Severe Loneliness Leads To Depression

Loneliness, stemming from a lack of close relationships, is a heavy burden to bear. Left unchecked, its crushing weight can sink the sufferer deep into depression.

Depression is a Symptom of Loneliness

Loneliness and depression are not synonymous. Although depression can manifest as a symptom of loneliness, being depressed doesn’t automatically make a person lonely. In fact, depression is rarely where loneliness originates. On the other hand, loneliness can serve as a trigger for depression.

So if feeling lonely is not the same as feeling depressed, what is loneliness? Approximately half a century ago, psychoanalyst Frieda Fromm-Reichmann crafted professionals’ current understanding of loneliness. It’s not a comfortable, voluntary state of being on your own, nor is it a short-term feeling of being sad, left out or frustrated with the people in your life. Real loneliness is a chronic lack of intimate relationships.

This ongoing sense of being isolated from others has a tendency to sink the affected person deeper and deeper into such feelings. As the sense of loneliness and separateness from others increases, so, too, may feelings of depression. Symptoms of depression can include being disinterested in others, feeling worthless, not communicating with others, acting withdrawn and not having self-esteem. A lack of genuine connection with other people feeds directly into these characteristics of depression.

Loneliness Is a Prevalent Problem

If you are grappling with loneliness, you are certainly not alone. Loneliness is quite common among Americans. In a 2010 AARP survey of Americans age 45 and over, 35 percent of respondents reported being lonely. The number was highest for people in the 45-49 age bracket; 43 percent of those people were categorized as lonely.

Widespread loneliness is contributing to widespread health concerns. As this WebPsychology video shares, loneliness and shortened life spans go hand-in-hand. Psychologist John Cacioppo has dedicated much of his career to studying how loneliness harms health, from weakening the immune system to raising blood pressure. And among middle-aged American men, a group facing increased loneliness because of weakened community ties, both professional and personal, suicide rates are on the rise. In short, loneliness and depression are terrible for your health.

Loneliness Can Be Overcome
Instead of letting loneliness sink you toward depression, take action to overcome these feelings. The University of Florida Counseling and Wellness Center offers the following tips for moving past loneliness:

  • Acknowledge your feelings. The first step to moving past loneliness is to own up to your feelings. Be honest with yourself about feeling lonely.

  • Express your loneliness. Find a creative outlet for your feelings. Whether it’s writing a letter that you don’t plan to send or composing a poem about how you feel, creative expression can give voice to your loneliness.

  • Take initiative. Loneliness feeds on passivity, but taking action can help you push through. Reach out to important people in your life, even if they live far away. Seek out friends who will spend time with you and listen to you. Turn to the help of a therapist who can talk through your feelings and help you learn how to handle them.

  • Get busy. Find a group or organization to be involved with. Having a regular event on your calendar encourages you to build new relationships, gives you something to look forward to, reminds you about enjoyable times from your past and provides hope for the future.