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‘Loneliness’ From A 'Licenced Therapists Perspective'

Written by: Hannah Brents, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Feelings of loneliness are more common than ever. Stepping out of your comfort zone and creating genuine connections on a smaller scale can decrease feelings of loneliness and increase feelings of belonging and community.

Loneliness, what is it? Sure, we feel it from time to time, but what does it really mean to feel, live and carry loneliness around with us?


Loneliness, a complicated emotion that typically occurs when one’s needs for social contact are not met, may be described as a feeling of emptiness that results from isolation. A person may be lonely when alone, but the state of being alone does not necessarily indicate loneliness.


Confused? Let’s break it down from a licensed therapist's perspective.


Two types of loneliness


To clarify, being alone and being lonely isn’t the same. Loneliness feels draining, distracting, and upsetting; desired solitude feels peaceful, creative, and restorative. It seems to me that there are several types of loneliness. Of course, not everyone experiences loneliness in the situations described — for instance, not everyone wants a romantic partner and is mourning the loss of a parent. But for some people, the lack of certain kinds of relationships brings loneliness.


Once we’ve pinpointed the particular kind of loneliness we’re experiencing, it may be easier to spot ways to address it.


1. Circumstantial Loneliness


Circumstantial loneliness is when you feel lonely due to certain circumstances. An example of circumstantial loneliness would be you move to a new place, you go through a life or a role transition, such as divorce or the end of a relationship, or you change jobs.


Various circumstances can cause you to feel lonely. It does not matter if you are going through changes in your life or others are going through transitions; regardless, these changes affect you and may cause you to feel uncertain.


2. Profound Loneliness


Profound loneliness is something that does not change despite the circumstances. Often, therapists see this in folks suffering from early childhood neglect, abuse, trauma, or having absent parents. This does not mean that if someone has experienced any of those things, they will feel lonely no matter what.


What are the main signs and symptoms of loneliness?


Circumstantial or profound loneliness symptoms and signs can differ depending on who you are and your situation. If you consistently feel some or all of the following, you may be dealing with loneliness:

  • Crying for no reason

  • Mood swings

  • Irritable

  • Declining social invitations

  • Hyper focusing on or overthinking social interactions

  • Being critical of yourself, or among others

  • Lack of hope

The feeling of loneliness is essentially the need or the desire for genuine connection. It’s characterized by the constant and unrelenting feeling of being alone, separated or divided from others, and an inability to connect on a deeper level. It can also be accompanied by deeply rooted feelings of self-doubt, low self-esteem, or social anxiety.

Loneliness is a public health concern.


Evidence shows that loneliness affects mental health and well-being and induces a range of physical health problems, and could lead to early death. Studies have shown that loneliness has adverse effects on health and longevity. These study’s findings reinforce the urgency of approaching loneliness as a significant public health issue.


If you have yet to read ‘Together’ by Vivek Murthy, I highly recommend it. It talks about loneliness and how it is one of the leading causes of epidemics today. He discusses loneliness as a public health concern, but he also discusses the safeguards against loneliness; genuine connection, solitude, and service.


1. Genuine connection.


What we need is to connect with others in a meaningful way, and in order to do that, we need to give our undivided attention. Ways folks can provide undivided attention is through eye contact and appropriate touch.


2. Solitude


You may be thinking, “that’s the last thing I need when I am feeling lonely!”. I agree with Murthy, and in my work as a therapist have found that my clients are able to much better engage or engage in a centered or grounded way to others when we have a deep connection to ourselves.


3. Service


Volunteering your time in the service of others has been shown to broaden our perspective to increase gratitude. It provides a lot of meaning and purpose by giving our time to something that matters to us, whether that is helping with the alumni board of your university, working with youth and adolescents, working or volunteering your time with the elderly, or volunteering within a religious or spiritual community.

You May Feel Lonely, But You Are Not Alone


The pandemic has forced us to prevent feelings of loneliness on a much smaller scale. It may not be possible to gather with people to fight off feelings of loneliness, but there are ways to achieve connection. Make sure we consistently check in with our family and friends and make a genuine connection. When it's not possible to follow the three safeguards to prevent or manage our loneliness, we must take ourselves through a journey of acceptance and resistance.


If you are feeling lonely, know that you are not alone. Therapy in and of itself can help combat loneliness as you can connect with your counselor. They listen to you, take interest in your feelings, and help you explore the role that loneliness has in your life and how it affects your well-being.


Safe Talk Therapy, I am always here to listen and help. Reaching out to a therapist for the first time can be scary, but I am available to answer any questions you have. Contact me today and learn more about my services or schedule a free 15-minute consultation.


Follow me on Instagram, and visit my website for more info!


 

Hannah Brents, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Hannah Brents is a LICSW with a virtual therapy practice in Massachusetts. Many of Hannah’s adult clients come to her to address anxiety, trauma, life transitions, existential questioning, and relational difficulties. As Theology Therapist, Hannah serves as a resource for anyone looking to connect ‒ to yourselves, to others, to the divine and the natural world). She holds an extensive background in Theological Studies, allowing her to combine meditation, yoga, and clinical expertise to encourage deeper connectedness of the whole person as a means of healing and coping with suffering.

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