This blog post will help us answer the question, “Is loneliness depression?” We will then understand how loneliness differs from depression and what it means to have chronic loneliness. We will see if and how loneliness can lead to depression, and finally, how you can manage loneliness.
Is Loneliness Depression?
No, loneliness is not depression. These are two different psychological concepts, wherein depression might be an underlying problem to loneliness.
Loneliness vs. Depression and How it Matters
Discerning the difference between the two is essential. It is necessary to understand the underlying cause of distress to enable appropriate management of unpleasant feelings. Therefore, we need to differentiate between the two.
It may be challenging to tell one from another, as there are plenty of overlapping emotions. There may be emotions, such as:
- Unexplainable physical problems, such as body pain;
- Doubting your self-concept and self-worth;
- Agitation and irritability;
- A lack of energy;
- Changes in sleep and eating habits;
- Confusion or a lack of mental clarity
Let us see how they differ in some ways, including:
- Disorder or feeling?
- Chronic or acute?
- Does social connection help?
Disorder or feeling?
The most notable difference between the two conditions is that depression is a psychological disorder, whereas loneliness is a feeling that is almost as debilitating as depression.
Chronic or acute?
Depression can become severe and chronic when left untreated. It is more than just a feeling and needs help from a mental health professional.
Loneliness could be an unpleasant feeling, but is ephemeral and is concerned with your need for belongingness and social connection. Upon fulfilling these requirements, loneliness tends to dissipate or fade.
Does social connection help?
When you are depressed, social connections could help for the time being as it distracts you from other unpleasant symptoms. Even if you are around people with whom you are close, your feelings of emptiness, low energy levels, and the inability to connect may linger.
However, in loneliness, having social connections could potentially alleviate the feeling. With that said, sometimes loneliness can be pervasive to the point of chronicity.
What Does it Mean to Have Chronic Loneliness?
Chronic loneliness refers to the loneliness that does not get better for long periods. There are persistent and ongoing feelings of social isolation, an inability to connect with people, and withdrawal. There may also be low self-esteem, a sense of inadequacy, and self-deprecating thoughts.
Even a person seemingly sociable and outgoing may be suffering from chronic loneliness. Such feelings can adversely affect other aspects of daily functioning.
Symptoms of Chronic Loneliness
If you feel several of the following for prolonged periods, consider seeking help from a professional. These feelings could be:
- Unable to establish profound and intimate connections with others. Even when close people surround you, the interactions are superficial, and there is no satisfying and fulfilling sensation derived from these connections;
- Feeling always exhausted and the possible presence of sleep disturbances;
- A lack of social battery to engage in conversations or attend social gatherings;
- Poor eating habits, low immunity, and other bodily issues;
- An overwhelming sense of isolation irrespective of being around people. No matter the place, such as work, social gatherings, and even in public, you feel disconnected, disengaged, and withdrawn from people around you;
- Even when you attempt to engage in connections, you feel it is unrequited, and people do not understand you; and
- An absence of close friends. There are acquaintances and casual associates, but there are no relationships that entail intimacy and deep emotional bonds.
Health Problems Due to Chronic Loneliness
Firstly, chronic loneliness could increase the production of cortisol, a primary stress hormone, which could lead to various issues such as inflammation, resistance to insulin, trouble focusing, and weight gain. If untreated, these issues could increase the risk for graver medical conditions, which are listed below.
Several health problems may result from chronic loneliness, including:
- Substance use;
- Type 2 diabetes;
- Cardiovascular issues;
- Sleep disorders;
- Other mental conditions.
Can Loneliness Lead to Depression?
Yes, loneliness can lead to depression. Depression is a debilitating psychological disorder that is caused by various factors. Loneliness and a sense of social withdrawal or isolation could play an integral role in developing depressive disorders.
However, social withdrawal does not always imply loneliness. Specific individuals living independently and socially active do not report feelings of loneliness. On the contrary, there could be incredibly social people who lead an outgoing life but may feel an intense sense of disengagement, isolation, and overwhelming levels of being alone.
When these feelings are unchecked, they could translate into depression. How is it then that some people are susceptible to developing depression while others are not? What contributes toward loneliness leading to depression? Let us find out.
How Loneliness Becomes Depression
Loneliness becomes depression as a result of self-loathing. You feel your friends do not set out time to be with you, and when they do, they seem uninterested and aloof. When you feel lonely, there is a sense of helplessness. This sense manifests as finding reasons for your loneliness, and self-loathing is the easy way to prove it.
A sense of worthlessness and self-loathing entail unpleasant emotions toward yourself. You tend to be hard on yourself and excessively self-critical. There are beliefs like “I am not worth your time,” “I am so pathetic,” or “Why would you want to date me?”
These thoughts could incessantly run in your mind, and you firmly believe you are not worth any affection and companionship. This thought process could then translate into actions, which reinforce these theories, and you end up stuck in a vicious cycle.
For instance, you may refuse people’s invitations to spend time as you may think, “I do not think they want me there. They may be inviting me out of sheer courtesy.” If you do accept their invitation, you may spend the entire time wondering what they think of you.
All of these beliefs, feelings, and actions contributing toward self-disgust or self-loathe could make you withdraw further. It could make you push away those who genuinely care about you and for whom you care. It causes more distress and reinforces your loneliness, resulting in hopelessness and depression.
How Can You Manage Loneliness?
Here are several things you can do to manage your loneliness. These include:
- Evaluate your current company;
- Practice self-compassion;
- Engage in pleasurable activities; and
- Emotional regulation
Evaluate your current company
If you are surrounded by many friends and you still feel lonely, you may need to re-evaluate your existing circle. Get an insight into the quality of your relationships, how your interactions are, and if these meet your socializing appetite and needs.
Try to develop a more profound and purposeful bond by:
Calling or meeting instead of texting;
Engaging in friendly, kind gestures, such as cooking dinner, getting flowers or chocolates, or even helping them with household chores;
- Talking about concrete things instead of engaging in small talk; and
- Pursuing activities that could enhance your knowledge of each other. Go for sporting activities or a hike, or work on something innovative together.
Everybody is bound to make mistakes and are naturally flawed. Even when people seem to have it all and be composed, they are imperfect in their ways and tend to make blunders. Remind yourself that you are not the only one. It allows you to be kinder and more compassionate toward yourself.
Practice self-affirmations whenever you find yourself being excessively harsh on yourself. The way you view yourself plays an integral role in the kind of people you attract. When you start believing you are worthy of affection and companionship, you begin to look for relationships reinforcing this.
Try to disassociate yourself from your problem and ask yourself how you would respond to someone you love feeling this way. You probably will tell them, or even show them, how amazing they are. Practice the same with yourself and improve your feelings of self-worth and self-acceptance. It could make a world of difference in establishing intimate connections.
Engage in pleasurable activities
Spend your time pursuing activities that bring joy and relaxation to you. Engaging in unsatisfying events could perpetuate your feelings of loneliness. How you spend your time alone has an impact on your outlook concerning being around another person.
Pursuing your interests and hobbies form a crucial component of caring for yourself and gives you the motivation and energy required to engage in purposeful conversations with others. It can also allow you to expand your network and establish new emotional bonds.
It is common for people to loathe themselves and have a sense of hopelessness occasionally. What matters is the response to such emotions.
Some individuals cope with these feelings better than others. Those who reframe their negative beliefs tend to deal better. For example, if a friend does not answer your text or call, instead of thinking, “they do not want to be around me,” try framing it as, “they may be busy and will call me later.”
If you feel people are always expressing a lack of interest in talking to you, describe your feelings in a way that allows them to understand your circumstance. If that does not work, try engaging in productive activities that help distract you from experiencing negative thoughts.
It is good to practice mindfulness to come to terms with your feelings. It allows you to accept these thoughts as they come and let go without any attachment to them.
Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.
This blog post helped us answer the question, “Is loneliness depression?” We then understood how loneliness differs from depression and what it means to have chronic loneliness. We saw how loneliness could lead to depression, and finally, how to manage loneliness.
Frequently Asked Questions: Is Loneliness Depression?
What bodily effect does loneliness entail?
Chronic loneliness could lead to an increase in cortisol, resulting in weight gain, inflammation, resistance to insulin, and difficulty in concentrating.
Is loneliness an emotion?
Yes, loneliness is an emotion that manifests differently in people. Somebody may be surrounded by people yet feel lonely, and there may be a socially withdrawn person who feels lonely. Some feel it all the time, while some feel it occasionally. There can be various environmental and emotional factors contributing to one’s loneliness.
What are the causes of loneliness?
Loneliness may be caused because of abuse or neglect as a child. There may be mental or physical conditions that underlie a person’s loneliness, making them feel discriminated against and socially isolated.
Is it harmful to be alone?
No, it is not harmful to be alone. However, if you are alone too often or socially withdrawn frequently, it could be detrimental to your emotional and physical well-being. Being around people too much could also be detrimental. Ensure you strike a balance between socializing and spending time alone.
How do you prevent loneliness?
Following is a list of ways to prevent loneliness:
Acknowledge your feelings;
Sign up for clubs or classes;
Take small steps in socializing;
Make use of technological advancements to stay connected;
Engage in self-care activities; and
Be compassionate toward yourself and others.
What impact does loneliness have on mental health?
Loneliness is associated with depression and anxiety. Apart from impacting mental health, it also affects cortical regions like the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex in the brain.
Who is a loner?
A loner is somebody who prefers being alone and tends to evade social situations.
Is loneliness common?
Yes, loneliness is common as it afflicts 30% of the adults. Loneliness can have an impact on physical and mental health, and can increase the risk of premature death.
What we recommend for depression
If you are suffering from depression then ongoing professional counselling may be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.