Loneliness is a feeling. It has often been defined as a feeling of disconnectedness or isolation. All humans can, and probably do, experience loneliness from time to time. Experiencing the loss of a friendship or significant other can lead to normal feelings of loneliness. This type of situational loneliness usually resolves as one comes to accept the realities of the current relationship and moves on to forming other social connections.
Loneliness is different for everyone, as it is based on one’s individual perceptions about his or her relationships with others. Many people with panic disorder[/link"> or another anxiety disorder often feel alone in their condition and experience loneliness that is pervasive and overwhelming. This can be especially true if one becomes isolated due to agoraphobia[/link">, or other physical or mental health conditions.
Consequences of Loneliness
Some studies have suggested that loneliness can be linked to a number of psychological and physical difficulties, including:
- substance abuse
- increased smoking
- increased anxiety
- reduced medical care and compliance
- increased stress levels
- reduced satisfaction with life
- decreased self-esteem
The bottom line is that overwhelming and pervasive loneliness is a factor in psychological stress that may ultimately culminate in serious physical disease.
It takes great effort and courage to confront loneliness -- and even greater effort and courage to make the necessary changes to find relief from its consuming grip. But, it is possible. And, your efforts will be greatly rewarded as you find it possible to feel a sense of connectedness and belonging with others.
A sense of connectedness allows us to better adapt to life’s many challenges. Loneliness can chip away at our psychological well-being and impact our physical health. But, you can do other things to cope with feelings of loneliness and regain your sense of belonging. Building a support network is another great way to reduce loneliness and the impact of its consequences.
Corey, Gerald. (2009). Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks/Cole.
Hawkley, Louise C. & Cacioppo, John T. (2002). Loneliness and Pathways to Disease. Institute for Mind and Biology, University of Chicago.