Mind: What is Loneliness?

   Loneliness refers to an overwhelming and profound feeling of being separate from those around us. This feeling has nothing to do with the number of people an individual is surrounded by in their life, but rather with personal expectations and their response to environmental factors.

Contrary to popular belief, people living alone are not always socially isolated and therefore affected by loneliness. An American study into the subject found that although lonely people are more likely to experience health problems including anxiety, depression, crying spells and feelings of worthlessness; it is not associated with living alone. The study found that single people had more friends on average that people who lived with others and were less troubled by headaches, anger and irritability.

The study also found that lonely people responded in one of two ways: “sad passivity” where a person would spend a large part of their time sleeping, eating and crying; in “creative solitude”, the other response, the person overcomes loneliness through reading, listening to music, working on a hobby, studying, writing or playing a musical instrument. An alternative explanation for loneliness is boredom. Those who spend their time alone, creatively, have developed a way of coping with the experience and this enables them to feel calmer, happier and more creative.

The process of moving from dependence on others to independence is a normal part of human development. Throughout life we are also attempting to balance our need for intimacy with an acceptance of aloneness. Regardless of this we all go through periods of difficulty associated with separation from others which may lead us to feel abandoned, unloved, insecure and anxious as part of growing up.

Factors associated with modern lifestyles, working practices and increasing divorce rates have made it easier for people move from place to place and making them more prone to feelings of loneliness.

Common Causes of Loneliness
There are degrees of loneliness and many causes-it is not a physical disease that can be easily diagnosed and treated: it is a state of mind and being. The term “loneliness” encompasses a range of experiences which can be categorised into 3 groups: circumstantial, developmental and internal.

Circumstantial
Any type of change can trigger a feeling of loneliness which can have short term or long term effects upon an individual. For example moving home, job, or changes in relationships such as starting a family, divorce, family breakdown, domestic violence, bereavement, retirement or unemployment, are all considered to be contributory factors. The experience of hopelessness and futility is likely to be compounded if any of the lifestyle experiences referred to above, improved our quality of life, boosted our self esteem and gave us purpose and meaning.

Developmental
Each stage of life we encounter brings with it changes in our inner and outer lives which can be both exciting and anxiety-provoking. Adolescence, young adulthood, thirty-something, mid life, menopause and old age are milestones that often bring with it, feelings of uncertainty, insecurity and vulnerability. Although we may feel lonely as we are presented with life’s challenges and society’s expectations it is important to remember that these are phases that will pass.

Young people may feel lonely when they experience life changing events such as leave school or home, starting university and lose contact with established friendships, girlfriends or boyfriends. As we grow older, we are more likely to encounter being alone with older people in their 60 and 70s being able to make better adjustments to solitude than younger people, possibly because they are more accepting of themselves and who they are.

For older people, retirement, death of a spouse or close friends, can all lead to a sense of overwhelming sadness. In addition, the loss of independence through illness or disability, may contribute to social isolation if they once enjoyed social contact and participated in activities within their local community. People with caring responsibilities such as young children or older adults or disabled family members may also feel lonely.

Internal
Loneliness can also be the experience of people affected by mental illness, not only because of the stigma associated with the condition, but also because of the low self esteem and the sense of rejection they may experience. Social phobia is commonly felt by those suffering from mental illness and this is compounded by feelings of anxiety, worthlessness and guilt which can lead them to cut themselves off from families and friends who may not understand what they are going through.

Being treated as different by others because of our race, lifestyle, beliefs or upbringing can isolate us socially and lead to feelings of alienation. For some people the cause of loneliness may not be easy to identify. It may be a constant experience that appears unrelated life experiences and relationships. This profound loneliness may have its origins in painful experiences which the individual may be trying to forget, but manifest themselves in an enduring sense of loss and sadness. In some cases, this type of loneliness may lead to the individual cutting themselves off for fear of being hurt. In extreme cases, profound loneliness can so overwhelm an individual that it may lead them to have thoughts of suicide.

(source: © hopecalls.org)



Healthy Mind Articles

Alter Your Outlook Alter Your Attitude.

Attitude is the point of view from which we integrate all of our relationships...more

What are Emotions?

Emotions are considered to be complex experiences that affect both mind and body, internal and external aspects of an individual...more

Love.

The Four Loves (C.S. Lewis) uses the Greek language to describe the differences between positive emotions known collectively as "love"...more

What Makes Us Happy?

Happiness defined is the emotional state within ourselves and towards others responsible for giving us positive feelings...more

Hope As A Placebo.

Hope acts a placebo, according to Bernard Seigel, MD. I was intrigued by this statement because it seemed to...more

Is Anger Always Negative?

Our culture and upbringing is likely to influence the way we express our anger...more

What Are coping Mechanisms?

Coping mechanisms are learned patterns of behaviour that we have adopted to enable us to cope...more

Loss of Hope: Dealing with Depression.

When you are depressed, you may have feelings of extreme sadness that can last for a long time...more

In Search of Self Discipline.

Surely lack of self control isn’t completely disastrous? I do believe spontaneity has its place...more

Facing Up To Fear.

Emotions provide important clues as to the state of our inner lives more

What is Stress?

In a ‘normal’ response the physical effects of stress could be lifesaving. This is the ‘flight or fight’...more

What is Loneliness?

Contrary to popular belief, people living alone are not always socially isolated and therefore affected by loneliness...more

Emotional Wellbeing: Mental Health?

However mental health can be described in a variety of different but complementary ways...more

Building Emotional Resilience.

People who are resilient take a realistic and optimistic approach to their circumstances which enable...more

Forgiveness.

The person causing the offence can feel guilt or self- righteousness; whilst the offended party is left to feel hurt, disappointment or anger...more

Prayer: Medicine for the Mind, Body and Spirit.

From the Christian standpoint, the benefits of prayer are beyond question as it causes the insistent and humble petitioner to seek...more