Feeling a sense of loneliness is pervasive in our society. Even when surrounded by others, we can experience the feeling that we’re alone in the world. It may include a lack of companionship, being left out, not in tune with the people around you and a lack of close friends and family. Mother Theresa once stated that ‘the greatest disease in the West today is not tuberculosis or leprosy but being unwanted and unloved.” Furthermore there is a higher risk of physiologic changes correlated with loneliness such as Alzheimer’s and heart disease. It may increase the production of stress hormones, hinder sleep and weaken immunity. Loneliness can affect all ages but is more common in adolescents, toxic marriages, familial relationships and the elderly. Most people crave close family experiences but unfortunately many visits end up chaotic and toxic. We leave the experience feeling angry, hurt and alone. The emotional pain can last for days.
With the advent of the covid pandemic, most of us were isolated in our homes and became lonely and depressed. Some couples relationships improved as they were together more often and their communication and bond increased. But all too often the issues that were buried before surfaced and exacerbated. Covid has produced an epidemic in depression and it still exists today. We have become numb to our feelings and are more fearful of trying to reach out to others. Furthermore, loneliness is stigmatized in our society. Some may fear others will view you as weak or a loser. This is so inaccurate and unfortunate and may enable us to deny our feelings and feel depressed and seek further isolation.
Social media may come to mind as a remedy but many studies have shown that online networks offer an illusion of connectedness, but actually make us feel lonelier and more isolated. What we need to do is look outside our computers and handheld devices and connect or reconnect with others. In person contact is preferable to online contact because we all require physical touch in order to feel comfort and connected. Owning a pet can be helpful in ameliorating your loneliness but going to a dog park is a great way to meet new people. Joining an in person group is helpful such as a book club, religious, educational or psychotherapy group. Don’t allow yourself to feel abnormal wanting to connect. Is is human nature to belong and feel seen. Do it even if you feel self-conscious and afraid.
Psychotherapy is so helpful in allowing you to express feelings without judgement. In my experience, after practicing over 35 years, my clients feel so much relief when they can talk freely in a safe space to help them understand why they feel a certain way and get to the root of their issues. I help couples to find better ways to communicate.