What is loneliness?
If you're reading this, chances are you know what it’s like to feel lonely. That means you know that loneliness can sometimes feel like it’ll never end, and that you can often be surrounded by friends and family and still feel cut off from the world. But loneliness isn’t something that you have to manage on your own, and though it might be hard, there are things you can do to feel more connected to people around you.
Why do people feel lonely?
Because loneliness is so common, it makes sense that there are also lots and lots of different reasons why people feel lonely. Here are a few of the main ones:
- Feeling distant from friends. Ever felt like even though all of your friends are one tap of a button away, you’re still not really connected to them? Don’t worry: this is a very common feeling.
- Being single. Whether it’s your friends all getting into relationships and dating, constantly seeing dating shows on TV, or feeling pressure from your extended family to bring someone home, it can feel like romantic relationships are at the front of everyone’s mind. It can be tough feeling like you’re missing out on something.
- Not fitting in. Maybe you have different interests to the people at your school. Or maybe you just dress differently. In any case, feeling like you don’t fit can make the symptoms of loneliness even worse, and can mean it’s even more difficult to meet friends and feel connected.
- Looking after a parent or sibling. Being the primary carer for someone close to you who is sick or has a disability can often make you feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. After all, a lot of your friends won’t know what it’s like to have a brother with Down’s syndrome, or a mother with bipolar, so being a carer can leave you feeling like you can’t really talk to people – let alone have them over for dinner or a sleepover.
How normal is it to feel lonely?
Recent research from ReachOut has shown that one in five young people reported feeling lonely 'most of the time' or 'always'.
So just because you’re feeling lonely, it doesn’t mean that you are different or ‘weird’: in fact, it means that you have more in common with the people around you than you realise.
Disability, illness, racism and loneliness
Sometimes loneliness can be caused by something else going on in our lives. Here are some of the major issues which can cause loneliness:
- Mental illness. A lot of mental illnesses like bipolar, anxiety and depression can all make people feel very lonely. Mental illness can make you anxious about seeing others, so you might spend more time indoors. Or it can lead to insomnia, which in turn can make you tired, irritable and lonely.
- Disability. A range of disabilities can often make people feel as though there is no one around them that cares. These feelings can get even worse if people in public are unkind or rude, and facing daily discrimination can make loneliness even harder to bear.
- Racism. People who encounter racism say that being discriminated against can make them feel alone, and can make it harder for them to form real connections. Racism takes a lot of forms, all of them hurtful, so sometimes even a ‘minor’ or ‘casual’ act of racism can have big impacts on someone’s self-esteem.
When do people feel lonely?
Loneliness can hit anyone at any time. Sometimes you might not even feel lonely for an obvious reason, and what you’re experiencing could always be connected to other things like depression or anxiety.
But it's true that a lot of people tend to feel lonely during big life events. Maybe you’re moving house. Maybe your parents are getting separated. Maybe you’re going from primary school into high school. Or maybe you just feel like you’ve outgrown your friendship group, or that they’re starting to get into things that don’t really interest you.
All of these things could be making you feel lonely and lost, and you might find it hard to connect with people around you.
How do you manage loneliness?
There’s no one single way to fight loneliness: if there was, everybody would be using it! But that doesn’t mean that loneliness is impossible to beat, or that if you’re feeling it now you will be forever. Here are a few quick dot points that cover some of the ways you can start feeling more at peace with the people in your life:
- Talk to people you trust about how you feel.
- Think about your interests and hang out with like-minded people (check out your school or local community centre to see if there are any groups you might like).
- Get a pet or try pet minding.
- Get online and play a game or check out our Forums.
- Say yes to any social invitations that might come your way.
- Practise dealing with the feeling of loneliness by validating the emotion (e.g. ‘It’s okay I feel this way’, ‘Everyone feels this way sometimes’) and talking to yourself like a friend (‘I’m here for you, this will pass).
For more information on these steps, head over to ReachOut’s step-by-step guide for fighting loneliness that you can find here.
What can I do now?
- Hop on the ReachOut Forums to connect with other people who might be feeling lonely.
- Call a friend and suggest a movie or a walk outdoors.
- Read about making friends.
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