Understanding and coping with loneliness

Feeling lonely is a common experience that can impact anyone, and its causes vary from person to person. Although loneliness is not the same as being alone, it can significantly affect your well-being. If loneliness is affecting your life, there are steps you can take to manage it effectively.

Managing loneliness

Do:

  • Share your feelings with someone you trust, such as a friend, family member, healthcare professional, or counsellor. Samaritans (116 123 or jo@samaritans.org) is also available for a confidential conversation.
  • Consider joining a group or class centred around an activity you enjoy. If you feel hesitant, you can start by observing and gradually participating.
  • Seek out places where you can be around others, such as parks, cinemas, or cafes, even if it's just to enjoy their presence.
  • Explore peer support options, where individuals with similar experiences come together to provide mutual assistance.
  • Boost your self-esteem by exploring techniques specifically designed to raise it.
  • Benefit from free mental well-being audio guides that provide additional support.

Don't:

  • Avoid trying to tackle everything at once. Set achievable goals and targets that you can easily accomplish.
  • Shift your focus away from things beyond your control. Invest your time and energy in activities that contribute to your well-being.
  • Resist comparing yourself to others, especially on social media where people tend to showcase only selected aspects of their lives.
  • Remind yourself that feeling lonely is a shared experience, and there is support available to help you navigate it.
  • Steer clear of using alcohol, cigarettes, gambling, or drugs as coping mechanisms for loneliness, as they can worsen mental health.

Impact

Loneliness is a subjective experience, varying in intensity among individuals, and it does not necessarily equate to being alone. Instead, it arises when the need for social contact and meaningful relationships remains unfulfilled. Contentment with limited social interactions may differ from person to person, highlighting the subjective nature of loneliness.

Chronic loneliness, characterized by prolonged feelings of isolation even in the presence of others, is a distinct experience. Loneliness cannot be solely attributed to living alone or the number of friends and family in one's life.

Even with strong social connections and support, individuals may still feel lonely if they perceive a lack of understanding or care. While loneliness itself is not classified as a mental health problem, it can amplify existing mental health issues.

Struggles with mental health can contribute to social withdrawal, low self-esteem, and difficulties in engaging with others. Moreover, loneliness can negatively impact mental health, leading to increased stress levels and the heightened risk of conditions such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and sleep problems.

Causes

Loneliness can stem from various causes, with individual experiences differing significantly.

  • Life events such as bereavement, relationship break-ups, retirement, job changes, starting university, or becoming a parent can trigger feelings of loneliness.
  • Mental health problems can intensify loneliness, as they often lead to reduced social participation, low self-esteem, and difficulties in expressing emotions.
  • Factors such as relocating to a new area without established connections, being estranged from family, belonging to a minority group in an area lacking similar backgrounds, facing mobility challenges, financial limitations, or experiencing discrimination based on gender, race, or sexual identity can contribute to feelings of loneliness.
  • Seasonal events, such as holidays, may also amplify these emotions.
  • Financial difficulties can exacerbate loneliness by limiting social interactions due to financial constraints.

Seeking support

Remember, seeking support from a GP or healthcare professional is crucial if you're struggling with stress, anxiety, or depression. They can guide you through appropriate resources and referrals to help you manage your mental health effectively. If you require immediate assistance but it's not an emergency, contact NHS 111 for guidance on accessing the right support for your needs.

Managing loneliness takes time, and it's essential to be patient and kind to yourself. By implementing these strategies and seeking support, you can work towards cultivating meaningful connections and a healthier, more fulfilling life.

Doctor
General Practitioner

At Dr.Dropin our experienced GPs provide a wide range of primary care services, similar to those provided by the NHS, either in the clinic or through video consultations.

Dermatologist

At Dr.Dropin, you will receive specialist care from our expert Consultant Dermatologists provided by skindoc. With extensive experience from both public and private hospitals, we can assess and treat most chronic and acute skin disorders – either in the clinic, through video, or via a photo upload service.

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