Why, despite advances in modern communication — including cell phones, the internet, and social media — is loneliness such a pervasive phenomenon in our society?
While loneliness has been called an epidemic in recent years, we’ve come to think of it more as a global epidemic because while nearly half of Americans experience loneliness, it certainly isn’t a struggle that is unique to our country or culture.
Far from it.
Britons struggle with loneliness; as do those living in Canada; in Australia; and the list goes on and on.
In fact, a minister of loneliness was appointed in the UK to combat growing concerns over this widespread issue.
Strangely enough, loneliness is an invisible tie that binds millions of people together around the world — despite not even realizing it. Feeling alone has become a universal, yet unique, experience within each of us.
Which begs the question: why are we so lonely despite being so connected?
And why is there no true resource that thoroughly details every form of loneliness while simultaneously offering a safe place to talk about it?
This glaring need is the reason Women’s Health Interactive created The Roots Of Loneliness Project.
Through this extensive, first-of-its-kind directory, we deeply explore the topic of loneliness, illuminating its darkest corners and helping those who are struggling with loneliness — in whatever form it takes.
In fact, so far we’ve found 80+ distinct subtypes of loneliness.
What this means is that chances are, whatever form of loneliness you’re experiencing, or have experienced, you’re not as alone as you thought you once were.
It’s important to know that just about everyone will contend with feelings of loneliness from time to time and that does not mean that what you’re feeling is abnormal, unusual, or bad — in fact, loneliness can sometimes be a good thing.
It’s also important to note that there are key distinctions between loneliness, solitude, and social isolation. Social isolation means that a person has few social interactions or connections with others; solitude denotes being physically alone.
Loneliness, however, occurs when a person desires more social connection and interaction than they are actually getting.
The Roots Of Loneliness Project: Unearth Why You’re Feeling Alone
We’ve created a comprehensive, ever-evolving resource and community where you’ll not only learn about specific types of loneliness and their root causes, but can also interact with others experiencing those same feelings.
Over time, we’ll be adding more articles, videos and resources on each subtype of loneliness crafted by those who have experienced it first-hand.
We invite you to learn, explore and share your stories and questions with experts, and connect meaningfully with others.
To get started, just keep scrolling.
The Roots Of Loneliness Project Infographic
For a quick yet comprehensive visual exploration of loneliness — the three main types, two modifiers, and 80+ sub-types — we created an infographic that summarizes our findings.
Click on the image to enlarge, and please include attribution to Women’s Health Interactive if you use this graphic.
What Are The Three Main Types Of Loneliness?
- While there is no official consensus, according to most psychological research, there are a few broad, generally accepted categories of loneliness based on their root causes.
- These include: situational loneliness, developmental loneliness, and internal loneliness.
- Each subtype of loneliness we list below falls within one or more of these broad categories.
What Is Situational Loneliness?
- Situational loneliness is a type of loneliness that comes about from changes that occur during a person’s life. These can include anything from cross-country relocation to job changes, the loss of a loved one, changes in physical ability or sudden disability, relationship status changes, working remotely from home and even the loss of social support.
- Situational loneliness can be short-lived as people adapt and adjust to the things that life throws at them, but it can also become a long-term problem with long-term health consequences.
- Research has shown that left untreated or aided, extended loneliness can actually change the structure and processes of the brain.
- To read more about situational loneliness, click here.
What Is Developmental Loneliness?
- Developmental loneliness is a type of loneliness that can emerge when we don’t feel like we’re developing at the same rate as those around us.
- Everyone grows and develops at their own rate, but it can be a challenge to make social and/or intimate connections with others when we feel like we’re falling behind them.
- For instance, if you’re single but all of your friends are getting married and having babies, you might feel lonely because you’re somehow “behind” them in your growth as an adult.
- Feelings of inadequacy are associated with developmental loneliness because a person may feel “less than” when comparing themselves to their peers.
- To read more about developmental loneliness, click here.
What Is Internal Loneliness?
- Internal loneliness is a type of loneliness that originates from within.
- Internal loneliness is deeply personal and may be rooted in one’s personality and their inability to make meaningful connections with others.
- They may or may not be physically alone, but even if they have friends and a social circle, they still feel alone.
- Those who suffer from low self-esteem and self-worth are more likely to contend with internal loneliness.
- Further, internal loneliness may be brought on due to a person’s own mental distress, overwhelming feelings of worthlessness or guilt, feeling out of control in situations, or having inadequate coping strategies.
- To read more about internal loneliness, click here.
What Is The Difference Between Transient And Chronic Loneliness?
- Loneliness can be considered transient or chronic.
What Is Transient Loneliness?
- Transient loneliness, also known as “state loneliness,” is a temporary type of loneliness that generally occurs because of a change in circumstance or situation.
- For example, one might relocate to another city or begin a new job at a different office. The initial adjustment period may bring about some feelings of loneliness (situational), but it’s a temporary (transient) situation until that person adapts to their new environment.
- Because transient/state loneliness is temporary, it can motivate a person to reestablish existing social connections or create new ones to fill the void.
- This is an example of how loneliness can be a “good” thing and serve a purpose of growth, change, and acceptance.
- However, when loneliness is no longer temporary or a person struggles to pull out of a repeating cycle of loneliness (see Pathological Loneliness), it can become chronic.
- To read more about transient loneliness, click here.
What Is Chronic Loneliness?
- Chronic loneliness is marked by a long-term inability to make connections with other people, feeling isolated and alone (even if you are not physically alone), having no close friends, low self-esteem, and exhaustion.
- Also known as “trait loneliness,” chronic loneliness can initially emerge as a result of many different things, including the death of a spouse, family member, or loved one, divorce, relocation, or any other change in a person’s circumstances.
- Because of a person’s inherent traits, they may struggle with loneliness more than those who don’t have traits that make them susceptible to feeling alone.
- In that way, someone’s personality can actually increase their risk of becoming lonely in general, and their personalities can become shaped by their loneliness in a cycle that just keeps repeating.
- Unfortunately, research has shown that chronic loneliness is indeed an inheritable trait that can be passed down.
- To read more about chronic loneliness, click here.
The Roots Of Loneliness Project: Outlining Every Subtype Of Loneliness
Once you understand the 3 main types of loneliness (Situational, Developmental, Internal) and whether what you are experiencing is transient or chronic, you can then identify which specific subtype(s) of loneliness you may be experiencing using the list below.
- Each subtype of loneliness is listed alphabetically.
- To read an explanation/description of that particular form of loneliness, simply click the link.
- Each description contains resources to learn more and connect meaningfully with others also experiencing that subtype of loneliness.
Explore The Subtypes Of Loneliness
- ADHD Loneliness
- Alcohol/Addiction Loneliness
- Autism Loneliness
- Bipolar Loneliness
- Breakup Loneliness
- Caregiver Loneliness
- City Loneliness
- Codependency Loneliness
- College Loneliness
- Cosmic Loneliness
- Creative People Loneliness
- Cultural Loneliness
- Depression Loneliness
- Disabled Loneliness
- Divorce Loneliness
- Emotional Loneliness
- Empty Nest Loneliness
- Existential Loneliness
- Gender Loneliness
- Grief Loneliness
- Holiday Loneliness
- Intellectual Loneliness
- Leadership Loneliness
- LGBTQ Loneliness
- Living Alone Loneliness
- Living Away From Home Loneliness
- Love Loneliness
- Marriage Loneliness
- Mental Illness Loneliness
- Middle-Aged Loneliness
- Military And Combat Loneliness
- Military Spouse And Family Loneliness
- Millennial Loneliness
- Motherhood Loneliness
- Only Child Loneliness
- Parent Loneliness
- Pathological Loneliness
- Post College/Grad Loneliness
- Pregnancy Loneliness
- PTSD Loneliness
- Queer Loneliness
- Relationship Loneliness
- Religious And Spiritual Loneliness
- Retirement Loneliness
- Romantic Loneliness
- Senior Loneliness
- Sexual Loneliness
- Single Loneliness
- Single Mom Loneliness
- Social Anxiety Loneliness
- Social Loneliness
- Social Media Loneliness
- Solitude Loneliness
- Technology Loneliness
- Teenage Loneliness
- Urban Loneliness
- Widow Loneliness
- Workplace Loneliness
- Also includes: ADHD Social Isolation; Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Loneliness; Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Social Isolation
- Adults who are managing Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are at an increased risk for developing feelings of loneliness, particularly if their ADHD symptoms are more severe.
- The reasons for this may include their difficulties beginning and/or maintaining social relationships with other people, feeling different from those around them, or feeling unworthy of friendship in general. Loneliness in those managing ADHD may also be exacerbated by depression, anxiety, or other issues that can co-occur with ADHD.
- Also includes: Alcoholism Loneliness; Loneliness and Alcohol; Addiction Loneliness
- While some people who struggle with alcoholism or addiction might be sociable people, addicts are prone to feelings of isolation, which can lead to loneliness.
- Increased dependence on substances being abused, whether drugs or alcohol (or both), can also increase a person’s disconnection from family and friends – and even themselves.
- Also includes: Asperger’s Loneliness; High Functioning Autism Loneliness
- Adults on the autism spectrum can often experience greater amounts of loneliness.
- The reasons include their perception of social skills; feeling dissatisfied by their social support; environmental factors — noise in particular; social communication difficulties; and past negative experiences.
- Autistic people who have difficulty experiencing pleasure in general are more prone to dealing with loneliness in tandem.
- Also includes: Bipolar Disorder Loneliness
- Those who struggle with bipolar disorder may experience loneliness due to the stigma, insecurity, and mental health issues associated with it.
- Bipolar disorder can result in both internal and external difficulties maintaining relationships with others, leading to loneliness and/or depression.
- Also includes: Loneliness After Breakup; Lonely After Breakup; Feeling Lost After A Breakup; Feeling Lonely After Breakup
- When a romantic relationship comes to an end, we might dwell on what went wrong — and more specifically, what might be “wrong” with us.
- Loneliness occurs following a breakup because we’re left feeling sad over the loss. We might become lonely because all the time we spent with that person has suddenly become time that we have to spend with ourselves. In some cases, we feel rejected altogether.
- Also includes: Caregiver Social Isolation
- When a person spends a great deal of time providing care for an ailing family member, spouse or friend, they may experience caregiver loneliness.
- Caregivers are often responsible for so much regarding the care of another person — not to mention themselves — that they may become withdrawn and socially isolated because they’re not spending time out in the world with others or nurturing relationships beyond the person they’re providing care for.
- The loneliness caregivers experience may be exacerbated by:
- ambiguous loss: caring for a person who is still with them physically but not entirely aware (dementia, stroke, brain injury)
- anticipatory grief: grieving someone who will pass away but hasn’t yet
- or the grief (and sometimes the sense of relief) that occurs after the person being cared for passes on.
- Unfortunately, about one out of five bereaved caregivers will struggle with depression, complicated grief, or other psychiatric symptoms following the loss of the person they provided care for.
- Also Includes: Moving To A New City Alone; Lonely In A New City; Alone In The City; Alone In A New City
- Cities are places filled with plenty of opportunities, but living in an environment so densely packed with people can actually increase a person’s chances of developing feelings of loneliness.
- Because of a large population of renters who live in cities temporarily before moving to the suburbs, long-term friendships are often more difficult to establish or nurture. This can be exacerbated by gentrification.
- In addition, high-pressure jobs can mean more hours spent working and fewer hours spent socializing with others.
- Social media and our reliance on technology can also play a role in city loneliness with increased feelings of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).
- Subconsciously, the physical layout of a city can add to feelings of loneliness and isolation.
- New transplants may be dealing with general loneliness that is further magnified by having to adjust to life in a new city.
- Finally, cultural norms like negative politeness — staying out of other people’s personal space — can make feelings of social isolation worse for those living in a city.
- Also includes: Codependent Loneliness
- A codependent person sacrifices their own needs to attend to those of their romantic partner, family members, or friends, and may not receive the same level of care in return.
- This imbalance of give-and-take within the relationship can result in feelings of codependency loneliness, as well as anger, frustration, and resentment over time.
- When a person who is struggling with codependency perceives their partner as being absent in some way, they may also feel emotionally abandoned, triggering loneliness.
- Also includes: Being Lonely In College; Feeling Lonely At College; Loneliness In College; No Friends In College; Not Making Friends In College
- Major life changes are always a challenge, but feelings of loneliness are common during the college years.
- Loneliness afflicts freshmen students, in particular, as they’re navigating their first foray into the “real world,” although it can affect students at any college level.
- Loneliness in college may arise from culture shock, the overwhelming pressure to succeed, social media use, and even the religious differences among those attending classes on campus.
- Additionally, single-occupancy dorm rooms can worsen feelings of loneliness when a student doesn’t have a roommate to provide a sense of companionship.
- College scholars who struggle with anxiety or depression (or both) are less likely to seek out or make connections with others, impacting not only their feelings of loneliness but their overall wellness.
- Other causes of loneliness in college can include being away from home, not having an established group of friends, adapting to a new routine, experiencing uncertainty about the future, struggling to balance college life with domestic and social activities, having an undetermined major or being unsure of the “right” career path, struggling with time management, not getting along with a roommate, feeling like everyone else is happy, or facing academic challenges.
- If you’ve ever pondered the meaning of life or your place in the universe, you may have felt a fleeting sensation of cosmic loneliness.
- The idea that the Earth is alone in the universe, at least in terms of sustaining life, can lead to cosmic loneliness and the fear that we are, indeed, completely alone on a tiny hunk of rock hurtling through a little solar system in a vast and unending universe.
- For decades, scientists have been driven to find definitive answers to the question: Are we really alone in the universe? While the search continues onward for intelligent life beyond our world, contemplating the possibility that no other life exists beyond the Earth’s atmosphere can prompt feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Creative People Loneliness
- Also includes: Creative Loneliness; Lonely Artists; Lonely Writers
- Creative people may produce fine art, music, poetry, prose, or other artistic composition to make a connection with others through their work. This urge to create — to connect — can stem from loneliness, although certainly not always.
- Creative loneliness can sometimes arise when a person locks themselves away to toil on their artistic endeavors for extended periods of time. For instance, an artist might spend days or weeks alone as a part of their process, which can lead to isolation.
- Those who express themselves creatively may struggle with loneliness for a variety of reasons that include time spent alone and immersed in their craft, the pressure to succeed in their artistic endeavor, or if they have difficulty earning money through their finished work.
- A creative individual may also struggle to find their “tribe,” a close-knit community of other artists and creators they’d like to have an opportunity to associate with.
- Moving to a foreign country or unfamiliar locale may trigger feelings of loneliness as a person adapts to their new surroundings and community.
- Cultural loneliness can occur when a person begins to integrate into a society they are not already acquainted with. They might feel misunderstood — even if language isn’t a barrier — and they may also feel like outsiders, finding it difficult to make meaningful connections with others.
- Additionally, this type of loneliness might arise when a person feels disconnected from their own culture, even while living among it.
- Also includes: Depression And Loneliness; Loneliness Depression; Lonely And Depressed; Loneliness Of Depression
- It’s difficult to pinpoint which one causes the other — depression or loneliness — but they are intrinsically tied to one another.
- Loneliness certainly can result in depression, but those suffering from depression may also struggle with loneliness and a host of other negative feelings in tandem.
- Loneliness and depression feed off of one another in a repetitive cycle, which can ultimately lead to feelings of isolation and alienation.
- Also includes: Disability Loneliness; Disabled And Lonely; Disabled And Alone
- People who are living with a disability are more prone to experience loneliness than their able-bodied peers.
- Isolation is a key source of loneliness in those who are disabled. A disabled person experiences their body’s ailments firsthand, whereas able-bodied people cannot understand the depth and scope of a disabled person’s physical struggles.
- More than half of people living with a disability report feeling lonely. Their reasons include the physical barriers and accessibility issues that make it difficult to move through an able-bodied world and feeling incapable of making meaningful connections with people who are not disabled themselves.
- Also includes: Divorce And Loneliness; Loneliness After Divorce; Lonely After Divorce; Separated And Lonely
- It’s common for feelings of loneliness to emerge after a divorce.
- Loneliness can follow a divorce for several reasons: grief, sadness or anger over the relationship ending; custody battles over children; or the loss of friends and familial relationships that takes place once the marriage ends.
- Different situations can provoke loneliness in a person after their divorce; what triggers loneliness in one person may not give rise to loneliness in another.
- Sometimes the best way to deal with divorce is to go through it — and not around it.
- Loneliness after a divorce can feel endless, especially for a newly-single parent who has suddenly become the primary child caregiver.
- Emotional loneliness can arise when someone doesn’t have an attachment to another person.
- This type of loneliness can begin in childhood when a child is unable to bond with their parent(s) or other family figures or has suffered from emotional deprivation and neglect.
- Emotional loneliness may be linked to attachment theory, a concept that originated in the 1950s when psychiatrist John Bowlby considered the effect of early separations between mother and child — specifically, the ensuing emotional distress and maladjustment those children experienced over time.
- Tied to social loneliness, emotional loneliness might also occur when a person is lacking meaningful social connections with others in familial or romantic relationships.
Empty Nest Loneliness
- While raising children, parents often lament not having much time alone, but when their children reach adulthood and move away, loneliness can settle within the quiet walls of a home that was once filled with daily activity.
- Empty nest loneliness is a shock to the system for parents whose lives previously revolved around their children. Additionally, parents must face the loss of daily companionship with their children and may struggle with real and/or imagined concerns over their welfare.
- Also known as empty nest syndrome, this type of loneliness may be further exacerbated by other midlife changes that sometimes occur in tandem, including menopause, retirement, or even divorce.
- Also includes: Existential Isolation; Existential Awakening
- Existential loneliness is most often encountered by those nearing the end of their lives, although it can also be experienced by those who feel disconnected to the universe as a whole.
- When someone is aware that their time on earth is limited due to terminal illness or advancing age, a person might feel overwhelming sadness, emptiness, or a sense of disconnection from others around them. Additionally, someone who is facing their own mortality may find it difficult to articulate such feelings to others, leading to further isolation and loneliness.
- Existential loneliness should not be confused with existential anxiety — the feelings that arise when one ponders the reason for their existence, considers the passage of time and where their life is leading, or questions the meaning of life and existence in general.
- Also includes: Female Loneliness; Women’s Loneliness; Loneliness In Women; Male Loneliness; Male Loneliness Syndrome; Loneliness In Men; Transgender Loneliness; Genderqueer Loneliness; Non-Binary Loneliness
- Men and women feel loneliness as a result of their genders for different reasons. Additionally, transgender and non-binary individuals also face their own unique struggles with loneliness.
- Women tend to report feeling lonelier than men in general, but the perception that females are the lonelier sex may be inaccurate since women are more likely to admit to those feelings than men are.
- Women may experience gender loneliness as the result of life changes like relocation or becoming a widow, their social circles (or lack thereof), and social media usage.
- Men may experience loneliness when they are unable to find meaningful friendships and social connections with other men.
- Some men also suffer from a lesser-known form of loneliness known as “Empty Man Syndrome” — a term that describes men in their 40s who have no friends, are single (or divorced), unemployed or unhappy in their job roles, and who have no hobbies to occupy their time.
- Men may struggle with loneliness silently if they don’t want to appear weak, have been taught that men shouldn’t talk about their feelings at all, or because they don’t want to be vulnerable in the presence of others.
- Men sometimes lose close friendships as they get older and as work, family, or other obligations leave them with little time for nurturing social relationships with other men.
Transgender, Genderqueer, and Non-Binary Loneliness:
- Transgender men and women can experience loneliness as they struggle with self-acceptance, coming out, and navigating a society that so often rejects them. Their cisgender friends might accept them with open hearts, but they cannot fully relate to the transgender experience.
- Likewise, non-binary individuals can also struggle with feelings of loneliness.
- The combination of emotional and social isolation from others may contribute to feelings of loneliness in transgender and non-binary individuals.
- Transgender and non-binary identities were once typically viewed as a “problem” that needed to be “fixed.” While societal attitudes are evolving, it can take time for gender-nonconforming individuals to benefit from the effects of these changes.
- Also includes: Grief And Loneliness; Loneliness After Death Of A Spouse; Loneliness After Death Of A Parent; Loneliness After Death Of A Friend; Loneliness After Death Of A Child
- Grief is a deeply personal experience that can feel vastly different for everyone.
- When a person is grieving the loss of a loved one, they may find themselves turning inward as they deal with their personal pain, resulting in loneliness.
- A grieving person may detach themselves from their social support circles over time. They may not want to burden others with the weight of their grief or they may not feel like they can be around other people.
- Grief loneliness can sometimes manifest during milestones like anniversaries, holidays, or birthdays. Additionally, it can arise during routine moments like eating a meal, reading the morning paper, or even watching a television show that would have been enjoyed with the person being grieved.
- Also includes: Loneliness During Holidays; Loneliness At Christmas
- As its name suggests, holiday loneliness pops up around holidays that are typically spent socializing with other people.
- This type of loneliness is common and can affect anyone from divorcees to the elderly, those living far away from family, parents whose children have moved away, and those who are grieving the loss of someone they love.
- Holidays can be especially difficult because those who are lonely may feel the sting of being alone more intensely during traditionally happy celebrations.
- Also includes: Intelligence And Loneliness; High-Intelligence Loneliness
- A person may experience intellectual loneliness when they don’t feel intellectually stimulated by their family, friends, or peers.
- When someone is much smarter than those around them, they may struggle to connect with others, especially if they don’t feel like they can share their ideas or interests, or that those ideas or interests won’t be understood.
- Also includes: Loneliness Of Leadership
- “It’s lonely at the top” is a common phrase that is often very true: leadership can be a lonely position to be in.
- The responsibilities associated with being a leader can and do lend themselves to feelings of loneliness.
- Half of CEOs report feeling lonely in their roles, even though they might be surrounded by folks who are there to advise and support them.
- Leadership loneliness isn’t a concept that is unique to our modern society; Andrew Jackson wrote about the loneliness of his role just four months into his presidency in 1829.
- Also includes: Gay Loneliness; Gay Men Loneliness; Epidemic Of Gay Loneliness; Lesbian Loneliness; Bisexual Loneliness; Transgender Loneliness; Queer Loneliness
- Those who are part of the LGBTQ community are prone to experiencing loneliness, as are those struggling with gender identity.
- There are several reasons why those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual, or queer are at an increased risk of being lonely. These reasons can include social isolation, emotional isolation, cognitive isolation, being different from others, and/or actively concealing their sexuality from those around them.
- The world can be lonely for LGBTQ people, particularly because they’re walking uphill in every direction. It is harder for them to own homes, they experience discrimination in the workplace, they’re more likely to become homeless, and simply being accepted by their families is a challenge.
Living Alone Loneliness
- The number of people who are living alone has nearly doubled in the U.S. over the past 50 years, but the trend toward single-person households is becoming more and more common around the world.
- Feelings of loneliness are common when a person lives on their own, but loneliness can present a risk factor for premature mortality if a person lacks adequate social interaction with others.
- While living alone does not necessarily mean someone will feel lonely, it may increase their risk for loneliness and incidence of common mental disorders.
- Other additional factors can contribute to this, as well, like being unmarried (single, divorced, or widowed), not having many friends, not participating in social groups, being retired, struggling with a physical impairment, or having strained familial relationships.
Living Away From Family Loneliness
- Also includes: Living Away From Family; Isolation From Family; Living Far From Family; Isolated From Family; Family Isolation
- It can be exciting to move away from home but relocating far away from loved ones and an established support system can be a jarring experience that leads to loneliness.
- When a person moves a great distance away from their family, they miss out on gatherings and social time spent together. That challenge is exponentially multiplied when children are involved: grandparents miss out on time spent with their grandchildren, aunts and uncles don’t have an opportunity to visit with their nieces and nephews, and cousins may not develop close relationships as they grow up apart from one another.
- A person who lives far from their family may struggle with getting “home” in the event of an emergency, whether due to the sudden financial cost of the trip itself or the length of time spent traveling.
- Also includes: Love And Loneliness; Loneliness And Love
- Love is thought by many to be the “cure” for loneliness and that love will somehow remove any and all feelings of loneliness — like magic.
- Much like romantic loneliness, love loneliness is a desire to share love with someone else; when an individual is without love, loneliness can arise in its stead.
- Love can reduce loneliness in some circumstances, but it can also exacerbate feelings of loneliness in others.
- An addiction to “love” — or at least the hormones released in the early stages of a relationship — may lead to feelings of loneliness when the initial rush of euphoric hormones (dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin) wanes or ends altogether.
- Also includes: Being Lonely In A Marriage; Feeling Alone In A Marriage; Feeling Lonely In Marriage; Loneliness In Marriage
- Although marriage provides companionship, people who are married can still experience feelings of loneliness.
- Established couples might begin to feel lonely in their marriages if they grow apart in their interests, no longer discuss their interests with one another, or if they settle into daily routines that seemingly run on autopilot, particularly when they’re raising children together.
- When the companionship aspect of marriage breaks down, loneliness may surface in its wake. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the couple is incompatible with one another, however, it could be signaling that something in the relationship should be addressed.
Mental Illness Loneliness
- Also includes: Bipolar Loneliness; Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) Loneliness; Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) Loneliness; Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) Loneliness; OCD Loneliness; Social Anxiety Loneliness
- People who struggle with mental illness may experience feelings of loneliness as a result of their affliction.
- Mental illness and mental health issues include body dysmorphic disorder, borderline personality disorder, depression, dissociative disorders, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder and hoarding, mania, paranoia, psychosis, and schizoaffective disorder, among many others.
- The cycle of loneliness as it pertains to mental illness is one of repetition, particularly when mental illness is severe.
- A person’s impairments might make it difficult to begin or maintain relationships and they may also lack the opportunity or ability to take part in social activities.
- Mental illness carries a stigma that can make it difficult to connect with others.
- Also includes: Middle Age Loneliness; Midlife Loneliness; Loneliness In Midlife
- By the time they reach middle age, 30% of middle-aged people in the United States will experience loneliness for a variety of reasons.
- Changes in their social interactions at midlife can be a factor, as can their professional statuses (or lack thereof), income levels and income fluctuations, relationship changes, and the development of health issues.
Military And Combat Loneliness
- Also includes: Veterans Loneliness; Combat Loneliness
- Those serving in the armed forces are at risk for developing feelings of loneliness during and after their service.
- It can be difficult to connect with other people after returning to daily life because no one — aside from their military peers — really understands the military experience.
- Returning to civilian life is a challenge for many veterans because the social construct and day-to-day activities are completely different than what they were used to while serving in the military.
Military Spouse And Family Loneliness
- Also includes: Military Wife Loneliness; Military Spouse Loneliness
- Spouses of those who are serving in the military often struggle with loneliness during deployment, in part because of decreased military support for families.
- Some military spouses will reach out to other military spouses for support but many lack the opportunity to do so.
- Military families may experience a range of emotional struggles — which can include loneliness — before, during, and even after military service ends.
- Changes in daily routines, relocations, and deployments can be physically and emotionally isolating for military families.
- Also includes: Loneliness In Your 20s; Loneliness In Your 30s
- Loneliness is an epidemic among the millennial generation; in one recent survey, 30% of millennials report being lonely and one in five millennials reported having “no friends.”
- Social media may be partly to blame for loneliness in millennials, but it may also be attributed to those individuals being driven in their careers, time spent maintaining romantic relationships and/or starting families, and because they are the first generation acclimated to heavy schedules filled with extracurricular activities designed to occupy every waking moment of the day.
- Also includes: Loneliness In Motherhood; Lonely Mom; Lonely Mother; Stay At Home Mom Loneliness; Lonely Stay At Home Mom; Single Mom Loneliness; Lonely Single Mom
- A new mother can feel as lonely as someone who is going through bereavement or a divorce.
- Motherhood means exploring an entirely new world of daily activities, typically done on very minimal sleep with the added pressure of being responsible for a new life.
- This stress is multiplied for single mothers who must do everything on their own.
- Mothers may feel like they’re losing part of their own identities because every single thing they do now revolves solely around someone else.
- It can also be difficult to make new friends or to spend time with existing ones, especially when a mom doesn’t have much in the way of free time to begin with.
- Loneliness in motherhood is far from uncommon. One woman’s recent post about motherhood loneliness went viral because so many women related to her daily struggle.
Only Child Loneliness
- Also includes: Lonely Child Syndrome; Only Child Lonely; Lonely Only Children;
- Being an only child doesn’t necessarily equate to a life full of loneliness, as some parents of only children may fear.
- In fact, only children are generally ambitious, self-confident, organized, and mature.
- That said, only children may experience loneliness as they grow older, particularly because they alone are responsible for caring for their aging parents — without siblings to help by sharing the burden.
- Also includes: New Parent Loneliness; Single Parent Loneliness; Single Dad Loneliness; Single Mom Loneliness; Lonely Single Parent
- Just like new mothers, parents are prone to loneliness for similar reasons: changes in their daily routines, the demands of looking after a child, and having limited free time to spend in their social circles.
- It takes considerable effort to foster and maintain social relationships after becoming a parent.
- Parents of children with disabilities may experience deeper feelings of loneliness and isolation due to frequent doctor appointments and other care related to their child’s health, and being unable to connect with other parents and friends who don’t fully understand their struggle.
- Many single moms and single dads contend with loneliness as they balance full-time childcare while making a living and managing a home on their own — responsibilities which leave little time for socialization with friends or romantic partners.
- In pathological loneliness, a pattern emerges where a person cannot pull themselves out of their loneliness — rather than overcoming it, they are overwhelmed by it.
- Pathological loneliness is a type of loneliness cycle that is difficult to break; some researchers consider it a disease because it is more than a symptom.
Post College/Grad Loneliness
- Also includes: Post-College Loneliness; Postgraduate Loneliness
- There is a considerable shift in a person’s daily routine and level of responsibility after they leave college.
- Where college students have spent years surrounded by peers, professors, and administrators, postgraduates must leave that familiar landscape in search of careers.
- The process of starting new endeavors — often in new locales — can be a lonely experience, especially if post-grads feel unsure about what will come next in their life.
- This type of loneliness can worsen as a young adult faces student debt, faces pressure to make the “right” decision, feels unsure of what career path to take, or struggles with their first “real” job.
- Post-college loneliness is different than post-college depression; where the former can result from the loss of friendships or routines associated with college, the latter is marked by constant feelings of sadness, aimlessness, emptiness, or misdirection that won’t go away.
- Also includes: Pregnant And Feeling Lonely; Feeling Alone In Pregnancy; Loneliness During Pregnancy; Feeling Lonely During Pregnancy; Pregnant And Feeling Alone
- Pregnancy is a time of great change that may be accompanied by loneliness, even during a planned pregnancy.
- Between 14% and 23% of pregnant women will experience symptoms of prenatal depression, which may heighten their distress.
- Hormone fluctuations and stress over the impending birth or becoming a mother can also exacerbate loneliness during a woman’s pregnancy.
- For women who are already struggling with this, receiving mixed-reactions upon the announcement of their pregnancy can make the situation worse when they sense that not everyone is happy or excited about the news.
- Also includes: Traumatic Loneliness; Childhood Trauma Loneliness
- Those who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may experience loneliness as a result of past trauma — whether it stems from military experience, childhood trauma, or sexual trauma.
- While the connection between PTSD and loneliness hasn’t been studied widely, researchers suggest that loneliness is a major factor in complex PTSD.
- One analysis discovered that the risk for loneliness was greater in those who suffer from higher levels of PTSD symptoms versus those with very low PTSD symptoms.
- Chronic PTSD symptoms — regardless of their origin — are additionally associated with mental health issues that include loneliness and even hostility.
- Queer is not necessarily synonymous with “gay” in its meaning; “queer” refers to anyone who isn’t cisgender or heterosexual.
- Queerness and loneliness have been intertwined with one another throughout history and even now — despite society’s strides toward acceptance of those in the LGBTQ+ communities.
- Loneliness can be experienced by queer people for a variety of reasons that include rejection from their family and/or friends, internal struggles with their own sexual identity, isolation resulting from the inability to come out, not having a “community” to interact with, or living in a geographical area that is unsafe for queer people.
- Queer people are more likely to experience loneliness than those outside of the LGBTQ+ community.
- Also includes: Lonely In A Relationship; Alone In A Relationship; Love Loneliness; Feeling Lonely In A Relationship; Long Distance Relationship Loneliness; Romantic Loneliness
- There are a number of reasons why a person may feel lonely even though they are in a relationship.
- Some facets of the relationship may not be working out, or one person might be using their partner to fill a void that remains unfilled.
- Likewise, partners may not be communicating adequately with one another or expressing their individual needs.
- Loneliness can occur after the honeymoon phase of the relationship has ended, particularly if a person has been spending so much time with their partner that they’ve neglected their circle of friends in the process.
- When someone is involved in a long-distance relationship, feelings of loneliness can manifest as a result of the prolonged absence of their partner and the lack of opportunities for intimacy.
Religious And Spiritual Loneliness
- Also includes: Religious Loneliness; Spiritual Loneliness; Christian Loneliness; Buddhism Loneliness; God Loneliness; Feeling Lost After Spiritual Awakening; Desiring God Loneliness; God Of Loneliness
- Spiritual loneliness is a type of loneliness a person may experience as they travel on their own spiritual or religious journey.
- It’s normal to reflect on whether our beliefs are correct, but those feelings of doubt can sometimes cause loneliness.
- Religious and spiritual loneliness can also affect familial relationships when one individual breaks away from an established religion to follow another path (or none at all).
- A “general crisis of meaninglessness” is the term used by some professors of philosophy to describe the way that modern people are losing their source of meaning — which was previously based on the divine, family, and tradition — in favor of science, exacerbating feelings of spiritual loneliness.
- Also includes: Loneliness In Retirement
- People who have retired from the workforce may experience loneliness because their daily and weekly routines are marked by a profound change following retirement.
- Retirement can have a negative impact on a person’s opportunity to socialize with others, resulting in isolation.
- Prolonged loneliness can lead to health problems and depression over time, especially if a retiree stops taking care of themselves.
- Those who have retired may lose their social support, experience changes in their living situations, and could develop health issues that make it difficult to maintain social relationships with others.
- Men struggle with isolation and loneliness in old age at a rate higher than women and they also tend to have less contact with their children.
- Also includes: Love Loneliness; Relationship Loneliness; Single Loneliness
- Romantic relationships are not necessarily a “cure” for loneliness.
- Being in a constant search for a romantic partner may leave a person feeling more lonely, particularly if they experience a series of short-term relationships with very little success or fulfillment.
- Modern culture prizes romantic relationships, which can add unnecessary strain on single people who feel pressured to pair up with someone as soon as possible.
- Even those who are currently in romantic relationships or marriages may contend with loneliness for a variety of different reasons.
- Also includes: Elderly Loneliness; Loneliness In Seniors; Loneliness In Elderly
- The Golden Years are not so golden for many people; more than 40% of older adults experience feelings of loneliness.
- Loneliness increases senior mortality rates by 26% and also increases their chances of developing clinical dementia by 64%.
- Loneliness in the elderly is common for a number of reasons: they often have lost spouses, friends, and/or children to death; family and friends have moved away over the years; they may have fewer opportunities to socialize (especially if they are no longer driving); and they may be suffering from degenerative health issues that make it difficult to communicate or that keep them at home.
- If the elderly have caregivers, those caregivers may also be prone to loneliness.
- Also includes: Sexual Frustration And Loneliness; High Sex Drive Loneliness
- Sexual frustration can be a source of loneliness, even if you’re in a relationship.
- There is a stigma surrounding loneliness where sexuality is concerned: in particular, the idea that being sexually lonely means a person is also undesirable, inadequate, or different and unworthy of sex.
- There are a number of reasons a person may feel sexually frustrated and lonely: they aren’t in a relationship; they may not be getting enough sexual intimacy in their current relationship (particularly if their sex drive differs from their partner’s) or they are in a sexless marriage; they may not be connecting with their partner emotionally; or there may be health issues that stand in the way of a sexual relationship.
- Also includes: Lonely Single Women; Lonely Single Men; Lonely And Single; Single And Lonely; Loneliness While Single; Single Mom Loneliness; Single Dad Loneliness
- A person might be perfectly happy being single, but that doesn’t mean they won’t experience the loneliness that can arise from being romantically unattached.
- Single people may feel like they should already be in a stable relationship, particularly when their friends are married or in relationships themselves.
- Lonely single people may also feel like there is something inherently wrong with them because they’re unattached romantically.
Single Mom Loneliness
- Also Includes: Lonely Single Mom; Lonely Single Mother; Single Mom Isolation
- While there are many different aspects to single motherhood, loneliness is a common struggle for single moms who are trying to balance everything on their own.
- The financial strain of single motherhood can mean working overtime or multiple jobs to make ends meet. That, coupled with being a full-time parent and the head of the household, can leave very little time for a social life.
- The journey of a single mother can be a lonely experience, one that may be also be accompanied by feelings of guilt.
- Single moms often have to face both the joys and the burdens of parenthood — alone.
Social Anxiety Loneliness
- Loneliness can stem from a lack of social interaction with others and those who suffer from social anxiety — or a fear of social interactions — are at risk for developing it.
- Individuals who are trying to manage social anxiety may be very self-conscious about themselves, might feel like others are always judging them, and can have a difficult time meeting new people.
- Social anxiety can cause people to avoid social gatherings altogether, making it difficult to maintain existing friendships or begin new ones.
- Also includes: Social Isolation Loneliness; Isolation Loneliness; Solitude Loneliness
- Even if a person is not physically alone, there are physical, mental, and even financial factors that can lead to social isolation and loneliness.
- Humans are social by nature and when we are isolated from other people, loneliness can occur.
- Not every isolated person will feel lonely and conversely, a person living in a bustling city surrounded by people can still feel lonely.
- Some people do enjoy their solitude for various personal reasons. However, when a person’s solitude prevents desired social interactions with others, solitude loneliness can emerge.
- Solitude loneliness that stems from social isolation — physical solitude that makes it difficult to connect with others — can be a temporary or long-term problem.
- Social isolation is especially common in older adults.
Social Media Loneliness
- Also includes: Facebook Loneliness; Loneliness And Social Media
- The use of social media can exacerbate feelings of loneliness.
- While social media is often used to keep in touch with friends and family, too much of a good thing can be harmful.
- For some individuals, spending too much time on social media can lead to feelings of inadequacy and even jealousy; people may compare their own lives with those they see on Facebook, leading to “Facebook Loneliness.”
- Putting too much stock in receiving “Likes” from others can make things worse, especially when it seems like others are more well-liked and popular on the platform.
- Negative experiences on social media can also increase feelings of loneliness and social isolation.
- Also Includes: Social Loneliness; Social Isolation Loneliness; Isolation Loneliness
- Even though the terms are used interchangeably, solitude and loneliness are actually two different things.
- Loneliness is desiring more social interaction and human connection than one is currently getting, whereas solitude is the physical state of being alone.
- Solitude on its own isn’t always bad — in fact, it can be good to spend time alone with yourself.
- Solitude can lead to loneliness and become problematic, however, when a person isn’t choosing to exist in solitude and/or desires social interaction that their solitude prevents.
- Also includes: Does Technology Make Us More Alone; Connected But Alone; Technology And Loneliness
- Increased use of technology — like smartphones, tablets, and computers — can lead to feelings of loneliness, isolation, and even detachment from others because people often spend more time using technology instead of interacting with people directly.
- While technology is a boon in many ways, the constant distractions it provides can cause loneliness.
- Furthermore, by being glued to our phones, we’re making those around us lonely too — including our children.
- Also includes: Lonely Teens; Lonely Teenager
- Many teenagers will deal with feelings of loneliness at some point in their lives and even teenagers who have an existing circle of friends may feel lonely.
- Modern teenagers are especially at risk for loneliness stemming from social media and technology because they are the first generation to be raised in a world driven by it.
- Teenagers are prone to loneliness as they grow and develop into adults while trying to figure out who they are and what they want from life.
- Also includes: Urban Isolation
- Urban loneliness can occur when a person lives in a city full of people, yet feels isolated and alone.
- On the surface, a bustling city may appear to be the least lonely place on earth, but the opposite is often true.
- Many people who live in cities don’t know who their neighbors are, even if they walk past them every single day.
- Negative politeness — when people ignore typical social niceties because they don’t want to infringe upon another’s space — makes city-dwellers less likely to engage in small talk with others in a public environment.
- Urban loneliness and isolation are caused by a variety of factors, including the loss of public spaces, housing developments that utilize security measures like fences and gates, and the stigma that low-income housing areas should be avoided.
- Urban loneliness is so common that some people are driven to explore city designs and landscapes that would make them more amenable to socialization and community engagement.
- Humans throughout history have lived and thrived in smaller tribes; people have not yet evolved or fully adapted to life in a busy metropolitan setting.
- Also includes: Loneliness After Death Of Husband; Loneliness After Death Of Spouse; Widows And Loneliness; Widower Loneliness
- When someone loses a spouse, they are 66% more likely to pass away during the initial three-month period following the loss. This phenomenon is known as the “widowhood effect.”
- Spousal bereavement — mourning a spouse who has passed away — can be a source of oppressive stress and loneliness that may be brief or long-term.
- For many people, widow loneliness is not only due to the loss of their spouse, but also the loss of a routine that was once associated with them.
- Also includes: Feeling Lonely At Work; Loneliness At Work; Isolated At Work
- The incidence of workplace loneliness has increased in recent years, a likely result of modern technology and an expanding remote workforce.
- Although many people conduct business via texting or emails, they have fewer face-to-face interactions with one another, which can lead to feelings of loneliness or isolation — even when they work in the same office together.
- Loneliness in the workplace can negatively impact a person’s job performance and lessen their motivation and commitment to the company.
Even though we wander the world using cell phones, accessing the internet, and talking to one another through social media almost constantly, loneliness is a plague on the contemporary human experience.
By understanding loneliness in all of its many (many) forms, we can begin to recognize symptoms of loneliness not only in ourselves, but in others.
If you find yourself struggling with loneliness, understand that you are NOT alone. Millions of people around the world are sailing in the boat right beside you, at this very moment.
- You owe it to yourself and the rest of the world to get the help you need. If loneliness is leading you toward suicidal thoughts, you can call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline any time, day or night, at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Deaf or hard of hearing can call 1-800-799-4889. There are additional resources and a live chat option available through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s website.
- If you are seeking resources for help with loneliness and are not struggling with thoughts of suicide or self harm, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers treatment referral and information 24/7, 365 days a year. You can call their National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). The Deaf or hard of hearing can call 1-800-487-4889 via TTY. The helpline is confidential, free, and available in both English and Spanish.
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