What is loneliness?
Loneliness – “the sense of isolation, accompanied by the feeling of alienation. Feeling unknown, let down, disappointed, deprived from what others are experiencing.” (1)
Is it a mental health issue?
The topic of ‘loneliness’ has been increasingly talked about in recent years as it has steered away from elderly people now to millennials. As young people use social media more than ever and experience the pressures that come from it, they have in turn decreased their physical interactions and directed their efforts to their screens. Loneliness is not a mental health ‘illness’ per se but it is directly linked to different mental issues and illnesses.(2) Loneliness is more of a cause than a symptom in commonly known illnesses. When you’re diagnosed with a mental illness or have the symptoms, it can increase your chance of feeling isolated, therefore exasperating your illness, so you’re basically in a constant downward spiral.
From Alone to Lonely
Growing up I very often felt ALONE but not always LONELY. From school through to university I had friends I could call on, events to attend (sometimes) and things to do. But when I began Law school that was when I experienced a level of loneliness like never before. Going to the gym and working in retail then attending class or going to the library daily for almost 18 months straight was a routine that was too constant and stiff from what I was used to. I’d often go days and sometimes weeks without talking or seeing anyone I knew personally. I was often too broke to go on nights out but in the midst of that I rarely had any invitations to go out. This led to long periods of loneliness and isolation, where it’s just you and your thoughts alone. The mind itself is powerful and in those moments you’d begin to think unimaginable things. Feelings of not believing you have any friends, insecurities developing and anxiety and sadness brewing. During that long period I felt like a lifeless shell roaming the streets (and the library).
So what does one do when they realise that they are in a period of loneliness and want to step out of it. Below are examples of changes that I implemented to get me into the much better position I’m in today:
1. Go To Where You’re Accepted
Give yourself the chance to connect with people. You want to be around people who accept you for you, who want to spend time with you and see the best in you. So don’t be in places or with people where you don’t feel comfortable or can’t be your genuine self but go to where you’re accepted. Those exact people may not be your best friend of 15 years but they may be a newly established friend from university or a colleague. Be open to friendships and to someone different.
2. Make Space For The New
Sometimes loneliness is brought on because YOU haven’t done the work needed to be in the presence of others. When you struggle with mental health issues you tend to feel isolated and alone and sometimes force that isolation on yourself. Withdrawing from friends and not letting them know what you’re going through will not benefit anyone. Speak to someone you trust and express how you feel, they could be the helping hand you need.
On the other hand, telling those around you what you’re feeling may do nothing at all (I’ve personally experienced that) and you definitely don’t want to face things on your own, so establish new circles to accommodate that. It could be in the form of support groups, people you know from social media or start a new hobby being around likeminded people. Some of the closest friends I have formed in recent years have been outside of the conventional places, i.e school and university. We have a shared understanding of who we are now and where we want to be. Social anxiety may be crippling you from doing this so start small. From one person to two to a small event or group. Before you know it you’ll be the social butterfly you’ve always wanted to be. According to reports, more than half of UK adults feel it’s been a long time since they made a new friend. Its 2018, we are not forced to establish friends the traditional way. Do something different.
3. You’re Not Alone
I repeat this almost every post YOU ARE NOT ALONE! There are so many people who also feel isolated and lonely, so much so that it was reported that almost 10% of people aged 16 to 24 were “always or often” lonely. (3) MP Tracey Crouch has recently been appointed to head a government-wide group with responsibility for policies connected to loneliness, so it’s clearly a real issue. Reach out for help and if you feel you need to get in touch with someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time and they may be dealing with bouts of loneliness send them a message, you don’t know who you might be helping step out of their loneliness.
Loneliness isn’t good for our physical or mental health so you want to ensure that you take the steps you need to benefit your wellbeing and future. Reach out to someone and connect for the help you need.
Comment below your personal experiences and how you’ve dealt with it.
(1) Guardian Opinon: Loneliness can’t be ‘cured’. We must learn to find value in solitude – Frank Furedi (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/apr/25/loneliness-cured-value-solitude-medicalising-epidemic)
(2) Psychology Today: 4 Disorders May Thrive Loneliness (https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-art-closeness/201507/4-disorders-may-thrive-loneliness)
(3) BBC: Loneliness more likely to affect young people (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-43711606)