Coping with Loneliness

Loneliness is the negative feeling that comes when our social needs are not being met by the quantity and quality in our relationships. The effect of feeling lonely can have different effects for each of us. For some, it might  lead you to sit at home listening to depressing songs. It could inspire you to go out and meet people. You might find being alone enjoyable. 

From time to time, most of us will experience loneliness.  Loneliness can also occur in a crowded room, in the presence of loving friends and family. This is because it is a very personal feeling of being somehow separate or isolated. Since COVID-19, research shows that as many as 1 in 2 Australians report feeling more lonely. Depending on the depth may require professional help.

What is chronic loneliness?

Chronic loneliness occurs when feelings go on for a long period of time. Features of chronic loneliness include ongoing and unrelenting feelings of being alone, feeling separated or isolated from others, and/or unable to connect on a deeper level. It can also be accompanied by deeply rooted feelings of inadequacy, shame, poor self-esteem, and even self-loathing.

Chronic loneliness can be experienced by even the most outgoing person. You can be – or appear to be – “life of the party” and still be deeply lonely. As noted earlier, long term loneliness, can over time impact all areas of your life.

Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Loneliness

Symptoms and signs of chronic loneliness can differ from person to person and situation to situation. If you often feel some or all of the following, you might be experiencing chronic loneliness:

  • Feeling unable to connect with others on a deep, intimate level. Friends and family may be a part of your life, but your day to day interactions might feel as if they are at a very ‘surface’ level – rather than fulfilling, or deeper connection.

  • Have the belief there is nobody to class as a “best” friend or close friend to support you. You may have friends, but feel they are at a distance, or more casual acquaintances, rather than those who truly “gets” you.

  • Overwhelming isolation in a range of circumstances, feeling alone even at work with others or at a social event.

  • Persistent feelings of self-doubt and self-worth.

  • Exhaustion and burn out when trying to connect with others.

How Can Counselling Help?

If you experience any of the signs listed above, of intense or ongoing loneliness that just don’t go away, speaking with a professional can help to find ways to deal with this situation. For example:

  • Self exploration. Just as it sounds, self exploration is a process of helping unearth the reasons for one’s loneliness, and can lead to further more specific treatment.

  • Social anxiety. You may have feelings of self-doubt, low self-esteem, or social anxiety that interfere with building connections with others. 

  • Communication skill-building. It could be that you have trouble getting to know people, whether they’re new friends or potential romantic partners. A counsellor can help identify this need and work with you to build the skills needed to connect with others. 

It can be difficult to manage feelings of loneliness if you are not sure what’s happening. In all cases, talking with a counsellor can help you find ways to make changes. If you are affected by loneliness and don’t really know why, therapy can help narrow down possible causes. 

 A professional can help you look at situations in your life that might be leading to these feelings.

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