What is the Difference between being alone – or feeling lonely?
Loneliness is not the same as being alone. Most people need solitude occasionally; having time alone gives us the chance to recharge our batteries and to sort through our thoughts. It’s how we connect with our needs and feelings, as well as make sense of things happening in our life.
In contrast, loneliness is a sense of disconnection, emptiness, worthlessness and lack of control.
Feelings of satisfaction with social relationships are crucial for wellbeing. Research has found that depression and anxiety are associated with chronic loneliness, which can affect people at various ages throughout the lifespan.
Some people may be alone or socially isolated and yet be quite happy with that situation.
However, others may have a large social network yet be dissatisfied with important aspects of their relationships (lack of intimacy, the quality of the relationships) and experience loneliness.
What Causes Loneliness?
- Unfulfilling Relationship: Emotional loneliness is not when we are alone, rather it is an emotional state of not feeling connected to other people. For example, many people each day feel trapped in an unhappy or unfulfilling marriage or relationship. You may feel lonely in a marriage or intimate relationship for various reasons, for example, emotional abuse or jealousy, a lack of physical intimacy and the demands of modern life. Relationship loneliness can cause depression and self-destructive behaviours. Some people use drugs or alcohol as coping mechanisms, which lead to more emotional instability.
- Lonely through Loss: One of the most painful feelings we experience is the loss of someone precious to us. This is a natural reaction to losing significant people in our life, whether the person has died or has moved away, or the relationship has ended. The feelings of loneliness can also come from an loss of career, social identity, physical health and/or financial independence.
- Fear of Being Abandoned: When people have fears of being abandoned, they usually feel anxious, depressed or empty. Often, they become hypersensitive to others that might threaten the connection: for example, a delayed phone call, disagreement or non-inviting gestures can cause a great sense of anxiety. As soon as their friends leave, they may feel rejected and disconnected. Despite the need for connection to people, they have great difficulty in maintaining any meaningful relationships throughout their life.
- Feelings of Entitlement: People who have a sense of entitlement have difficulty managing their intense emotions and tend to express their feelings through venting. Acting out on desires and feelings without considering the consequences often leads to social isolation and resentment. As a result, these people further distance themselves and blame others for their loneliness. When these clients come for therapy, they generally don’t understand why their family and friends stop contacting them.
How Can Therapy Help You Deal with loneliness?
We all have desires to form meaningful friendships and relationships, but for some people who are socially and emotionally isolated, it may not be a choice. Often they don’t understand why they are unable to make connection with others. They may simply lack the skills or are too afraid to develop fulfilling social interactions.
Therapy can help with understanding the patterns of dysfunctional relationships, that lead to isolating behaviours and feeling of loneliness. Therapy also provides a set of skills training, creating confidence in initiating as well as maintaining relationships with others.
If you (or somebody you know) is suffering from loneliness and would like to gain the confidence and the skills to build better relationships and find that connection with others, please feel free to make an appointment to see me.
Author: Claire Pang, B Psych (Hons), Masters of Clinical Psychology.
As a Clinical Psychologist, Claire has specific training in psychological assessment and evidence-based therapies treating depression, anxiety, trauma and complex mental health conditions for adults and couples. She is result-orientated, practicing a wide range of therapeutic approaches with great success. Claire has a special interest in understanding how the patterns of interpersonal difficulties contribute to individual’s emotional and behavioural struggles. She adopts Brief Psychodynamic Therapy to assist individuals to increase self-awareness and understanding of the influence of the past on present behaviours.
To make an appointment with Clinical Psychologist Claire Pang, freecall 1800 877 924 today or you can book online!