At one time or another in our lives, we will all experience short bursts of loneliness, but they are only brief and soon corrected. However, when feelings of loneliness, and isolation, worsen and are prolonged this can become a chronic mental health problem causing issues for the person suffering and those around them. There are certain signs and symptoms that you can look out for and help to battle chronic loneliness.
What Is Chronic Loneliness?
One common description of loneliness is the feeling we get when our human need for social contact and relationships is not fulfilled. But a common misconception is that loneliness is the same as being alone. You may choose to be alone and live quite happily without much contact with other people, but other people may find this a lonely experience.
You may choose to have lots of social contact or be in a relationship or part of a family, and still feel lonely. This can occur particularly if you don’t feel understood or cared for by the people around you.
Chronic loneliness comes when feelings of loneliness and social isolation go on for a long period of time. It is diagnosed as an inability to connect with people on a deeper level and constant continuing feelings of being alone. Loneliness is associated with an increased risk of certain mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, sleep problems and increased stress. Chronic loneliness can affect all areas of your life if it is not addressed. (myths about social anxiety)
What Are The Signs?
Inability to connect with others.
Maybe you have friends and family in your life, but engagement with them is only at surface level. Your interaction doesn’t feel connected in a way that is fulfilling and you struggle to make and maintain relationships.
No close or “best” friends.
You do have friends, but they are only casual friends or more acquaintances. Maybe you feel that they don’t fully understand you and who you are.
An overwhelming feeling of isolation
You feel this regardless of where you are and who’s around. You could be in a room full of people but yet you feel isolated, or at work, you have lots of colleagues but you feel alienated still. It is a feeling like being in your own bubble that can not be broken.
Negative feelings of self-doubt and self-worth.
A constant feeling that you are never enough, and that you don’t deserve good things to happen to you. We all will experience these in short bursts during our lives, but if they are long term and ongoing then they are signs of chronic loneliness.
Exhaustion and burnout
These can be caused by work stress also, but when referring to chronic loneliness it is feeling exhausted from trying to engage socially. If you’re suffering from chronic loneliness, trying to engage and be social with others can leave you feeling exhausted. If these feelings of exhaustion continue it can lead to other issues like sleep problems, a weakened immune system and poor diet.
What Are Tips For Dealing With Chronic Loneliness?
Take it slow
If you have been feeling this way for a long time then it can be terrifying to think of trying to engage back with other people. Maybe you could join an online class that doesn’t involve face to face interactions or visit a group but ask the leader if you can watch first without joining in.
Try to open up
Talking to friends and family about how you are feeling is one of the best therapies. Although a sign of chronic loneliness can be that you feel disconnected from others, your family and friends do care and are there to help you.
Look after yourself
Try to get enough sleep as lack of sleep then brings with it more issues with how you are feeling. Think carefully about your diet as this will keep your blood sugar levels stable as this can affect your mood. Doing physical activity is a good way to keep your mood elevated as it will release endorphins and serotonin, which are good brain hormones.
Spend time with animals
It is well known that animals are great companions for loneliness and can be good therapy for people suffering from lots of different illnesses. It doesn’t need to be a pet of your own but it could be animals in nature.
Seek medical help
If you are dealing with long term loneliness, the kind that doesn’t go away, talk to your doctor or another health care provider so they can help. Chronic loneliness is not just about feeling alone; if left unchecked it can put you at risk for serious physical and emotional issues.
All clinicians at Oxford CBT are qualified in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, some are also Psychologists. Offering evidence-based interventions and support for a range of issues for both young people and adults. If you would like to book an appointment you can do so on our online booking portal. If you have a question please get in touch via our online contact form or call us on 01865 920077.