What's the Link Between Loneliness and Depression?

Loneliness is an empty feeling filled with isolation and estrangement. You could be alone in the literal sense, with no one around to talk with or simply sit quietly beside. On the other hand, you could be surrounded by a group of people, perhaps family or friends, and still feel lonely.

Either way, loneliness can impact your mental health, particularly linked to depression.

Social vs. Solo

Many people enjoy their own company. They could go hours, days, even weeks without any significant social contact. Today’s world sets us up for pseudo-socialization via texting, social media, and other online sites and services. Perhaps one reason people are comfortable being “alone” is because they’re distracted by the posts, messages, beeps, and buzzes they’re flooded with day and night.

Are these real relationships? For some, this type of digital connection is satisfactory, sometimes preferable to the in-person alternative. Others find that while these exchanges keep them busy, they don’t equate to true companionship. You can have thousands of followers on social media and text back and forth with a handful of people regularly, yet still feel friendless at the end of the day. Feelings of dejection, hopelessness, and desperation may lead to anguish, and in turn, depression.

It’s Science

According to NIH National Library of Medicine, “Lonely people suffer from more depressive symptoms, as they have than been reported to be less happy, less satisfied, and more pessimistic. Further loneliness and depression share common symptoms like helplessness and pain.”

When you experience loneliness, the feelings that come along with it can be distressful. While you don’t have to be lonely to face depression (there are many other factors that can lead to depression), loneliness can compound issues that could cause depression. For individuals predisposed to depression or related mental health issues, being lonely can trigger a downward spiral.

Are You at Risk?

Certain demographics have higher risk factors for loneliness. NIH finds that females, widows, people who live alone, the elderly, and those with health issues or limited material and social resources are at higher risk. This doesn’t mean loneliness is uncommon among other groups. Eighty percent of the population below 18 years of age and 40% of population above 65 years of age report loneliness at least sometimes in their life, according to NIH.

Essentially, anyone can become lonely. If you happen to fall into one or more of the categories for which loneliness is more prevalent, use this information with proactive intention:

  • Be mindful of your moods and emotions.
  • Recognize when you may be feeling down or discouraged.
  • Don’t let your loneliness feed upon itself. As soon as you feel a shift in your headspace, accept it.

Even feeling “a little bit lonely” is reason enough to take action. Seek help from a mental health professional before you’re in too deep and wind up becoming depressed.

Can You Become Un-Lonely?

You do not need a partner, a supportive family, or a flock of friends to find companionship. One meaningful connection could be all it takes to provide a sense of fulfillment and worthiness.

Increase your chances of avoiding loneliness by doing things you enjoy. You may meet someone and bond over shared interests. Consider adopting a pet. The unconditional affection and stress relief that comes from caring for an animal is unmatched. Keep in touch with co-workers even if you work remotely. Meet over Zoom if you cannot get together in person. Volunteering is always a positive thing, and it’s another surefire way to meet new people.

Loneliness doesn’t have to be permanent. Small changes add up, and every step toward creating positive relationships will benefit your mental health.

Beachside Rehab in West Palm Beach, Florida offers a wide range of mental health services along with inpatient and outpatient detox, drug and alcohol rehab, and holistic recovery. Call 866-349-1770 to connect with one of our trained admissions counselors.

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