Do you feel a little “blah” these days because of loneliness and depression?
You haven’t got much to do, and you have no one to do it with either. When you find yourself alone at home, gloominess adds to your boredom and adds to your misery.
The feeling of sadness that comes with not being able to spend time with others is entirely natural.
Socializing with others is more than just a fun pastime. Being social is vital to your mental and physical health. Social interaction is crucial to human health, and we need it to survive.
Stress hormone cortisol is released by your body when you are lonely, increasing the levels of cortisol. The effects can negatively affect your immune system and put you at risk for a number of health problems, such as:
- Sleep issues
- Heart problems
Mental health can also be affected by prolonged loneliness. To start with, it can exacerbate any existing symptoms that you have. However, it can also contribute to serious mental illnesses, such as depression.
Am I lonely or depressed — and does it even matter?
An important first step in managing unwanted feelings is to pinpoint the cause of the distress. So the short answer is yes: It does matter whether you suffer from loneliness or depression.
It’s not always easy to distinguish between loneliness and depression, which are frequently accompanied by similar feelings.
Here are some things you may notice:
- Restlessness and irritability
- Mental fogginess
- Low energy
- Changes in appetite
- Aches and pains
The main difference
The most profound difference between loneliness and depression is that depression is an illness of the mind, while loneliness is a feeling that weighs you down much like depression often does.
You may not want to feel lonely, but loneliness is a temporary emotional state relating to your desire for belonging and connection. When you fulfill those needs, you’ll likely have a diminished sense of loneliness.
However, depression doesn’t simply stem from the need for connection. The symptoms of depression can linger for years without proper treatment from a mental health professional.
Moreover, social interaction might temporarily distract someone suffering from depression, but it doesn’t necessarily help in the long run. It’s possible to feel listless, empty, and unable to engage with loved ones, even when spending time with them.
Are there any other important differences? It can be difficult to approach others when you’re depressed, inhibiting your interest in social interaction. Maybe you feel unworthy, guilty, or you think other people don’t want to spend time with you.
Furthermore, some people find that it drains them, leaving them unable to connect.
Can loneliness eventually become depression?
There are several factors that can contribute to the development of depression, which is a complex mental health condition. Still, those who feel socially isolated or dissatisfied with their relationships may find it difficult to move out.
Even so, social isolation isn’t always synonymous with loneliness.
There are some people who don’t feel lonely if they live alone and see no one regularly. Many people may spend a lot of time with people and still feel significantly alone. Left unresolved, these feelings of loneliness can trigger depression and other mental health problems.
Nevertheless, not everyone who feels lonely develops depression. What gives? How come loneliness only causes depression at times?
The role of self-image
A study of loneliness and depression from 2018 suggests a link between self-disgust and loneliness. How can that happen?
You don’t get to hang out with your friends much lately or they seem uninterested when you do. Self-disgust emerges to provide a convenient scapegoat as you feel lonely and vulnerable.
When you feel self-disgust – which often falls under the umbrella of low self-worth – you may have negative feelings or judgments towards yourself or towards your actions. When thinking about this, one might ask, “Why would anybody want to date me?”? “I look so bad,” or, “I haven’t changed my clothes for three days… that’s disgusting.”
It is possible to act in a way that reinforces your belief that you don’t deserve love or friendship if you obsess over these feelings.
When you do see others, you might constantly worry about how they really feel toward you, so you turn down invitations, stating, “They don’t really want me.” In fact, you might even turn down invitations for this reason.
If you feel isolated and miserable, even around people you love, your interactions with them can be greatly diminished. This results in a vicious circle of distress that compounds loneliness. If you continue to feel hopeless, you may conclude there is nothing you can do.
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Coping with loneliness
Initially, you might think that you simply need more friends and to get out more often is the best option.
This is certainly true, but it also increases your chances for meaningful relationships. Don’t let alone make you feel lonely.
Finding the underlying causes of loneliness is usually the key to addressing loneliness effectively. You’ll then be able to develop meaningful connections by learning what’s missing in your relationships.
Examine your existing relationships
There is a possibility of feeling lonely in a crowd. Those who feel lonely despite having many close friends might want to consider the quality of their interactions.
How do you spend your time with others? Social needs will likely not be met if you merely exist together without connecting.
Try creating a more meaningful connection instead of simply watching TV or looking at your phones while sitting in the same room:
- Discuss current events or another topic that you both care about.
- Try calling or visiting instead of just texting.
- Get to know each other better by getting involved in activities. Get out in nature, start a project together, or participate in a sport.
- Be kind to others. Send flowers to someone you love, pick up your neighbor’s trash, or cook dinner for someone who is having a bad day.
Do things you enjoy
Boredom and unhappiness can result from wasting time on unfulfilling activities. It may not be that these feelings directly cause loneliness, but they can certainly contribute to dissatisfaction with life, which can undermine your ability to enjoy socializing with others.
You can respect your self-esteem by dedicating your free time to activities you enjoy.
Hobbies improve your outlook and allow you to express yourself more freely. They are also an important part of self-care. You can also make more lasting relationships through your hobbies by connecting with others who share your interests.
Show yourself compassion and kindness
It is okay to make mistakes. We all make mistakes. Even those people who seem to have everything under control.
Being reminded of these facts can help you to be kinder to yourself instead of disgusted with yourself. If you replace negative self-talk with positive self-talk, you’ll be more likely to believe you deserve love and friendship and will actively seek these things out.
Consider how you might respond to a friend who is harshly judging themselves if you struggle with self-compassion. Wouldn’t you encourage them to focus on their strengths and good qualities?
Feeling more confident and worthy of respect can lead to more meaningful relationships. Try affirming yourself the same way to boost your self-esteem.
Manage your emotions
From time to time, it is totally normal to feel disgusted with ourselves, hopeless, and other negative feelings. However, how you handle those feelings is crucial.
Researchers who have explored loneliness and depression have suggested that rephrasing (rerouting) unwanted thoughts may be helpful in reducing their impact and preventing the negative thought cycles that often trigger depression symptoms.
Consider saying, “They don’t want to talk to me, so I’ll try again later.” when your friend doesn’t pick up the phone.
Feeling unwanted might develop if no one is available. In any case, try to distract yourself by thinking about other things or doing activities that make you happy instead of allowing these thoughts to control you.
Being mindful of distressing thoughts can also help. Mindfulness encourages acceptance of these thoughts and then letting them go without letting them affect how you see yourself.
Reaching out (and when)
The effects of loneliness can also be serious, despite the more immediate threat of depression. There are risks associated with both of these issues, both for physical and mental health concerns as well as thoughts of suicide.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, seek professional advice.
- They don’t improve within a week or two
- If you try to handle them alone, they persist
- It interferes with your daily life
- It interferes with your relationships
- Makes you feel worthless or hopeless
Psychotherapy offers a safe space for understanding your symptoms, getting to the source, and identifying potential causes. It also offers guidance and support for successful coping strategies, such as coping with emotions.
The bottom line
Lack of social connections can make you feel a little down. However, improving the quality of your relationships will help prevent future loneliness and distress and will offer some protection from depression as well.
There is no need to deal with anything on your own. It can be helpful to talk to loved ones about your feelings.