice you are withdrawing. These are the types of connections that you must work on the building when you are having good days because they will help you through the bad days.

Healthy Life, Strong Mind

Lifestyle interventions also have a demonstrable history of efficacy in treating people with depression, as 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 are not usually severe or dramatic, and can include changes as small as limiting caffeine intake, and exercising 20 minutes per day, 3 days per week.

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 and depression. Having an animal-usually referred to as a Therapy Animal or Emotional Support Animal-to care for, hold onto, and come home to can make the isolation and loneliness that often accompanies these conditions to lessen, and can give you a renewed sense of purpose.

Seek Help

As one of the treatments for depression and loneliness is talk therapy, online therapy services can help treat symptoms of depressive disorders, including loneliness. Although in-person therapy can be enormously helpful for people with depression, online services provide many of the same benefits, including time to discuss your symptoms, the option to create a treatment plan, and the ability to work one-on-one with your therapy provider. For some, the presence of a therapist and the space provided by a physical office is a no-brainer, while others might enjoy discussing their issues in their own home, and at their own convenience.

Although many insurance providers are hesitant to work with online providers, more and more companies are making the change to offer online therapists as part of their networks. If your insurance does not cover online therapy, this does not have to be a major deterrent; because therapists are not paying for the space to deliver in-person therapy, some may offer their services for lower prices, making online therapy a realistic, affordable option for many men and women. Below are some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.

Counselor 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."

Moving Forward

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, and 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 its symptoms. With a qualified, caring healthcare professional by your side, you can take steps toward healing today.

FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions)

What does loneliness do to a person?

Lonely people have trouble breaking the cycle of isolation. However, it's essential to take action when you are isolating yourself. Loneliness can impact the mind and the body negatively. It can lead to depression and is even correlated with a higher likelihood of someone having a chronic illness. Loneliness isn't the same as being alone by choice. It differs from introversion in that when you're lonely; you're not enjoying it. You can feel lonely even when you're around others. For example, if you're in a new city or are attending a new school, you might be lonely because even though a ton of people are around you, you're not connecting with people and might feel as though you're being othered. If left untreated, loneliness can lead to severe mental health issues. That's why it's crucial to seek the help of a mental health professional. You can actively try to prevent loneliness from turning to depression by reaching out for support.

Can you really die of loneliness?

Symptoms of loneliness include sluggishness or a lack of energy, trouble concentrating, body aches, getting ill more frequently, substance abuse, difficulty sleeping, and feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness. While loneliness isn't a direct cause of death, it does increase your risk of mortality, and it can damage your health so extensively that researchers have compared it to smoking 15 cigarettes per day. Lonely people are more likely to experience premature death by 50% in comparison to those who don't suffer from loneliness. There are ways to keep loneliness from harming your health, however. You might choose to reach out to old friends that you haven't seen in some time, enroll in classes and activities that you enjoy, join a support group, or speak with a therapist who you feel comfortable with. Doing these things can also help you stop loneliness from turning into depression. Other ways to keep loneliness at bay include joining volunteer organizations, being around animals or getting a pet to keep you company, or meeting people online. If you have social anxiety, these ways to keep loneliness from impacting you might seem intimidating or overwhelming. If that's true for you, going to therapy for anxiety might be your first step in combating loneliness.

Does stress cause loneliness?

Research studies show that those with higher loneliness scores are more likely to be negatively impacted by stress. Lonely people can experience an increase in stress hormones that are linked to depression. When people are stressed, they can socially isolate. If you step back from your support system, whatever the reason, you may feel lonely. Stress can make you feel out of control and deter you from reaching out for help. Remember, it's okay to reach out to a mental health professional if you need help with feeling lonely.

How can loneliness kill you?

Human beings are social creatures. We thrive on connecting with others. The absence of human connection can be detrimental to our emotional and mental well-being. Loneliness is shown to impact the immune system. It can make a person physically ill, and if they are suffering from a condition such as Alzheimer's, it can worsen it. That's why it's essential to have a social support system.

Can loneliness change your personality?

Loneliness can change a person's perception of the world. It can make a person feel like there's little to no hope. Your personality is something that you are born with; external influences can impact your mental health. Loneliness is an outside factor that can severely affect a person's wellbeing. Though it can't change you fundamentally, it can make you feel unlike yourself.

Is being alone healthy?

You might wonder - does loneliness lead to poor health? The answer is maybe. Being alone for some periods can refresh you. It's essential to engage in self-care; however, being alone and social isolation are two different concepts. You can find peaceful moments to care for yourself and balance those with interacting with others, such as friends and loved ones. It is perfectly healthy to spend some time alone. If you're an introverted person, you need to be by yourself so that you can recharge. However, loneliness differs from being alone by choice. Many of us crave alone time, and we must be able to have that time to ourselves, but having social relationships are equally as important.

What loneliness does to the brain?

You might now know this, but loneliness can affect your mind. Loneliness can worsen symptoms of depression or make you feel hopeless. The more time you isolate, the worse your depression can become. That's why it's essential to push yourself to reach out to people who understand and love you. It's not always easy, but once you take the first step and call a friend, it could result in a decline of symptoms of loneliness. If you are struggling with feeling lonely, a therapist can help. Consider trying online therapy if you are feeling alone. A licensed counselor can support you in your efforts to develop a support system.

What is the main cause of loneliness?

One of the main causes of loneliness may be social isolation. For one reason or another, you may feel isolated, even when you are around people, and that can leave you feeling like you don’t have people in your life you can talk to or spend time with. Another reason that someone may experience loneliness is because they are experiencing a mental illness of some sort, or has substance use disorders. If you are having an issue with loneliness and depression, or you have an issue with substance abuse, there is help out there than you can count on. You can join support groups, find a therapist to talk to, or call a national helpline for more support. In fact, the suicide prevention hotline is a resource that you can call whenever are feeling severely lonely and upset. You can reach them by calling 1-800-273-8255. You can count on this national helpline anytime you need it, to get assistance with mental illness or for suicide prevention. Consider reading up on loneliness articles in Psychology Today to see what the latest developments in mental health and loneliness are. It can be a helpful resource center for you if you don’t know where else to turn.

How do I know if I am lonely?

There are a few ways you may be able to tell you are lonely. One is that you are feeling depressed. Loneliness and depression go hand in hand, mainly since humans, in general, like to interact with one another. Loneliness can cause more mental health problems though. It may lead to substance abuse, substance abuse disorders, eating disorders, and other health problems too. If you determine you are lonely, do your best to reach out and find a therapist that you can talk to. Even if you do not have health insurance, there are resources that will be able to help you. You can search and see if there is a resource center for health information near you, which will be able to provide you with additional details. If you feel like loneliness makes you feel like you want to harm yourself, please call the suicide prevention national helpline at 1-800-273-8255. They can provide support revolving around suicide prevention and may be able to offer information on where to find help for substance use disorders, substance abuse, and mental illness.

Is being alone bad?

Being alone can be bad if it is causing you to feel lonely. You may feel lonely and not notice it as well. When you’re feeling lonely, it can be beneficial to try to hang out with both an individual and families, whoever you feel most comfortable with. You should also do something fun, which can prevent you from having negative feelings. If you have previously been diagnosed with a mental illness, it is important for you to have a support system that you can count on when you are feeling vulnerable or upset. If you don’t have a support system, you can call the national suicide prevention lifeline for further support. They will be able to provide you with pertinent information in the United States, so you can get the health care and the support you need. They can not only provide services related to suicide prevention, but also tell you about how to seek treatment for substance use disorders, substance abuse, or other mental illness. This national helpline helps many people every year.

What should you do if you're lonely?

If you are lonely, you should do what you can to determine the root cause of it. When you have a mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, it is necessary to talk to or find a therapist that will be able to help you treat this symptom and any other symptom you are experiencing. Health care providers should be able to tell you about therapists in your area who can treat your mental health. You may also be able to find support groups, so you can communicate with others that are feeling the same way as you are. Loneliness isn’t something that you just have to put up with, when there are many people out there that may want to help or that already love and care about you, who want to spend time with you. Reach out to people that care about you and continue taking care of your mental health as you work through your problems including loneliness. Be sure to take care of you, so your loneliness doesn’t lead to something like substance abuse or substance use disorders, which can be difficult to treat.

Why do I feel lonely in my marriage?

You may feel lonely in a marriage because your marriage starts to feel a little differently than it used to feel. One partner may have to work harder or longer hours than they used to, which can lead to less communication and quality time spent together. Remember that loneliness can happen to individuals and families, so pretty much anyone can experience it from time to time. If these feelings of loneliness persist for a while in your marriage, you should first talk to your partner and tell them how you feel. Then you may want to find a therapist or support groups to talk to, so your loneliness doesn’t lead to a mental illness. All mental illness is not the same, so there’s no reason to be afraid that you will experience a mental illness just because you are lonely. However, you should note that it is possible, especially if this isn’t treated quickly and properly. When loneliness is ignored, it can possibly lead to substance abuse, or some other type of mental health issue, which will need to be treated before it accelerates. At times, people turn to drugs when they are lonely, which can lead to substance use disorders or substance abuse issues, which can lead to mental illness, depending on what the substance is. Always get the proper health care when you need it, especially if you have health insurance. Your health care providers will be able to point you in the right direction when you’re looking for help to find a therapist for mental health disorder treatment. You can also count on the national suicide prevention lifeline if you feel that you are overwhelmed and need to talk to someone right around about suicide prevention. This national helpline is available to call for everyone in the United States.

How do marriages deal with loneliness?

Again, if you are lonely in your marriage, you should talk to your partner and see if there are things you can change, so that neither of you continues to feel lonely. You can find a therapist to talk to, together or separately, to determine if some simple changes can be made. Health care providers can tell you about therapists in your area, so you can find one that will be able to help you in your health care system. Mental health is important and should be handled with care, so don’t sit around feeling lonely without seeking treatment for it. When loneliness isn’t treated, it can lead to anything from mental illness, substance use disorders, bipolar disorder, or contemplating suicide. If you are thinking about suicide, there is a national helpline that can talk to you about suicide prevention. You should be aware that substance abuse disorders can be avoided in some cases, especially when you get the help you need when it comes to treating a mental illness.

How can elderly stop loneliness?

The elderly can also be in a position where they need to take care of their mental health to keep from experiencing loneliness. The best way to do this is to stay as social as possible. They can start a group with other people that have similar hobbies, or learn computer skills, so they can keep in touch online or through social media. If you are elderly and are unable to hang out with others as much as you want to, you might find it necessary to find a therapist to help you prevent mental illness. You can also read up on the latest health information regarding mental health by reading articles in Psychology Today. Even with the elderly, there is a chance of substance use disorders, especially if they are on many different prescriptions. When you need help and are experiencing loneliness, there is a national helpline to call for support with any mental illness you may be experiencing.

Is loneliness a choice?

Loneliness can be a choice, but many times it is not. There are times when people feel like they are alone, no matter who they are with. This may be due to a problem with a mental illness or because someone has isolated themselves through substance abuse. You should always take care of your mental health, so you will be able to prevent substance use disorders, and many types of mental illness. Talk to a therapist about your health information, and they will be able to offer disorder treatment if this is necessary, and they will also have details on the national helpline resource center, so you can be sure that you are getting all the support that you need. You should be aware that the substance abuse national helpline is able to help anyone, all hours of the day and night.

What factors contribute most to a happy and fulfilling life?

Factors that contribute to a happy and fulfilling life are being social, money, culture, your temperament, and staying positive. These things can be hard to maintain all the time, so you may need a little bit of help, especially the ones that involve mental health. You can read about how to be happy in articles published in Psychology Today, but you can also take it day to day and try your best. Taking care of your mental health or possible mental illness is a good first step. You can search online for a resource center to check out in your area, so you are able to stay on top of your health information to limit mental illness.

How do you stop being alone?

Anytime you feel that your loneliness is turning into depression, it is necessary to take steps to reverse this. One way to do this is to stay social and remember not to isolate yourself. Call up a friend or loved one and hang out with them or go to dinner. Another thing that may be beneficial for you to do is to find a therapist. You should take care of your mental health in the same manner that you take care of other health problems, where you pay attention to your emotions. If you have a history of mental illness in your family, consider getting checked out, so you can rule out a mental health issue. There is a national helpline to assist you in getting the help you need in an emergency situation, whether it be for something like suicide prevention or you just feel like you need someone to talk to. You can call the national suicide prevention lifeline anytime that you want to, since they operate all hours of the day and night.


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