What Are The Signs Of Loneliness? 6 Symptoms You Shouldn't Ignore

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated October 27, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

People can feel lonely for many reasons. Perhaps you’re constantly surrounded by other people but feel as though no one truly knows you. Maybe you feel as though you are isolated from others and need more personal interaction. You may feel you lack companionship. If any of the above are true for you, then you may be experiencing loneliness. Recognizing loneliness is the first step toward overcoming these feelings and moving forward to a more fulfilling life.

How To Tell If You’re Experiencing Loneliness

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Loneliness Can Be A Sign Of Something More

Loneliness can be a serious condition and can even be a form of depression. For something as serious as loneliness, it is important to know the signs before the condition gets any worse. It can come in many shapes and forms, but there are some common symptoms among individuals who are experiencing loneliness. Some of the symptoms can include materialism, a weakened immune system, weight gain, or even a social media addiction. 

Despite it seeming like we are more interconnected with one another (thanks to social media), loneliness has been defined as the epidemic of our time, with more than half of Americans reporting feelings of loneliness. If you think you may be experiencing loneliness, chances are someone you know is as well. This is a challenge that can be overcome, though. All you need are the right tools.

The Signs And Symptoms Of Loneliness

Many of the signs and symptoms of loneliness are normal. If they occur occasionally, they may not be cause for concern. However, when they become the norm, they might be indicative of a larger problem. 

You’re Surrounded By Stuff

If you find yourself surrounded by stuff, you may be attempting to fill the void that loneliness has created in your life. If you find that you’ve formed an unhealthy attachment to your possessions, then it could be that you’re trying to make up for a lack of personal connections by connecting with material items instead.

Many studies have shown that it is healthier to spend your money on experiences rather than stuff. This suggests you’d be better off taking the money you would have spent on your widescreen television and buying a plane ticket to Hawaii instead. Sure, stuff can be nice, but over the long term, it may not be as fulfilling as the sights, smells, and sounds of a location you will be able to recall in your memories forever.

A Warm Beverage And A Hot Shower Sound Like Heaven

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When you’re lonely, you may want nothing more than to curl up with some hot cocoa or a hot cup of coffee after a nice hot shower. Of course, these things can always be a pleasant experience, but it is the intensity with which you do them that matters. For instance, people who are living with loneliness tend to take longer and hotter showers, and they take more showers and baths than what may be considered the norm.

These comforts can be a way to combat loneliness, and there may be no harm in them. But if you find them to be less of a temporary fix and more of a steady crutch, then it could be time to confront the cause of the problem and seek treatment for your loneliness.

You’re Sick All the Time

If you’re experiencing loneliness, you may find that you are constantly getting sick. For example, you may be regularly getting over a cold, only to get hit right after with another illness. This may be because your stress levels are consistently high with no way to release that stress.

If you are experiencing persistent feelings of sadness and you lack or don’t utilize healthy outlets for these negative feelings, then you may stay stressed. And when you remain stressed, it is more difficult for your body to repair itself, leading to lengthier and increased illnesses.

This is an ironic symptom of loneliness. You might think that surrounding yourself with people makes you more likely to get sick because of all the potential germs you’d be encountering. But as it turns out, humans fundamentally need other humans around them to maintain a healthy immune system. Isolating yourself from people could make you sicker than being with a crowd of friends, even if they happen to be carrying germs.

Your immune system may be stronger when you are happier too, so even if one of your friends is sick, you may be more likely to fight off infection after spending time with that friend.

You’ve Gained Weight

Loneliness can sap our energy and motivation. When you’re lonely, you may think to yourself, “I should be working out right now, but I’m just going to stay glued to this couch and channel surf instead.”

If you have gained an unhealthy amount of weight, it could be important to recognize the problem while not being too hard on yourself. Recognizing loneliness as the potential source of the problem may be the first step in solving it. 

You Surround Yourself With Negative People

Not surprisingly, you are more likely to be lonely if lonely people constantly surround you. In this way, you might say that loneliness is contagious. Misery loves company, and we can all be influenced by the company we keep. Thus, you may want to try to spend less time with negative people and more time with those who exert a positive influence.

If there aren’t many positive people around, you may want to go out and find some. You never know when you’ll make new friends, especially if you go to more than one meetup.

You’re Constantly Checking Social Media

Studies have shown that using social media sites such as Facebook, for example, increases your levels of loneliness. This is because of the disconnect that using social media creates. With social media, we no longer have to reach out and talk to our friends. Instead, we can sit back and scroll through their pictures and posts without genuinely connecting with them. 

Social media is another thing 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, it may make you 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.”

Perhaps the healthiest way to use a social media site is as a tool to proactively get in contact with friends again. You can find your friends from high school or college, for example, and then set up a time to hang out. If you’re using social media passively, you may be setting yourself up for an empty experience devoid of any real connections with the people you care about. It could be healthier to pick up the phone to call someone, rather than to simply check Facebook.

Ways To Combat Loneliness

The feelings of loneliness that you are experiencing don’t have to stick around. Here are some things you can do to start feeling better and more connected.

Focus On Your Friendships

Working to improve the friendships you already have can improve the way you feel and battle the symptoms of your loneliness. Friendships are work, so even if you aren’t close, put in some effort to form a bond. 

Get Comfortable Being In Your Own Company

Being comfortable in your own company can help you feel less lonely. You can work on your comfort level by meditating, doing things on your own (like going to the movies), keeping a gratitude journal, etc.

Practice Small Talk

Take opportunities to make your everyday interactions more friendly and inviting. This can help lead to more meaningful conversation. Small talk can be used in many different situations, from picking up the dry cleaning to getting your cup of coffee in the morning.

Get In Touch With Your Family

Sometimes, simply reconnecting with your family can help relieve symptoms of loneliness. Set up a weekly call with your sister, email your cousin, write a letter to a grandparent, and see if your mood begins to improve.

Pursue A Hobby

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Loneliness Can Be A Sign Of Something More

Engaging in a hobby that involves other people such as a sport or volunteering, for instance, can help you find opportunities to meet with and talk to other people who enjoy doing the same things as you. Doing something you enjoy can increase your feelings of happiness, and the interaction with others can help decrease feelings of loneliness.

Let Online Therapy Support You

Loneliness is often caused by underlying factors. Talking to a professional can help you identify and explore what is causing your loneliness and help you work towards resolving these issues.  Somewhat paradoxically, feelings of loneliness can cause people to further isolate themselves. You may not feel like going out in public or commuting to a therapist’s office, for example. In this case, online therapy could present a better alternative. With internet-based counseling, you can talk to a mental health professional from the comfort of your home. It’s also more convenient than traditional therapy since appointments are available outside of normal business hours. 

There is an increasingly large body of research pointing to online therapy as an effective way of managing complicated emotions such as loneliness that may arise out of mental health issues. In a study published in Behavior Therapy, a peer-reviewed journal, researchers found that online cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) reduced feelings of loneliness in participants. The results showed that online therapy not only decreased loneliness, but also increased overall quality of life and reduced symptoms of social anxiety and depression. Cognitive-behavioral therapy works by helping individuals understand and reframe negative, intrusive thoughts that may be contributing to underlying feelings of loneliness.

Takeaway

When you’re experiencing feelings of loneliness, you may feel isolated and unable to cope, but these feelings don’t have to last. There are things you can do to start feeling better. If online therapy is of interest to you, answer a few questions to get started with online therapy from BetterHelp.

Read below for some reviews of counselors from people experiencing similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

“Shelley is very accommodating, gentle and encouraging. No matter what place I was in, she tries to make me comfortable exactly where that is. She is the comforting soul that keeps me company in a lonely place. Learning to love yourself, learning to love your time spent, these are not always the easiest thing to do, but it’s a lifelong process. Shelley is the perfect guide.”

"Carisa is so kind and caring. She helps me realize things about myself and supports me completely. I’m so glad I found her. She helps me feel not so alone, like I matter and deserve the best. I would recommend her to anyone grieving or struggling; she is a light in the darkness!"

You're not alone with your loneliness

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