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Loneliness: Everything from Symptoms, Definitions — and How to Feel Less Lonely


Loneliness is one of those words that is used to describe a range of mental states or feelings, but normally it’s related feeling isolated from a certain situation. The key emphasis here is feeling — you can feel isolated from a group even if you aren’t physically apart from them. It’s the perception of being alone that matters. And it can have very serious effects on your mental health.

Definition of loneliness

Currently, there’s no DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) classification for loneliness, meaning that there are no definitive criteria to “diagnose” a state of loneliness. The Mayo Clinic describes it as “a discrepancy between desired and perceived social connection,” which once again focuses on the sense of isolation the person may feel.

Signs of loneliness

Simply spending time alone doesn’t necessarily mean that you are lonely — we all need some time to ourselves to recharge. The ways that persistent loneliness can manifest includes:

  1. Low energy or brain fog

  2. Sleep problems (including difficulty with falling asleep or problems staying asleep)

  3. Loss of appetite

  4. Increased substance abuse

  5. Feeling hopeless, worthless, or increased feelings of depression

  6. Increased feelings of anxiety

  7. Getting sick more often

  8. Physical aches and pains including headaches, migraines, stomach aches, or muscle tension

  9. Excess shopping or increased attachment to material things

  10. Binge-watching television

Crisis Text Line can help you deal with loneliness. If you or someone you know is struggling, text a Crisis Counselor at 741741, or use the mobile text button below. Let’s take on loneliness together.

Types of loneliness

Research around loneliness has grown exponentially in the last 40 years, and medical researchers have classified this feeling of isolation into three  main categories:

  • Situational Loneliness: loneliness that arises from situational changes or norms in your life. This type of loneliness may change as you adapt to the situation or as the situation changes.

  • Developmental Loneliness: loneliness that comes from an imbalance between being an individual person and connecting with others While being connected to others is essential for our development as humans, we also feel a need to be individuals. It can be hard to balance these two all the time.

  • Internal Loneliness: Loneliness that comes from our perception of being alone, regardless of the situation or our development.

Psychology Today also breaks down loneliness into seven different types:

  • New situation loneliness: loneliness that comes from starting a new job, moving to a new town, or beginning at a new school.

  • “I’m different” loneliness: the feeling that you can’t connect with the environment around you. This could be from an outward difference (like going to a foreign country and experiencing culture shock) or inward (like being an art student in a school full of pre-med majors),

  • “No sweetheart” loneliness: feeling lonely because of a lack of a romantic partner (or a lack of an intimate connection with a romantic partner)

  • No animal loneliness: living without an animal in your life (especially if you have for most of your life)

  • “No time for me” loneliness: loneliness from not taking time for yourself

  • Untrustworthy friends loneliness: feeling like can’t communicate with friends openly and honestly

  • “Quiet presence” loneliness: tends to come from transitioning to living on your own. Sometimes you don’t realize the “quiet comfort” that was felt by simply knowing that someone was in the other room.

Causes of Loneliness

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of isolation, consider whether any of the following events have also taken place recently in your life:

  1. You’ve recently moved away from close friends or family

  2. You recently lost a friend or loved one

  3. You made the switch to living alone after living with family/roommates

  4. You’re having difficulties with meeting new people due to access issues

  5. You’ve been in poor physical or mental health

  6. You’ve avoided social situations because you fear being rejected

  7. You’ve recently retired, quit your job, or lost your job

  8. You’re living in a country where they don’t speak your native language or you’re experiencing another form of culture shock

  9. You live in an area that is geographically cut-off from the rest of the world

  10. You’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time on social media

Facts about Loneliness

Statistics about loneliness are hard to find, as it’s often hard to distinguish the difference between day-to-day loneliness and crippling isolation. However, there are some general trends about loeliness:

  • More than half of the US population report regular feelings of loneliness

  • Lonely people are more likely to suffer from dementia, heart disease, and depression

  • An estimated $6.7 billion in annual federal spending is attributable to social isolation among older adults

  • Adults over 55 who experience loneliness have some of the worst health outcomes

How to Deal with Loneliness

If you or a loved one are experiencing a sense of loneliness, some simple next steps to take can be:

  • Talking to friends and family: even if you’re not in the same city or country, a text or phone call (or, better still, face to face meeting) will help you to rekindle the sense of human connection.

  • Going outside: go out and run errands rather than getting everything delivered. The simple interactions at the store counters go a long way. Simply taking a walk around the block or through the park can help, too.

  • Get involved: find a group in your community or partner with a classmate or coworker to organize a casual happy hour

  • Volunteer: helping others is a two-in-one — and we’re all about making human connections here at Crisis Text Line. Volunteering as a Crisis Counselor means being part of our big, happy, global family.

  • Get a pet or a plant: taking care of another living thing helps with remembering that we’re all connected to one another.

  • Reach out to a professional: talk to your doctor to see if your feelings of loneliness or isolation are part of something bigger.

If you’re dealing with loneliness, we can help. Text a Crisis Counselor at 741471 or use the mobile click to text button below. You’re not alone.