Tag: Loneliness

Identifying and fighting loneliness

Identifying And Fighting Loneliness

Loneliness is something that many people feel, but few can define. We all have a need to connect with others, and when it feels as if we’re not connecting in a meaningful way, loneliness can set in.

How do we identify loneliness? How do we fight it and replace it with feelings that fill us up, not hold us back? This article provides some ideas on what to do when you’re feeling burdened by loneliness.

Is Loneliness A Problem?

We all feel loneliness from time to time. It’s part of the human experience.

When we’re missing a friend or relative, or when we’re feeling isolated and uncomfortable with that sense of isolation, it’s not unusual to feel lonely.

Loneliness is not an issue when it’s a temporary feeling that eventually passes, giving way to more satisfying feelings of fulfillment, engagement, and being present.

But when loneliness becomes a prevalent, ongoing experience in your life, it can lead to other problems, including the following:

  • A state of anxiety or stress
  • Deep sadness or depression
  • Feelings of low self-worth
  • Substance abuse to try to fill a void
  • A range of possible mental health issues, including paranoia
  • Physical health conditions, including symptoms of pain or illness
  • Issues with sleep patterns or eating disorders
  • Retreating from the world
  • Risky or dangerous behavior

Identifying Pervasive Loneliness

It’s not always about being alone or missing someone.

Many people feel perfectly content being alone. They enjoy the solitude, even thrive in it. Time spent alone can be very rewarding, relaxing, and rejuvenating.

Loneliness is not always associated with wanting to be with a specific person. For many individuals, the sense of missing somebody can easily be alleviated by sending that person a text, email, or card, or picking up the phone and calling to say hello.

Pervasive loneliness is about feeling distressed or uncomfortable as a result of a perceived gap between our desire for social connection and the way we actually experience these connections.

In other words, loneliness is found in our perception of lack. That sense of lack can lead to emotional, mental, and even physical pain. Something feels missing, and we don’t always know what it is or how to fill that gap.

Feeling lonely even when surrounded by others

Feeling Lonely Even When Surrounded By Others

The “cure” to loneliness isn’t always about surrounding yourself with many people. You can be immersed in a large group and still feel a deep sense of loneliness.

You can be in a long-term, satisfying relationship and feel loneliness. You can be at a social gathering where people are talking to you and everyone seems to be having fun, but you feel a deep sense of loneliness. You may be surrounded by caring, thoughtful people at work, school, or home, and struggle with loneliness regardless.

So it’s not about whether or not you’re around other people. It’s more about your perceived connection to others and the way you measure the quality of your interactions.

The UCLA Loneliness Scale

Since loneliness can be described in different ways by different people, it sometimes helps to identify it through a scale that considers subjective feelings of loneliness.

The UCLA Loneliness Scale is an attempt to measure loneliness to better identify it. It is only one of many tools used to identify loneliness, but it serves as a helpful one for many people.

The scale asks individuals how frequently they experience certain conditions, whether never, rarely, sometimes, or often. The resulting score provides an indication as to the likelihood that the individual is experiencing pervasive loneliness.

People gauging their level of loneliness through this scale respond to statements such as these:

  • I lack companionship
  • People are around me but not with me
  • There are people I feel close to
  • I am unhappy being so withdrawn

The questions are mixed, with some pointing to possible loneliness and others pointing to a level of satisfaction with current social interactions. It is not one-sided, as it tries to gain a clear picture of the depth and breadth of a person’s sense of loneliness.

The effect of loneliness in mental health

Loneliness And Mental Health

One thing that health specialists do know is that an ongoing, persistent state of feeling lonely can lead to, or contribute to, mental health issues.

For example, a study on loneliness published in the Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research in 2014 notes a relationship between loneliness and psychiatric disorders. Some of the study’s findings include:

  • Loneliness can lead to a number of disorders, including depression, alcohol abuse, and personality disorders, among others
  • Left untended, loneliness can seriously impact people’s mental and physical wellbeing
  • Situational loneliness can stem from environmental factors, interpersonal conflicts, abrupt changes, tragedies, and a wide range of situational scenarios
  • Developmental loneliness comes from feelings of personal inadequacies, as well as physical and physiological conditions
  • Internal loneliness comes from mental distress, feelings of guilt or isolation, lack of resilience, low self-esteem, and similar factors
  • Intervention to address and prevent loneliness is important
  • Loneliness and depression share some common symptoms, including pain and a sense of helplessness

Because long-term, significant loneliness can impair a person’s mental outlook, it’s important to seek out help to avoid developing mental health issues.

Loneliness Is Found In All Demographics

People of all ages battle with loneliness. From children and teens to the elderly, and every stage in between, many people can, and do, experience chronic loneliness, with symptoms such as these:

  • Difficulty connecting with others on a deeper emotional level
  • Lack of fulfillment when interacting with people
  • Not feeling close to anyone
  • Feeling that there’s nobody around who “gets” you
  • A sense of isolation and disengagement even in the presence of groups of people
  • Experiencing self-doubt and similar negative feelings
  • Feeling exhausted when trying to engage with others socially

Loneliness affects people of all backgrounds, regardless of race, culture, gender, or belief system. You can feel extremely lonely whether you’re rich, poor, or somewhere in the middle-class socio-economic range.

Chronic loneliness can affect introverts and extroverts alike. Any personality type can experience a pervasive sense of loneliness.

Loneliness Is A Condition Of Perception

In a significant way, the condition of loneliness correlates to an individual’s perception of it. But just because it’s subjective doesn’t make it any less real.

Your day-to-day reality is shaped, in large part, by how you perceive your world. If your perception is that you’re feeling left out by people you know casually or closely, that there is nobody you can turn to for meaningful conversation or companionship, or you’re simply not in tune with the people around you, then that perception is your reality, regardless of what others may observe.

For some individuals, it helps to know that they are not alone, and that many others battle with similar symptoms and effects of loneliness.

Once you realize that loneliness can affect anyone, and that many people around the world experience this condition, perhaps you can find some relief. You are not alone, and there are steps you can take to fight loneliness and feel better.

Ways You Can Fight Loneliness And Thrive

If you’ve identified that you are experiencing a prevalent, ongoing sense of loneliness, there are things you can do to lessen the associated burden and start experiencing a greater sense of fulfillment, along with more satisfaction with your social interactions.

These are just some of the many ways you can tackle loneliness and start to thrive.

Override Any Negativity Bias

Evidence points to lonely people interpreting social interactions through a more negative filter. For example, when a lonely person feels rejected, it may instead simply be a classic case of misunderstandings (perhaps the other person is feeling under the weather or is distracted by their own issues). When seeking out companionship, learn to override your negativity biases.

Do What You Enjoy  

Engaging in activities that you enjoy can help you feel good about yourself, and these elevated feelings of contentment and enjoyment can significantly decrease your feelings of loneliness. Whether you like to garden, paint, read, listen to music, swim, ride your bike, watch movies, cook, or participate in any activity that makes you happy, dive into it and lose yourself in the joy of it.

Interact With People In Healthy Ways

Try to limit interactions with people who are critical, negative, or harsh. Find safe ways to engage with others, such as through volunteering, joining book clubs, working with people for a common cause, or joining a professional or hobby group aligned with your interests.

Get The Support You Need

Support can come in many forms. It may involve seeking out a therapist for help. It could also mean talking with your primary care physician. You may discover that joining a support group where you can open up about your loneliness can bring you a sense of meaningful connection that you seek.

Help Is Available

Most importantly, know that help is always available. You don’t have to keep struggling with feelings of chronic loneliness on your own. Whether by addressing the underlying causes of the loneliness you’re experiencing, or by developing a plan to help you emerge from loneliness into a more fulfilling life, a qualified counselor, therapist, or wellness coach can help you.

The compassionate, professional team at Tikvah Lake Recovery Center can assist you to overcome loneliness and enjoy a better life. To get started, contact us for a confidential consultation.

How to beat loneliness and isolation

How to beat loneliness and isolation

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…” are some famous words written by poet John Donne in the 17th Century.

They hold as true today as they did then – and of course by “man” he meant all people. It brilliantly expresses the knowing that human beings never do well when too isolated from other people.

We are created as social beings. So we need to be part of a community to grow and thrive.

Almost certainly in the past year since the COVID-19 pandemic led to enforced restrictions and stay-at-home orders, loneliness and isolation has affected more people than it ever has.

Connected yet disconnected

This comes at a time when although we are more connected than ever and there are more people on the planet, we are much less connected in a real sense than ever before in history.

Although social media stops many people from feeling lonely, for many others it also increases a sense of being alone. For instance, we can look at all our friends on Facebook for weeks – but it never has as much real meaning as a hug.

As author Matt Haig wrote in his bestselling book Notes On A Nervous Planet: “The paradox of modern life is this: we have never been more connected, and we have never been more alone.”

He wrote in another of his books, How To Stop Time, about the sort of loneliness we mean here. “It made me lonely. And when I say lonely, I mean the kind of loneliness that howls through you like a desert wind.”

It’s the sort of loneliness and isolation that’s emotionally damaging.

So this is the kind of loneliness that makes someone suffering from it feel extremely disconnected. They feel different from the rest of the human race.

They feel alone in a crowded room. Although this past year of course means not many of us have been part of a crowd – and that’s undoubtedly increased the problem.

Do mental health problems cause isolation?

Naturally, it’s healthy for us to be on our own from time to time. Indeed, it’s actually been shown to be beneficial to our mental health to spend 30 minutes meditating every morning.

As well, to spend some time during every day relaxing to contemplate the day. But the feeling of loneliness that seems to have us drowning in it is of course not beneficial.

Loneliness and isolation is frequently an aspect of addiction. This can be a feeling that is there before the addiction even gets hold.

But it can also be as a consequence of being an addict. For instance, someone who drinks alcoholically might find that they end up alone because of their behavior when drunk or from being hungover and irritable every day.

Someone addicted to cigarettes might become isolated as they spend all their spare money on cigarettes. They might also neglect their personal hygiene and so visiting their home – as well as invitations to meet with others – can dry up due to their reeking of nicotine.

Addicts often self-isolate as their addiction takes hold. One reason for this is that they don’t want anyone telling them to quit what is clearly so damaging to them.

Then someone who’s depressed or has an anxiety disorder might feel so low and mentally unwell they think no one could possibly want to be around them. So their self-sabotaging thoughts cause them to isolate.

Sometimes those thoughts find someone guilty of doing something or living in a certain way they don’t like and certainly don’t understand. So they give themselves a guilty sentence – and one of the harshest punishments for people found guilty is to be imprisoned in isolation.

Someone who’s struggling with a mental health problem can give themselves this verdict.

Disconnection is a huge part of many mental health problems. People feel as if they are the only one who’s suffering as they are – or who ever has suffered that way.

It’s never true. But it can seem as if it is.

Trauma and toxic shame

If someone is suffering from trauma or toxic shame, this can cause an immense sense of loneliness. An example of this is if someone has been abused in some way as a child, then they will most often carry an overwhelming amount of shame about it.

It was not their fault of course in any way. But this doesn’t stop them from carrying the shame about what happened.

Toxic shame is when a person carries shame that doesn’t belong to them. This type of agonizing internal feeling shapes many people’s lives.

Many people carrying toxic shame like this will turn to alcohol or drugs or a behavioral addiction. This is in an attempt to stop the overwhelming negative feelings that are tormenting them.

“I used to drink to solve the problems caused by drinking,” wrote counselor John Bradshaw (1933-2016), author of one of the world’s recovery bestsellers Healing The Shame That Binds You. “The more I drank to relieve my shame-based loneliness and hurt, the more I felt ashamed.”

A normal sense of feeling lonely or isolated can be resolved by mixing with other people. This could be social media for some people, while for others it might mean playing a sport, shopping or going to a bar or party.

This has clearly been difficult for many people during the past year due to worldwide lockdowns. In these cases though, even a telephone call – especially perhaps a video call – can help. 

But for those people already feeling alone and isolated due to a mental health condition it’s much harder. Even when socializing was normal they would still have that sense of aloneness – and it can be quite terrifying.

What is the best solution for loneliness and feeling isolated?

One-on-one talking therapy is the most successful solution for people suffering from this sort of loneliness. They will need to find what it is that is behind their sense of aloneness.

Although understandably difficult, talking about it with a therapist or coach who understands is the way to progress. They will help them realize things that have happened in the past are not their fault – it’s not their shame to carry.

There are ways of making amends if that is also part of someone’s feeling of isolation. Perhaps it is something caused by some of their behaviors while trying to deal with their past and a mental health issue.

As part of our successful 30-90 Day Personalized Treatment Program we can introduce our guests to the Twelve Steps recovery program. These have helped millions of people around the world since they were started in America in the 1930s.

This is not just for people with alcohol addiction or other addictions. Many people who suffered from a terrible sense of loneliness and isolation have found the spiritual aspect of the Twelve Steps has helped them to overcome it.

If loneliness or isolation is something that you are experiencing, you can be sure of a warm and understanding welcome here. We think of all of our guests as part of the family. 

We’re in the ideal natural setting to help with wellbeing and relaxation. Our luxury mansion by our tranquil beautiful lake is made with the absolute comfort of our guests in mind.

Our experienced Tikvah Lake team offers proven treatments that can help anyone with all types of mental health issues. This always includes regular one-to-one talking therapy sessions.

Please get in touch with us today to discover how we can help you.

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