I’m Lonely & Depressed

I’m Lonely & Depressed

Authored by Pin Ng PhD

Edited by Hugh Soames

Reviewed by Michael Por, MD

I'm Lonely & Feeling Sad

“I’m Lonely” — But You Are Not Alone

Even the most social of us feel lonely at times. We have all felt tinges of loneliness throughout our lives at different points and this often feels like depression. We likely even felt the feeling before we knew what it was called. Loneliness is not uncommon and you are likely not the only person you know currently feeling lonely, but that does not take away the weight of the feelings. Being lonely does not merely mean that you are by yourself. That can obviously be a factor in how you feel, but a lack of quality in your relationships can also result in feelings of loneliness. Loneliness occurs when our social wants and needs are not being met. This can occur from not having any social interactions, but it can also occur from not having quality connections with others that meet our emotional needs. Often  when someone has the feeling of ‘i’m lonely’ it can be a sign of underlying high functioning depression and mental health.

I’m lonely; Signs and symptoms of loneliness include:

  • low energy
  • anxiousness, restlessness
  • hopelessness
  • decreased appetite
  • difficult time falling asleep
  • body pains and cold flashes

Most of us have experienced loneliness and have said to ourselves “I’m lonely” at many times throughout our lives.  Because of this, many of us have also experienced chronic loneliness as well. Whereas, regular loneliness might be brief feelings that only last a few hours or a few days, chronic loneliness is something that occurs over a long period of time. Your feelings of loneliness in this scenario do not come for a brief time and then potentially come back a few months later. Chronic loneliness1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6179015/ means you bear the weight of that feeling with no sort of break in between.

I’m Lonely – But why?

Feelings of loneliness can come around because of a multitude of reasons. You may have just moved to a new town or city where you do not know anyone. You needed to move for your job, but because you have no social connections in the area, it is difficult to find meaningful social connections outside of work. Work can be a great place for people to make meaningful and long-lasting connections, but not everyone finds someone that they click with well at their place of work. Some might not enjoy hanging out with people from work because it reminds them of work. Feeling lonely because you switched jobs and cities is common.

Or —you may work from home. This is an extremely common cause of feelings of loneliness. Many of us spend the majority of our work week in our place of work. If you work at your home alone, you do not have even small opportunities for minor social interactions2https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3874845/. You may also be living alone for the first time. Many college students graduate and move into apartments or homes by themselves for the first time. Not only are they living on their own for the first time in their life, but they are also just coming out of a time in their life where they were constantly surrounded by people their age. It’s more uncommon to NOT feel lonely than it is to feel lonely after that particular life transition.

Life Transitions and Mental Health

Many people feel lonely or chronic loneliness after they have made a life transition, like moving out of your college dormitory into your own apartment. Moving on from romantic or platonic relationships also causes feelings of loneliness. Not only are you dealing with the aftermath of what occurred and caused that relationship to end, but you also have one less or potentially multiple numbers of fewer people that you have the opportunity to interact with now.

These are very practical reasons for feeling lonely. These reasons have a simple cause-and-effect method of appearing. You move and you feel lonely as a result. They are easy to pinpoint.

However, there are other reasons you may feel lonely that are more complicated to track down. You may be constantly surrounded by people and friends, but still have that lonely feeling. Our mental health plays a massive part in how we interact and perceive our interactions with others. Your mental health, depression, or anxiety may cause you to be nervous or unmotivated to go out and connect with others.

Or — your mental health may still allow you to leave the house and be in the presence of others but may be keeping you from making meaningful connections while you are there. Depression is a complicated condition. It can be both the cause and the effect in cycles of loneliness. Your loneliness may cause feelings of depression and depression may cause you to isolate yourself and therefore bring on feelings of loneliness. It is a vicious and frustrating cycle. But it is not uncommon — and anyone that feels this way is not alone.

Taking Small Steps Forward to stop feelings of ‘I’m lonely’

Many people, depending on their personality type, may need a break from spending time with others. This is usually time spent recharging and relaxing before future social interactions. Some people do not need this at all and some people need a lot of rest and recharge time before they are ready to go out and mingle with others. Both are okay and just depend on you and your personality. Loneliness comes in when we surpass the amount of time needed to spend alone to recharge. Maybe some social anxiety snuck in while we were taking the time to recharge and it moved out of our control. Maybe we’ve been stuck in a cycle of chronic loneliness for a very long time. Whatever the case, there are ways you can escape this cycle and there are plenty of resources and experts who can help:

Speak to a professional. Whether your situation involves brief feelings of loneliness or a chronic cycle of loneliness, there are people who have been trained to help you move forward.

Admit to yourself that you are lonely. It is a common feeling and there is no shame in feeling it.  Saying “I’m lonely” out loud to yourself can help motivate you to put a plan in action to help alleviate these feelings.

Think of a hobby, activity, or anything you enjoy, and remember this: you are not the only person or the first person to enjoy that. The internet is a beautiful thing when it comes to finding like-minded people or others interested in the same things you are.

Say yes. It is ok to say no to social events sometimes. However, if you have had feelings of loneliness, but are still saying no to invitations, your anxiety may be keeping you from completing the actions you need to take to move out of the loneliness cycle. Say yes to something you would not normally say yes to.

Loneliness is complicated. And overwhelming. It can be both the cause and effect of many unpleasant feelings. But — it is not a hopeless experience. There are future friends and professionals out there who can help you. And chances are — they have felt the same way you do at some point in their lives as well.

References & Citations: I’m Lonely

  1. Sundstrom G. Fransson E. Malmberg B. Davey A. Loneliness among older Europeans. European Journal of Ageing. 2009;6(4):267–275. []
  2. Dahlberg L. Andersson L. McKee KJ. Lennartsson C. Predictors of loneliness among older women and men in Sweden: A national longitudinal study. Aging & Mental Health. 2015;19(5):409–417. []
  3. Conroy RM. Golden J. Jeffares I. O’Neill D. McGee H. Boredom-proneness, loneliness, social engagement and depression and their association with cognitive function in older people: a population study. Psychology, Health & Medicine. 2010;15(4):463–473. []
  4. Hackett RA. Hamer M. Endrighi R. Brydon L. Steptoe A. Loneliness and stress-related inflammatory and neuroendocrine responses in older men and women. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2012;37(11):1801–1809. []
  5. VanderWeele TJ. Hawkley LC. Cacioppo JT. On the reciprocal association between loneliness and subjective well-being. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2012;176(9):777–784. []
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  8. Chamberlain AM. St. Sauver JL. Jacobson DJ. Manemann SM. Fan C. Roger VL. Yawn BP. Finney Rutten LJ. Social and behavioural factors associated with feeling i’m lonely trajectories in a population-based cohort of older adults. BMJ Open. 2016;6(5):e011410.[]
  9. van Oostrom SH. van der A DL. Rietman ML. Picavet HSJ. Lette M. Verschuren WMM. de Bruin SR. Spijkerman AMW. A four-domain approach of frailty explored in the Doetinchem Cohort Study. BMC Geriatr. 2017;17(1):196. []
  10. TabueTeguo M. Simo-Tabue N. Stoykova R. Meillon C. Cogne M. Amiéva H. Dartigues JF. Feelings of Loneliness and Living Alone as Predictors of Mortality in the Elderly: The PAQUID Study. Psychosom Med. 2016;78(8):904–909. [PubMed] []
  11. Masi CM. Chen HY. Hawkley LC. Cacioppo JT. A meta-analysis of interventions to reduce loneliness. Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2011;15(3):219–266. doi: 10.1177/ 1088868310377394. [PMC free article]
  12. Tse MMY. Tang SX. Wan VT. Wong SK. The efectiveness of physical exercice training in pain, mobility, and psychological well-being of older persons living in nursing homes. Pain Manag Nurs. 2014;15:778–788. [PubMed
  13. Hawkley LC, Thisted RA, Masi CM, Cacioppo JT. Loneliness predicts increased blood pressure: Five-year cross-lagged analyses in middle-aged and older adults. Psychol Aging. 2010;25:132–141.[]
  14. Jacobs JM, Cohen A, Hammerman-Rozenberg R, Stessman J. Global sleep satisfaction of older people: The Jerusalem Cohort Study. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2006;54:325–329. []
  15. Poletto R, Steibel JP, Siegford JM, Zanella AJ. Effects of early weaning and social isolation on the expression of glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid receptor and 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 1 and 2 mRNAs in the frontal cortex and hippocampus. Brain Res. 2006;1067:36–42. []
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