Alone, not lonely used to be my favorite catchphrase. Appreciating solitude, taking out me-time, and connecting with friends and family when not spending time alone used to be my pass time. The time I moved to a different country for better professional opportunity, my personal life took a setback. Soon alone became lonely, screen time on phone and laptop became mere distractions from the void I was experiencing. I felt lonely among my 800 friends on facebook, 600 WhatsApp contacts. It felt unnerving to not being able to live by myself, at the same time secluded from the rest of the world. There seems to be a stretch of emptiness outside and hollowness inside me.

Loneliness is a complex phenomenon. It is a feeling of unusual unpleasant emotional response to isolation. From Mental health perspective loneliness can be dealt in clinical and non-clinical way. Loneliness typically can be monitored in the context of anxiety or depression continuum. In simple words loneliness is lack of contact with people due to varied reasons.

Understanding Loneliness

  • Feeling of detachment- There could be various reasons a person feels detached from others like fear of judgment, shame, traumatic experiences, conflicts with loved ones, growing apart in relationships.
  • Unable to establish or strengthen bond (emotionally/psychologically) with family and friends
  • Unavailability of loved ones
  • Loss of loved ones
  • Challenges in adapting to new environment, people or culture
  • Disturbed Mental state
  • Developed a habit as uncontrollable element

The symptoms:

Loneliness often unfolds itself into:

  • Persistent Sadness
  • Lack of understanding (self or others)
  • Dejected
  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Loss of purpose
  • Lack of connect
  • Restlessness
  • Interested more in non-living things than living beings

This happens because we keep replying unhealthy, unpleasant or stressful event consciously with our unconscious biases and beliefs, believing it to be true or in many instance ineffectively dealing with those unpleasant event. In other words, falling prey to unhealthy coping mechanism like remaining aloof, self-doubt, withdrawal, emotional or binge eating, over-thinking, increased caffeine intake, dependency on alcohol, nicotine or other drugs and so on. In some cases the emotional and behavioral state remains depressive or anxious but in many cases it can also lead to other mental health concerns.

In many cases Loneliness is a cause of personality traits but over the time we need to explore which traits of our personality help us to accomplish goals and progress in life.

Causes of Loneliness:-

  • Life events

    A life changing event (death of a closed member, break up, divorce etc) or a transitional event ( moving out to a new city, moving into a new job, college etc); such event can also make us feel lonely as one can find oneself to be disconnected from others.

  • Rise of social media

    As ironical it may sound, a tool that was meant to bring people closer to their loved ones is leading one to feel lonely. Researches suggest that an increase in social media engagement has lead people in modern era to move farther from real human interaction.

  • Personality Trait

    Loneliness can be attributed to internal factors like low self esteem, introvert personality type and anxious temperament.

  • Depression and Anxiety

    One of the most common symptom or indicator that someone is experiencing depression is constant feeling of loneliness and disconnect from social interactions. Someone suffering from depression, experiences a lack of motivation in interacting with people, this further leads to loneliness.

The advantages of seeking professional help are,

  • Early intervention
  • Person focused strategies
  • Healthy coping mechanism
  • Psycho education and awareness
  • Comprehensive outlook

Therapeutic Route:-

  • History taking

    Loneliness is a consequence to a certain stimuli or event. The initial session helps the counselor to understand the triggers of loneliness, how a significant event or experience might have contributed to this feeling. This allows the counselor and client build rapport and understand the situation better.

  • Identifying Consequences and effects of loneliness

    Loneliness affects a person emotionally and physically. Understanding the consequences of loneliness in one’s life, helps the client gain insight and helps them to bring about the required changes. Here, the counselor facilitates the client to think and acknowledge the cause and consequence of loneliness for self awareness.

  • Rationalization of thoughts and emotions

    Loneliness can be a result of a faulty pattern of thinking based on our past events like interactions with parents; confidence and bullying etc. When one undergoes a stressful event this leads to one form a negative perception around that event, for example, a person who saw his or her parents fighting while growing up would unknowingly or knowingly pick up that this how people interact and may choose to avoid interactions further in life. The counselor here, makes the client aware of this and helps them achieve more rationalized thinking.

  • Goal setting

    Both the counselor and client decide common goals to work through to bring about a positive change in lifestyle and thinking of the client

  • Lifestyle modifications

    In addition to therapy, certain changes in lifestyle help in building positive coping mechanisms and bring about sustainable results.

  • Follow up

    To check through the progress and reinforcing the desired changes in long run post termination of therapy.

Counseling Outcome

  • Acceptance towards loneliness and that it is something that can be changed
  • Understanding about self and pattern of interactions
  • Better coping with life changes and stressful events
  • Improved mental health and emotional wellbeing
  • Better social interactions

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