If you’ve ever felt lonely, especially to a significant degree, it probably not only makes you feel a down, it’s quite likely also that you might start to have less interest in things than normal and things start to take more effort than they usually do.There is no denying that it’s not good for your mental health.
The effects of loneliness
- It can make you think there’s something wrong with you
- It can make you feel skeptical about the possibility of changing your situation around
- It can affect your motivation and interest in life (including socializing)
- It can affect your energy levels
What is depression?
Depression is when a lack of interest, and everything becoming much more effort than usual starts to impact on your quality of life. Depression can describe a set of patterns people can fall into which might keep the energy, motivation and mood low. Loneliness can certainly lead to depression, can certainly be a precipitating factor.
Loneliness as a precipitating factor for depression
It goes without saying, loneliness can make you feel pretty terrible. Loneliness can make you feel;
- like there’s something wrong with you or that you’re flawed
- Inferior to others
It’s likely that this can affect your motivation and can make you lose interest in things. Unfortunately, if you’ve been lonely and started to feel this way as a result, it’s likely that you’ve been unable to talk about those feelings and share them with others due to the massive taboo surrounding talking about it. It is these types of feelings that reduce your drive to socialize and make you want to become reclusive.
Loneliness as a source of tiredness
When you’re feeling lonely, unhappily so, it’s likely that your mind is not as peaceful as it is when your needs for social contact, intimacy and belonging to a group are properly met. Nagging worries that affect lonely people can be related to;
- worries about what’s wrong with you
- whether there are people who’ll accept you for you
- In the case of being single a long time or having not had a relationship before; nagging worries about how that will affect future prospects
- A general nagging low-level anxious feeling
Loneliness can be like an unrelenting stress. It’s likely that you’ll wake-up feeling less rested than you would do otherwise. This can be due to the fact that you might be spending more time in REM sleep & less time in deep sleep.
Loneliness & pessimism about the future
Another commonly-cited theme for depression is the the thought that things will be the same forever. There maybe real or perceived barriers to getting needs met and solving problems besides these worries about being inadequate. People who are lonely or socially-isolated can fall into traps which can block them from making progress & which can prevent them from seeing a way forward which can give grounds to lose hope. For more information;
This sense of feeling trapped can also be a source of worry & distress.
Loneliness and rumination
When people are lonely & isolated, they are much more prone to dwell on past bad experiences or evidence to suggest that they’re inadequate or unlikeable.
*What’s important to note is that with social anxiety, people can misinterpret social situations & might take away an overly-negatively biased interpretation of what happened, this can then a source of upsetting thoughts during times of loneliness and isolation. For more on the link between social anxiety;
How it can be a pathway to depression
It’s very simple. Social withdrawal and not sharing feelings simply allows the negative thoughts about yourself, as well as the worries to get worse and spiral. It is these worries and nagging thoughts that result from times of loneliness that are responsible for feeling more tired than normal during such times. This is due to the fact that the stress and worry results in an imbalance between REM sleep and deep sleep.
If left unchecked, severe loneliness can be a factor that erodes energy levels to a degree where tiredness and lack of motivation to do things becomes a stressor in it’s own right. By the time that happens, the full blown depression cycle is initiated.
Unfortunately, many who are negatively affected by the feelings that loneliness brings don’t talk about it due to feelings of shame. They do say a problem shared is a problem halved.
Not only that, the way the feelings of loneliness are treated if people do try to share them don’t receive much in the way of sympathy from others.
This is why I believe that openness towards loneliness is important and that this taboo against sharing it, and the belief that you’ll be a ‘burden to others’ is an absolute perversion.