Loneliness is the feeling of being alone, but a person does not actually have to be alone to feel lonely and this is often misunderstood. Many people choose to live and be alone and are very happy and not lonely. Loneliness is feeling alone and feeling unhappy.
Most people are naturally social and crave interaction, discussion, laughs, physical contact etc. and when these needs are not met we can feel lonely. A person can experience loneliness in a crowded pub, in a busy street, in a relationship, in a family or in the absence of any of these. They often feel isolated or cut-off from the world and the people about them as though they are not part of the world.
There are many personal circumstances that may lead to your sense of loneliness:
- loss of someone close to you
- relationship break-up
- are a single parent or caring for someone else
- older age when going out might be harder
- moving to a new area without family, friends or community networks
- belonging to a minority ethnic group without local support or community
- experiencing discrimination and stigma
- having experienced abuse – you may find it hard to form close relationships with other people.
N.B. This is by no means a complete list and there are many other circumstances that may cause someone to feel lonely.
What makes people lonely?
Loneliness can come from many different places and different people will be affected in different ways, there are no fixed rules. Some people feel lonely through the circumstances they are in and for others loneliness can be a longer term and enduring experience.
How can counselling help?
Enduring deep loneliness
Some people feel lonely despite having a strong social network or a close family or being in a loving relationship. These people may struggle with liking themselves or allowing themselves to be liked and make lack self-confidence. This may come from experiences as a child where they did not feel loved, maybe through neglect or abuse, and this can persist into adulthood and into relationships.
Some people choose the isolation in which they live for fear of being hurt but also struggle with feelings of loneliness.