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Conditions: Loneliness

What is understood by loneliness?

It is natural to feel lonely. Feelings of loneliness are subjective and personal, and we may all experience loneliness in different ways.

It is often understood that loneliness refers to a sense and feelings that our needs for rewarding social connections and contacts are not fulfilled and met. Loneliness is not the same as being alone as some of us may choose to be alone or live alone happily without much contact with others and not find that to be a lonely experience. We may also have an abundance of social contact or be in a relationship or part of family but still feel lonely. We may be surrounded by people but if we do not feel cared for or heard we can end up feeling lonely.

Loneliness is closely linked to mental health difficulties, especially if it lasts a long time – having a mental health problem can increase your chance of feeling lonely and feelings lonely can contribute to the development of psychological difficulties.

It also common to feel lonely after experiencing a bereavement, going through a relationship break-up, retiring, and losing the social contact you had at work, changing jobs, and feeling isolated from your co-workers, starting at university, moving to a new area or country without family, friends, or community networks. Other people find they feel lonelier at certain times of the year, such as around festive holidays.

Certain circumstances or belonging to particular groups may make people more vulnerable to loneliness. This includes being estranged from family and having no social network or being a single parent or caring for someone else as that can make it difficult to maintain social life.

Other factors include belonging to minority groups and living in an area without others from a similar background or being excluded from social activities due to mobility problems or a shortage of money.

Experiencing discrimination and stigma because of a disability or long-term health problem, including mental health problems can also contribute to isolation and loneliness.

Loneliness can occur if you experience discrimination and stigma because of your gender, race, or sexual orientation. Furthermore, having had experience of sexual or physical abuse may also make it challenging for people to form relationships with others.

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When to seek help?

  • You are experiencing overwhelming and/or chronic feeling of isolation or loneliness regardless of where you are and who is around

  • You are finding it hard to connect with others on a deeper, more intimate level

  • You are experiencing negative feelings of self-doubt and self-worth

  • You are experiencing exhaustion and burn out when trying to engage socially

  • You are having decreased energy

  • You are feeling foggy or unable to focus

  • You suffer from insomnia, interrupted sleep, or other sleep issues

  • Your appetite decreased or increased

  • You have a tendency to get sick frequently

  • Your body aches and pains

  • You have feelings of anxiousness or restlessness

  • You feel low in mood or depressed

Treatment recommendations

Psychological therapy would aim to help you explore and understand your feelings of loneliness and would assist you in developing constructive ways of dealing with them. It would aim to provide a space for you to discuss the emotional problems that make it difficult for you to form satisfying relationships. The selected treatment however would be individually tailored to your needs following a comprehensive assessment process in our service, depending on the nature of your difficulty.

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