Read on for information about loneliness, hear from others about their own experiences, and find tips, advice, and further support.
Loneliness is a feeling that occurs when we feel isolated or cut off from people. Being lonely doesn’t necessarily mean you are alone; you can still feel isolated even when you are in the company of others, but you may be struggling to connect with them or feel you are different to them somehow.
Many of us are feeling an increased sense of isolation at the moment due to Coronavirus, and social distancing restrictions may be adding to feelings of loneliness. For more information and support in relation to COVID-19, click here.
Sometimes loneliness is associated with being alone, but these are separate things. People can enjoy spending time by themselves, while still experiencing loneliness at other times.
Even if you regularly spend time with friends or family, or you are in a relationship, you can still feel isolated or distant from them. This could be because something is stopping you from connecting with them or you feel you don’t fit in with the people around you.
As we get older, it’s normal to lose contact with people for various reasons. This could be because people you were close with have moved away, perhaps due to work or family commitments, and you are struggling to find ways to stay in touch. Aging and illness can also make travelling to meet others more difficult, and it can be hard to come to terms with this.
There are many factors that can lead to loneliness, and these may be related to circumstances such as your identity, relationship status, or background.
Hear from other people about their experiences of loneliness and how they manage this, and find tips for how you can help yourself.
Significant life changes can have an impact on your wellbeing and can result in you experiencing loneliness, even if you have not felt this before. Tick any of the statements that are relevant to you.
While these events can impact many of us, some people may experience feelings of loneliness that they can’t shake off, and they may not be affected by any of the factors listed above. This sense of loneliness may be related to feelings of low mood or depression. If you think you may be experiencing this, click here for further support.
While loneliness itself isn’t a mental health condition, experiencing loneliness is linked to other difficulties and can have a significant impact on your mental wellbeing. Loneliness can also occur as a result of an existing mental health condition.
Anxiety – you may avoid people or anxiety-provoking situations, which may result in you feeling isolated.
Depression – you may be struggling to leave the house or make social arrangements, which can lead you to develop further feelings of loneliness.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) – you may find it difficult to manage your day-to-day routine and make plans with others due to compulsions taking up a lot of time and energy, and this may result in you feeling lonely.
If you have an existing mental health condition, or you think you may be struggling with your mental health but you are unsure about what this might be, you can find more information on the NHS website.
Watch this video to hear from others sharing their own experiences of loneliness and what helped them cope with their feelings.
Take a look at the section below for some helpful ideas about how to reduce your feelings of loneliness and manage these in your day-to-day life.
It can be difficult to pinpoint when you first started to feel lonely, but exploring what may be affecting you can help you take control and make changes. You could try writing your feelings down - perhaps in a diary - and when you do this, you could consider the following:
It can be difficult to talk about feeling lonely, especially if you are feeling isolated from those around you. However, speaking about what you’re going through can make a difference, and help you to feel more connected.
If there is someone in your life that you trust, try to reach out to them and share how you’re feeling. You could meet for an activity, such as going for a walk or doing something creative, to help you feel more at ease.
Not everyone has someone they feel comfortable talking to, and that’s OK. If you don’t know who you can turn to, speak to your GP and they can help you find local support groups or other services that may be helpful.
Feeling lonely is understandable, especially if you feel like the people in your life don’t share similar interests to you, or you feel different due to how you identify.
There are a wide range of groups that support specific communities (such as LGBTQ+) or focus on a particular interest where you can socialise with like-minded people. These groups can involve meeting in person, or may take place online.
If you live in a more remote location or travelling is difficult for you (e.g. due to Coronavirus restrictions), there are many ways to connect with groups online. You could talk to new people through social media by joining a Facebook group for something you are interested in, or places such as Sussex Recovery College run free, short courses that can introduce you to new people and topics.
Another way of reaching out within your local community is through ‘social prescribing’, which refers to accessing groups to improve your mental health. This could involve park runs, yoga, art, music, or lots of other activities. You can find out more by speaking to your GP or looking online to see if this is available in your local area.
Social media is a part of everyday life for many of us now, and it’s common for people to only show the positive parts of their lives online. Because of this, it can feel like everyone else is doing great, while you are the only person struggling.
Comparing your life to others can be unhelpful, especially if this is based on what people are posting on their social media accounts. Try to remind yourself that social media posts are often not a real reflection of someone’s whole life, and it doesn’t show how they are feeling all the time.
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed while you’re online, try to have regular social media breaks. Giving yourself space from social media content can help you feel more grounded and focused on your own wants and needs.
Loneliness can lead to developing negative thought patterns, which can affect your self-esteem and mood. It’s important to be kind to yourself, especially when you feel lonely; practising self-care and doing things that you enjoy can boost your confidence and help you feel more connected to yourself and others.
Eating regularly – When you feel lonely you may experience a change in appetite, but it’s important to feed your body as this will improve your energy levels and help you feel better.
Going outdoors – Try to find time in the day to go for a short walk, sit somewhere outdoors while listening to a podcast or reading a book, or do an exercise you enjoy outside.
Sleeping – You may be finding it hard to sleep if your loneliness is making you feel anxious or overwhelmed, and you can find tips for sleeping better here. If this is becoming a problem for you, your GP can suggest ways to improve your ‘sleep hygiene’ or they can discuss medication if appropriate.
Stay away from substances – Although these may seem helpful at first, using drugs and alcohol to cope with loneliness will likely make you feel worse in the long run. If you are concerned about your drug or alcohol consumption, you can find further support here.