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:
- Technology. Ever felt like even though all 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. Even though the internet can bring us closer, it can also make us feel like we’re not really talking to our friends, and can leave us feeling lost and alone.
- Not fitting in. Maybe you have different interests to the people at your school. Maybe they think the things that you love are strange. 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?
A study that came out last year showed that 82% of Australians think loneliness is getting more and more common.
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 and loneliness.
Sometimes loneliness can be a symptom of something else going on in our lives, like illness or disability. Here are some of the main issues that loneliness can often be a symptom of:
- 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.
- Physical disability. A range of physical disabilities, from hearing loss to blindness, 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 about how you feel
- Think about your interests
- Get a pet
- Get online
- Join a club
For more information on these steps, head over to ReachOut’s step-by-step guide for fighting loneliness that you can find here.