What Are The Signs Of Loneliness And Symptoms You Shouldnt Ignore?
By Danni Peck
Updated December 19, 2018
When someone says they're feeling lonely, you may feel bad for them, or you may want to say something like "cheer up, emo kid." But the truth is, loneliness can be a serious condition, even leading to early death if not treated. This is because loneliness is, essentially, a form of depression.
For something this serious, it is important to know the signs before the condition gets any worse. After all, is being lonely just being sad? Or is there more to it than that? Read on for a better understanding of how to recognize loneliness so that you can seek help before your condition gets worse.
You Live In The Extreme If You Are Lonely
Do you binge-watch every show you start? Are you constantly going on shopping sprees? Do you nap all the time, only to wake up feeling worse than before you laid down? Or, similarly, do you constantly end up in bed or your pajamas with no intention of sleeping, just to lie there? These activities all serve as mini-addictions that distract us from our feelings of misery. They are also things that we do to fill the void, perhaps even before we even realize we're feeling miserable.
You're Surrounded By "Stuff"
If you find yourself surrounded by "stuff," then you may be attempting to fill the void that loneliness is creating in your life. If you find that you legitimately love your "stuff" the way a grown man "loves" his car, then you may be trying to make up for lack of personal connections by connecting with your "stuff" instead.
Many studies have shown that it is infinitely healthier to spend your money on experiences, rather than "stuff." Take the money that you would have spent on your Funko Pop collection and buy yourself a plane ticket to Hawaii, or another dream destination that you've always wanted to visit. Sure, "stuff" can be nice, but nothing makes up for the sights, smells, and sounds of a location that you will be able to recall in your memories forever.
On a related note, did you know that you can have clutter foods? Oprah.com published an article back in 2008 that dealt with the subject of people stocking up on food for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with food and everything to do with filling a void.
The article refers to one such food as "aspirational food," which is the kind of food you buy when you want to be a different person than you are, and the food ends up sitting in your pantry. For instance, a mother who aspires to make more homecooked meals for her family stocks up on the ingredients to do so, but the ingredients gather dust while they run out for fast food.
Another kind of clutter food is referred to in the article as "entertainment food." These are the food items that you like to have on hand in case someone stops by and you need to entertain your guest. The problem is that you have had the same food in your pantry for years now and have not hosted even one party. Either find a way to host that party already, or toss the food. It's doing no one any good just sitting in the pantry, taking up space and serving as a reminder that no one comes over anymore.
A Warm Beverage And A Hot Shower Sounds Like Heaven
When you're lonely, you may want nothing more than to curl up with hot cocoa or a hot cup of coffee after a nice hot shower. Of course, these things can always be a pleasant kind of getaway, but it is the severity with which you do these things that matter. For instance, people who are suffering from loneliness tend to take longer and hotter showers, and they take more showers and baths than what may be considered the norm.
These things can also be a great way to combat loneliness, so if they make you feel better, then, by all means, do them. But if you find them to be less of a temporary fix and more of a steady crutch, then it's time to attack the cause of the problem and seek treatment for your loneliness.
You're Sick All The Time
Do you find that you are constantly getting sick? Are you always getting over a cold, only to get hit right after with another one? This may be because your stress levels are consistently high with no way to release that stress.
If you are constantly wallowing in your misery with no friends to hang out with, and nothing fun to do, then you stay stressed. And when you remain stressed, it is more difficult for your body to repair itself, leading to lengthier and increased sicknesses.
This is an ironic symptom of loneliness. You would think that surrounding yourself with people makes you more likely to get sick because of all the potential germs you would be encountering. But, as it turns out, humans fundamentally need other humans to have a healthy immune system, so isolating yourself from people makes you sicker than being with a crowd of friends (even if one of them happens to be sick).
Your immune system is stronger when you are happier, and so even if one of your friends is sick, you will be more likely to fight off infection after spending time with that friend.
You've Gained Weight
When some people are miserable, they eat. This is because we often try to fill the voids in our lives with food, which leads to unwanted weight gain. And when we gain weight, we are more at risk of developing a host of mild and potentially serious maladies.
Loneliness can also sap all of our energy and motivation. How often have you thought to yourself, "I should be working out right now, but I'm just going to stay glued to this couch and channel surf instead"?
Sure, socializing may involve going out to eat at places with less healthy food options, but chances are you won't be doing that every day. Plus, having an active social life will keep you in the right frame of mind to stick to your workouts and eat healthily. After all, you want to be as happy and healthy as possible so that you can spend even more time having fun with your friends, right?
You Surround Yourself With Negative People
Did you know that you are more likely to be lonely if lonely people constantly surround you? That's right - you can actually "catch" loneliness. Misery loves company, and you are significantly influenced by the company you keep, so try to spend less time with miserable people and more time with positive people.
If there aren't too many positive people around, go out and find some! Meetup.com is a great way to safely meet up with new people in public places who share similar interests to yours. You never know when you'll make a new friend, especially if you go to more than one meetup.
You're Constantly Checking Social Media
This is a big one. Studies have shown that using social media sites, especially Facebook, increases your levels of misery and loneliness. This is because of the disconnect that using social media creates. You don't have to reach out and talk to any of your friends; you can sit back and ogle their pictures of a life that appears to be more fun and easier than yours. (Pro tip: It's not. People tend to put their highlight reels online and leave the misery and loneliness on the cutting room floor.)
Facebook is another thing that we can become addicted to when we're feeling a lack of social interaction in real life. You may think that having a higher friend count may make you feel better about yourself, but in fact, this may feel worse. This can lead you to form negative thoughts, like "I have so many friends, and not one of them cares enough about me to make time to hang out with me."
The healthiest way to use a social media site is as a tool to proactively get in contact with friends again. You find your friends from high school, and then you set up a time to hang out. If you're using social media passively, then you are setting yourself up for an empty experience devoid of any real connections with the people you care about. It is healthier to pick the phone up to call someone, rather than to simply check Facebook.
Do you often find yourself struggling with symptoms of loneliness? You may want to consider reaching out to one of our licensed counselors, who are ready and waiting to help you and offer you advice on what your next steps should be insofar as treatment is concerned.