What is loneliness and isolation?
Loneliness is an inner feeling of being completely on your own, even when surrounded by people you know. It’s a sense of perhaps not being able to connect with others, and of sometimes feeling cut off from the world. Isolation comes from being separated from friends and family, possibly because of where you live, or perhaps because of bereavement or being estranged from loved ones.
Feeling lonely and isolated may feel even worse as we head into the festive season, where there can be more pressure to engage in social occasions.
What are the symptoms of loneliness and isolation?
- Keeping thoughts and feelings to yourself – not feeling able to share them with anyone else.
- Finding it difficult to find the energy and motivation to celebrate and get involved in social situations, especially over the festive season.
- Struggling when you do feel able to attend social situations, and fearful that what you have to say won’t be interesting or engaging enough.
- Putting on a brave face while inside you’re feeling sad and empty, as though no one cares enough to see how you’re really feeling.
- Lacking in confidence.
- Possibly experiencing symptoms of depression, including low mood, low self-esteem, low energy, and feelings of worthlessness.
- Feeling caught in a cycle that it’s difficult to get out of.
- Pessimistic about current and future relationships.
- Life can start to feel pointless.
What are the triggers for loneliness and isolation?
- Being in a place with no family and friends to support you.
- Loss of friends or family members through bereavement or because you’ve fallen out.
- You may have split up from a partner, and don’t have the strength to connect with people again.
- Shyness or social anxiety, where you feel self-conscious being around others and so choose your own company instead.
- Early life issues, such as abuse or inconsistent/inadequate parenting, leaving you unable to have a healthy attachment with others.
- Low self-esteem and poor self-image.
- Being unemployed, and possibly questioning your value in the world.
- The stress of work or caring for others may leave you feeling depleted and lacking energy to engage with people.
- You may have been bullied for how you look, speak or behave, which has made you withdraw from being with people.
- Mental health issues, including depression, may cause you to become isolated as you try to deal with your feelings on your own.
- Christmas and other festive occasions – where the emphasis is on getting together with others – can be a reminder of how lonely you feel, and can magnify your feelings of isolation.
- Or, even if you’ve spent time with loved ones over Christmas, you may feel a crushing loneliness once the tinsel has been packed away and everything goes quiet and you’re back to being on your own again.
Coping with loneliness and isolation
If you feel lonely and isolated, chances are your tendency is to internalise your thoughts and feelings, especially the negative thoughts you have about yourself. The antidote to loneliness and isolation is to connect with others, but it can be incredibly difficult to summon the energy to make the effort – and to risk making yourself vulnerable and open to rejection by others. It can be hard to just ‘switch off’ loneliness and become able to engage with people around you. If you’re used to internalising everything, then expressing things may seem difficult to you. Yet if you try to express your feelings – for example, by keeping a journal to explore your inner world – you may find that it gradually helps to understand and alleviate your feelings of loneliness and isolation.
This might be a good time to explore your feelings and thoughts with a therapist and discuss and share your experience of loneliness and isolation. A trained professional can help you understand how you’ve become how you are, and how your loneliness and isolation might have protected you to some extent from the world. Therapy can also help you work through deeply felt childhood issues so you feel less a prisoner of your past and more able to embrace a future of your choosing. Building a relationship with your therapist over long-term work can help you build a relationship with yourself, and eventually with others.
If you would like a confidential chat with our team, they can help you find the therapist for you. Call 020 8673 4545 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.