What Are The Signs Of Loneliness And Symptoms You Shouldn't Ignore?
By: Jessica Saxena
Updated August 10, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Juan Angel
Are you constantly surrounded by other people but feel as though no one actually knows you? Do you feel as though you are isolated from others despite there being personal interaction? Do you lack companionship? If so, 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
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 that are seen in individuals who are experiencing loneliness. Some of the symptoms include materialism, a weakened immune system, weight gain, or even a social media addiction. We’ll discuss some of the symptoms in more detail below.
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. So, if you think you may be experiencing loneliness, chances are the person sitting next to you on the train is as well. But both of you are facing a challenge that can be met. All you need are the right tools.
The Signs And Symptoms Of Loneliness
Many of the signs and symptoms of loneliness are normal, and not necessarily a marker signaling a larger problem if they occur every once in a while. However, when they become regular and begin serving as mini-addictions that distract us from our feelings, they turn into a problem. They become the things we do to fill the void, perhaps before we even realize we’re feeling miserable.
You’re Surrounded By Stuff
If you find yourself surrounded by stuff, you may be attempting to fill the void that loneliness is creating in your life. If you find that you legitimately love your possessions the way a grown man loves his car, then you may be trying to make up for a lack of personal connections by connecting with material items instead.
Many studies have shown that it is infinitely healthier to spend your money on experiences rather than stuff. Take the money you would have spent on your widescreen television and buy a plane ticket to Hawaii instead. Sure, stuff can be nice, but nothing makes up for the sights, smells, and sounds of a location 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. For instance, a mother aspires to make more home-cooked 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 guests. The problem is that you’ve had the same food in your pantry for years now and not hosted even one party. Either find a way to host the 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 Sound 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 experience, but it is the severity with which you do them that matter. 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 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 you are constantly getting sick? Are you always getting over a cold, only to get hit right after with another? This may be because your stress levels are consistently high with no way to release that stress.
If you are constantly experiencing feelings of sadness with no friends to hang out with, and nothing fun to do, 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 would 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 to have a healthy immune system, so isolating yourself from people makes you sicker than being with a crowd of friends (even if they happen to be carrying germs).
Your immune system is stronger when you are happier, and 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 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”?
It’s important to not be hard on yourself. You have the power to make your life what you want it to be. We will get into steps you can take to do so later.
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 negative people and more time with those who exert a positive influence.
If there aren’t 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 new friends, 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, such as Facebook, increases your levels of 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. (It’s often not. People tend to put their highlight reels online and leave the loneliness on the cutting room floor.)
Facebook 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, this 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.”
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, 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 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 kick loneliness to the curb.
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 really close, put in some effort to make a friend. Everyone knows that making new friends is easier said than done (especially as adults). Thankfully, there are apps and tips to help you.
Get Comfortable Being In Your Own Company
Being comfortable in your own company can help you not feel as 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 a more meaningful conversation. Engaging in small talk should remain just that, but 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 getting back in touch 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 your mood begin to improve.
Pursue A Hobby
Engaging in a hobby that involves other people, such as a sport or volunteering, helps you find opportunities to meet with and talk to other people who enjoy doing the same thing as you. Doing something you enjoy can increase your feelings of happiness, and your interaction with others can help decrease the feelings of loneliness you are having.
Let BetterHelp 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 the issues that are contributing to your loneliness. They genuinely care about the people they work with, and want to help you achieve the fulfilling life you deserve.
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 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 underlying feelings of loneliness.
When you are combating feelings of loneliness, it can be difficult to even get out of the house, let alone make it into a therapist’s office. Online therapy through BetterHelp removes this obstacle by letting you talk to a licensed, certified counselor in the comfort of your own home. Plus, without pricey offices to rent or similar forms of overhead, online therapy is often a more affordable choice. BetterHelp memberships start at $60 per week, and you can cancel at any time. The licensed counselors are BetterHelp are there for you when you’re feeling alone. Read below for some reviews of counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.
“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 keep me company in a lonely place. I look forward to each of our session, and I’m given weekly takeaways to reflect on that helps tremendously, step by step, week by week. 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!"
When you experience 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. Soon you will find the lonely moments becoming less and less frequent.
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