Understanding loneliness and its relation to shame

Feeling lonely? Therapists know all too well, no matter how alone or socially isolated you are, there are ways to connect with others and build strong, satisfying relationships.

To some loneliness seems personal, and almost damning. Loneliness is a state of mind we’re all familiar with, even if we hesitate to talk about it. It’s that sense of emptiness and longing that arises when you notice a gap between your current situation and your desired social life—and it can tie in with all sorts of negative emotions. You might feel lonely and bitter if you find out that friends are socializing without you. You may pine for people who are no longer around, rue past mistakes you’ve made in your social life, or feel disconnected, isolated, or even ashamed that you have such a hard time connecting with others and building new friendships.

The scope, duration, and intensity of loneliness can vary. You may feel detached from other people in general or your loneliness could stem from a specific reason, such as the lack of a romantic partner. Sometimes loneliness is a subtle feeling of discontent that comes and goes. In other cases, it’s a chronic problem that hounds you, bringing with it physical symptoms such as persistent brain fog, muscle tension, and body aches.

Loneliness isn’t always about your physical proximity to other people. If you’re forced to quarantine from family and friends, for example, physical isolation can contribute to loneliness. However, you can be at a party, surrounded by crowds of people and still feel lonely. On the other hand, many people live alone and still feel a strong sense of connection to others.

Loneliness is a widespread issue

Loneliness spans all age groups. You may be a college student who feels lost and ignored even among a sea of new faces on campus and in the dorms. You could be in middle adulthood, noticing that your formerly tight-knit group of friends has drifted apart. Or as an older adult, you may feel abandoned by family members as their visits become less and less frequent.

Crowded City or Small Town

Loneliness is a potential problem no matter where you live. Some experts even point out that certain countries seem to be facing loneliness epidemics. In England, one study found that around 45 percent of adults felt lonely to some degree. Meanwhile, a national survey in the United States found that 61 percent of adults are lonely.

Rates of loneliness seem to be rising in many countries, especially as a result of the COVID pandemic. Lockdowns and social distancing exacerbate the problem, but they aren’t the only causes.

If you’re lonely, know that it’s nothing to be ashamed about—many of us are in the same boat. It’s also something that you can overcome with the right strategies. The Professionals at Balance Treatment Center and trained service providers with IOP mental health programs that can help. Learning about the causes and effects of loneliness can help you prepare to face the problem, find new ways to connect to others, and build a satisfying social life.