Loneliness and Mental Health

We all experience loneliness at some point in our lives. It is a very normal and very common way to feel. However, extensive loneliness can have a negative impact on our mental health just like having a mental health condition can sometimes make you feel lonely. 

Loneliness can affect people at any stage in their life. Children can experience loneliness just like elderly people can. But when does this loneliness become an area of concern?

Being lonely is not a mental health condition within itself, although it is closely linked with mental health. Loneliness will affect people in various ways as we all have unique personalities. For example, some people may feel content with having a handful of close friends, whereas others may feel happier with a large group of friends. Some of us prefer to attend quiet events with friends such as coffee dates and movie nights, whereas others prefer parties and going out on the town. All of these are perfectly acceptable, there is nothing wrong with having different opinions and feeling content with different things.

Baring this in mind, people are bound to feel lonely in different situations. Someone who is used to hanging out with a large group of people may feel lonely when they are out with a smaller group. People who are used to hanging out in small groups may feel lonely when in a large group. Feeling lonely does not only occur when you are completely alone. It is possible to feel lonely in a crowded room. This is because loneliness is a state of mind. If you feel lonely and/or isolated then loneliness will start to set in, despite being surrounded by other people.

The prevention and treatment of loneliness will differ for each individual. A child who is feeling lonely and having trouble making friends in a new school will need different treatment than an elderly man who is feeling lonely after the death of his spouse.

There are ways of preventing loneliness and ways to help people who are experiencing loneliness.

It is important to take part in some form of social interaction on a regular basis, this could be in the form of a support group or social group. If the loneliness has stemmed from a certain event, such as the death of a loved one; the individual may be offered some form of therapy. If they are experiencing other symptoms, they may be assessed in regards to their mental health for conditions such as anxiety and/or depression. This may result in the prescription of antidepressants.

Preventing Loneliness:

  • Recognising that loneliness is a sign that something needs to change.
  • Understanding the various effects that loneliness can have on your body, both physically and mentally.
  • Consider doing volunteer work or an activity that you enjoy as this gives you the opportunity to meet new people and form relationships.
  • Focus on building relationships that are strong and reliable with people who have similar interests, attitudes and values to you.
  • Try to expect the best rather than the worst. Try to be more positive when faced with difficult situations, try to share your struggles with others so that you feel less alone.

Sources:

Mind Charity has some very good information regarding loneliness, you can read that here.

According to Psychology Today, there are seven different types of loneliness. You can read about each of those in detail here.

VeryWellMind – Talk about loneliness, what to look out for and how it can be prevented.

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