Loneliness is more than just physical solitude. Feeling lonely is a complex state of mind that leaves you empty and yearning for connection. Even when surrounded by people, you can still feel isolated and unwanted. Understanding its true nature is the first step to forming meaningful relationships and finding a sense of belonging.
There are various forms of loneliness, but experts and literature on this issue mainly recognize three of them - emotional, social, and existential. Let’s take a look at the three main types of loneliness.
Emotional loneliness happens when you experience a lack of meaningful relationships or connections. For example, you may feel emotionally lonely when you are the only person without a romantic partner in your friend circle.
You may be facing emotional loneliness when you have the desire to share your thoughts or experiences with someone, but you believe there is no one you can reach out to. If a significant person, such as a close friend, parent, or sibling, has departed from your life, you may experience a sense of longing for their companionship.
Social loneliness is a phenomenon that involves a lack of belonging to a social group or community. You might feel lonely even when you're in a romantic relationship with a loving partner. In the absence of a larger social support network, you may feel like you and your partner don't have a group to belong to.
A typical example of temporary social loneliness is when you attend a party where you don’t recognize anyone and don’t feel comfortable approaching strangers. Even if you have a wide friend circle, you can experience social loneliness if your friends don’t value your presence.
Unlike emotional and social loneliness, existential loneliness involves a profound sense of disconnect from the nature of existence and a lack of purpose in life. Existential loneliness makes you feel like you were born into the world alone, are going through all life events alone, and will die alone.
While improving the quality of your social connections can bring relief to socially and emotionally lonely people, existential loneliness is a more complex issue to overcome. There is no permanent remedy for this type of loneliness.
The causes and factors leading to loneliness may vary from person to person. However, it's generally common for people to feel lonely when they go through a major life change or make a lifestyle choice that reduces their physical and emotional connections with others.
Here are some of the leading causes of loneliness:
Loneliness is a deeply personal and complex emotion, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution for it. However, there are various coping strategies that can alleviate this issue and help you build fulfilling relationships. Below are listed some simple steps to deal with prolonged feelings of loneliness.
Share your feelings with your partner, family, or friends. Your loved ones will probably be eager to support you if they know what you're going through. You can also try joining online groups or forums where you can reach out to other people struggling with similar emotional hardships.
Believe it or not, you can actually utilize solitude for personal growth and self-improvement. Take advantage of this opportunity to enhance your skills, engage in online courses, or delve into captivating subjects through reading.
By pursuing activities that bring you joy and fulfillment, you can find a sense of purpose and suppress negative feelings related to loneliness. You can take up gardening, knitting, painting, writing, or volunteering.
Remember, it takes time and effort to overcome loneliness. It's essential to be patient with yourself and be open to new opportunities. If you still feel stuck despite trying several coping strategies, consider talking to a mental health professional about your feelings.