The Cycle Of Depression Loneliness
Updated March 24, 2020
Reviewer 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 way they relate to and play off each other let's first look at the two words separately.
"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.
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."
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.
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.
"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."
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, or join a support group. 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. You
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.
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.