The Vicious Cycle Of Loneliness and Depression: How To Escape the Loop

By: Corrina Horne

Updated August 27, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Juan Angel

Depression and loneliness are two words that we all hate to hear. There is just something about "depression and loneliness" that sounds sad. They are words that we can all identify with, and we have all experienced depression and loneliness 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 depression and loneliness relate to and play off each other, let's first look at the two words separately.

Understanding Loneliness

Depression And Loneliness Can Be Heavily Intertwined
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"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 depression and 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 depression and 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 when in the cycle of depression and loneliness.
 
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 of depression and loneliness 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 depression and loneliness.

Feelings of depression or 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-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 feelings of depression and loneliness, 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 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 the depression and loneliness 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."

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 depression and loneliness, 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 and loneliness, in turn, 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.

Depression And Loneliness Can Be Heavily Intertwined
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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. One provider of online therapy is BetterHelp. Although in-person therapy can be enormously helpful for people with depression and loneliness symptoms, 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 people. 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."

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

 


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