Loneliness is a feeling disconnected from the world around you or feeling of distress or sadness about being by yourself. It may be felt more over a long period of time. It is also possible to feel lonely, even when surrounded by people. Isolation is being separated from your environment and other people. Sometimes this occurs through decisions we make ourselves, or because of circumstances like doing a job that requires relocation or travel.
Loneliness and isolation
Many people feel lonely at some stage in their lives, even when other people are around. Loneliness and isolation can happen for a number of reasons such as:
- living alone or lack of close family ties
- limited social networks
- losing a loved one or friend
- lack of purpose or meaning in life
- fear of rejection or being bullied
- relocating to work
- going through a divorce or breakup
- existing mental health issues or being introverted so having trouble meeting new people
- inability to participate in activities due to access issues, mobility, illness, transport
- retirement from work, home relocation, starting out in a new role or community
- language or cultural barriers, or reduced connection with your culture of origin.
Loneliness and mental health
Everyone feels lonely from time to time, but long periods of social isolation or loneliness can have a negative impact on your mental, physical and social health. Some signs include:
- physical symptoms — headaches, aches and pains, illness or worsening of medical conditions
- mental health conditions — increased risk of anxiety, depression, paranoia or panic attacks
- diet problems — sudden weight loss or gains, loss of appetite
- low energy — lack of motivation or tiredness
- sleep problems — waking frequently, difficulty getting to sleep or sleeping too much
- substance use — smoking, increased consumption of alcohol, medications or drugs
- negative feelings — feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or thoughts about suicide.
Isolation and loneliness can have a big impact on your life and it is important to get help as loneliness can be overcome. Some helpful suggestions include:
- Connecting with friends and family
Making new friends or reconnecting with old ones, spending time with loved ones or catching up over the phone or via email. Any time spent with others will prevent and reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.
- Leave the house
Being stuck behind four walls isn’t helpful. Pop to the shops to grab some milk and bread, sit on the beach or go for a walk.
Getting out of the house, meeting new people, helping others or learning new skills may all be ways to increase your feelings of being involved.
Joining a gym or simply going for a walk will have a positive impact on your mood in general.
- Where to go to for support?
Isolation and loneliness can become very overwhelming but help is available and it can be overcome. Your doctor can refer you to local health professionals based on your needs or search for local services and centers in your area.