Why, despite advances in modern communication — including cell phones, the internet, and social media — is loneliness such a pervasive phenomenon in our society?
While it has been called an epidemic in recent years and nearly half of Americans experience loneliness, it certainly isn’t a struggle that is unique to our country or culture.
Far from it.
Britons struggle with loneliness; as do those living in Canada; in Australia; and the list goes on and on.
In fact, a minister of loneliness was appointed in the UK to combat growing concerns over this widespread issue.
Strangely enough, loneliness is an invisible tie that binds millions of people together around the world — despite not even realizing it. Feeling alone has become a universal, yet unique, experience within each of us.
Which begs the question: why are we so lonely despite being so connected?
And why is there no true resource that thoroughly details every form of loneliness while simultaneously offering a safe place to talk about it?
This glaring need is the reason we created The Roots Of Loneliness Project.
Through this extensive, first-of-its-kind directory, we deeply explore the topic of loneliness, illuminating its darkest corners and helping those who are struggling with loneliness — in whatever form it takes.
In fact, so far we’ve found 80+ distinct subtypes of loneliness.
What this means is that chances are, whatever form of loneliness you’re experiencing, or have experienced, you’re not as alone as you thought you once were.
It’s important to know that just about everyone will contend with feelings of loneliness from time to time and that does not mean that what you’re feeling is abnormal, unusual, or bad — in fact, loneliness can sometimes be a good thing.
It’s also important to note that there are key distinctions between loneliness, solitude, and social isolation. Social isolation means that a person has few social interactions or connections with others; solitude denotes being physically alone.
Loneliness, however, occurs when a person desires more social connection and interaction than they are actually getting.
Many people, for instance, struggled with loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic when social distancing and shelter-in-place orders mandated that people limit their social interactions for an extended period of time.
But loneliness has many other root causes, as we’ll explore below.
The Roots Of Loneliness Project: Unearth Why You’re Feeling Alone
We’ve created a comprehensive, ever-evolving resource where you’ll learn about specific types of loneliness and their root causes.
Over time, we’ll be adding more articles, videos and resources on each subtype of loneliness crafted by those who have experienced it first-hand.
To get started, just keep scrolling.
The Roots Of Loneliness Project Infographic
For a quick yet comprehensive visual exploration of loneliness — the three main types, two modifiers, and 80+ sub-types — we created an infographic that summarizes our findings.
Click on the image to enlarge, and please include attribution to The Roots Of Loneliness Project if you use this graphic.
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What Are The Three Main Types Of Loneliness?
- While there is no official consensus, according to most psychological research, there are a few broad, generally accepted categories of loneliness based on their root causes.
- These include: situational loneliness, developmental loneliness, and internal loneliness.
- Each subtype of loneliness we list below falls within one or more of these broad categories.
What Is Situational Loneliness?
- Situational loneliness is a type of loneliness that comes about from changes that occur during a person’s life. These can include anything from cross-country relocation to job changes, the loss of a loved one, changes in physical ability or sudden disability, relationship status changes, working remotely from home and even the loss of social support.
- Situational loneliness can be short-lived as people adapt and adjust to the things that life throws at them, but it can also become a long-term problem with long-term health consequences.
- Research has shown that left untreated or aided, extended loneliness can actually change the structure and processes of the brain.
- To read more about situational loneliness, click here.
What Is Developmental Loneliness?
- Developmental loneliness is a type of loneliness that can emerge when we don’t feel like we’re developing at the same rate as those around us.
- Everyone grows and develops at their own rate, but it can be a challenge to make social and/or intimate connections with others when we feel like we’re falling behind them.
- For instance, if you’re single but all of your friends are getting married and having babies, you might feel lonely because you’re somehow “behind” them in your growth as an adult.
- Feelings of inadequacy are associated with developmental loneliness because a person may feel “less than” when comparing themselves to their peers.
- To read more about developmental loneliness, click here.
What Is Internal Loneliness?
- Internal loneliness is a type of loneliness that originates from within.
- Internal loneliness is deeply personal and may be rooted in one’s personality and their inability to make meaningful connections with others.
- They may or may not be physically alone, but even if they have friends and a social circle, they still feel alone.
- Those who suffer from low self-esteem and self-worth are more likely to contend with internal loneliness.
- Further, internal loneliness may be brought on due to a person’s own mental distress, overwhelming feelings of worthlessness or guilt, feeling out of control in situations, or having inadequate coping strategies.
- To read more about internal loneliness, click here.
What Is The Difference Between Transient And Chronic Loneliness?
- Loneliness can be considered transient or chronic.
What Is Transient Loneliness?
- Transient loneliness, also known as “state loneliness,” is a temporary type of loneliness that generally occurs because of a change in circumstance or situation.
- For example, one might relocate to another city or begin a new job at a different office. The initial adjustment period may bring about some feelings of loneliness (situational), but it’s a temporary (transient) situation until that person adapts to their new environment.
- Because transient/state loneliness is temporary, it can motivate a person to reestablish existing social connections or create new ones to fill the void.
- This is an example of how loneliness can be a “good” thing and serve a purpose of growth, change, and acceptance.
- However, when loneliness is no longer temporary or a person struggles to pull out of a repeating cycle of loneliness (see Pathological Loneliness), it can become chronic.
- To read more about transient loneliness, click here.
What Is Chronic Loneliness?
- Chronic loneliness is marked by a long-term inability to make connections with other people, feeling isolated and alone (even if you are not physically alone), having no close friends, low self-esteem, and exhaustion.
- Also known as “trait loneliness,” chronic loneliness can initially emerge as a result of many different things, including the death of a spouse, family member, or loved one, divorce, relocation, or any other change in a person’s circumstances.
- Because of a person’s inherent traits, they may struggle with loneliness more than those who don’t have traits that make them susceptible to feeling alone.
- In that way, someone’s personality can actually increase their risk of becoming lonely in general, and their personalities can become shaped by their loneliness in a cycle that just keeps repeating.
- Unfortunately, research has shown that chronic loneliness is indeed an inheritable trait that can be passed down.
- To read more about chronic loneliness, click here.
The Roots Of Loneliness Project: Outlining Every Subtype Of Loneliness
Once you understand the 3 main types of loneliness (Situational, Developmental, Internal) and whether what you are experiencing is transient or chronic, you can then identify which specific subtype(s) of loneliness you may be experiencing using the list below.
- Each subtype of loneliness is listed alphabetically.
- To read an explanation/description of that particular form of loneliness, simply click the link.
- Each description contains resources to learn more about that subtype of loneliness when applicable.
Explore The Subtypes Of Loneliness
- ADHD Loneliness
- Alcohol/Addiction Loneliness
- Autism Loneliness
- Bipolar Loneliness
- Breakup Loneliness
- Cancer Loneliness
- Caregiver Loneliness
- City Loneliness
- Codependency Loneliness
- College Loneliness
- Cosmic Loneliness
- Creative People Loneliness
- Cultural Loneliness
- Depression Loneliness
- Disabled Loneliness
- Divorce Loneliness
- Emotional Loneliness
- Empty Nest Loneliness
- Existential Loneliness
- Gender Loneliness
- Grief Loneliness
- Holiday Loneliness
- Intellectual Loneliness
- Leadership Loneliness
- LGBTQ Loneliness
- Living Alone Loneliness
- Living Away From Home Loneliness
- Love Loneliness
- Marriage Loneliness
- Mental Illness Loneliness
- Middle-Aged Loneliness
- Military And Combat Loneliness
- Military Spouse And Family Loneliness
- Millennial Loneliness
- Miscarriage Loneliness
- Motherhood Loneliness
- Only Child Loneliness
- Parent Loneliness
- Pathological Loneliness
- Post College/Grad Loneliness
- Pregnancy Loneliness
- PTSD Loneliness
- Queer Loneliness
- Relationship Loneliness
- Religious Loneliness
- Retirement Loneliness
- Romantic Loneliness
- Senior Loneliness
- Separation Loneliness
- Sexual Loneliness
- Single Loneliness
- Single Mom Loneliness
- Social Anxiety Loneliness
- Social Loneliness
- Social Media Loneliness
- Solitude Loneliness
- Spiritual Loneliness
- Technology Loneliness
- Teenage Loneliness
- Urban Loneliness
- Widow Loneliness
- Workplace Loneliness
- Also includes: ADHD Social Isolation; Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Loneliness; Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Social Isolation
- Adults who are managing Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are at an increased risk for developing feelings of loneliness, particularly if their ADHD symptoms are more severe.
- The reasons for this may include their difficulties beginning and/or maintaining social relationships with other people, feeling different from those around them, or feeling unworthy of friendship in general.
- Loneliness in those managing ADHD may also be exacerbated by depression, anxiety, or other issues that can co-occur with ADHD.
- Also includes: Alcoholism Loneliness; Loneliness and Alcohol; Addiction Loneliness
- While some people who struggle with alcoholism or addiction might be sociable people, addicts are prone to feelings of isolation, which can lead to loneliness.
- Increased dependence on substances being abused, whether drugs or alcohol (or both), can also increase a person’s disconnection from family and friends – and even themselves.
- Also includes: Asperger’s Loneliness; High Functioning Autism Loneliness
- Despite the common misconception that they don’t have empathy or that loneliness doesn’t affect them, autistic adults are likely to feel lonely, with an estimated 1 in 3 being socially isolated.
- Finding helpful resources can be a challenge for adults with autism, particularly when their concerns are quickly dismissed by medical professionals, which can lead to further loneliness and isolation.
- Communication barriers, sensory overload, the pressure to “fit in” with “normal” people, or dealing with others’ misconceptions about autism can all contribute to loneliness in those who reside anywhere along the spectrum.
- Also includes: Bipolar Disorder Loneliness
- Those who struggle with bipolar disorder may experience loneliness due to the stigma, insecurity, and mental health issues associated with it.
- Bipolar disorder can result in both internal and external difficulties maintaining relationships with others, leading to loneliness and/or depression.
- Also includes: Loneliness After Breakup; Lonely After Breakup; Feeling Lost After A Breakup; Feeling Lonely After Breakup
- When a romantic relationship comes to an end, we might dwell on what went wrong — and more specifically, what might be “wrong” with us.
- Loneliness occurs following a breakup because we’re left feeling sad over the loss.
- We might become lonely because all the time we spent with that person has suddenly become time that we have to spend with ourselves and in some cases, we feel rejected altogether.
- Also includes: Loneliness After Cancer, Loneliness In Cancer Patients
- Patients often feel alone as they endure everything that follows a diagnosis of cancer and there are various reasons why this happens.
- Cancer patients who are suddenly grappling with their own mortality may have concerns over existential matters — wondering if they will die — with their loneliness being exacerbated by the knowledge that their friends and family aren’t carrying the same worries for themselves.
- Some cancer patients may not have people with whom they can discuss fears over their diagnosis or possible fate, their health, treatment, and outlook, especially if they are going through it alone or don’t know anyone else who has personally gone through cancer.
- Additionally, cancer patients may feel like their support systems (family and friends) are not providing enough support.
- After treatment ends, a cancer patient may be left wondering what comes next after their medical providers and caregivers have moved on to other things, leading to feelings of abandonment and loneliness.
- Also includes: Caregiver Social Isolation
- When a person spends a great deal of time providing care for an ailing family member, spouse or friend, they may experience caregiver loneliness.
- Caregivers are often responsible for so much regarding the care of another person — not to mention themselves — that they may become withdrawn and socially isolated because they’re not spending time out in the world with others or nurturing relationships beyond the person they’re providing care for.
- The loneliness caregivers experience may be exacerbated by:
- ambiguous loss: caring for a person who is still with them physically but not entirely aware (dementia, stroke, brain injury)
- anticipatory grief: grieving someone who will pass away but hasn’t yet
- or the grief and loneliness (and sometimes the sense of relief) that occurs after the person being cared for passes on.
- Unfortunately, about one out of five bereaved caregivers will struggle with depression, complicated grief, or other psychiatric symptoms following the loss of the person they provided care for.
- Also Includes: Moving To A New City Alone; Lonely In A New City; Alone In The City; Alone In A New City
- Cities are places filled with plenty of opportunities, but living in an environment so densely packed with people can actually increase a person’s chances of developing feelings of loneliness.
- Because of a large population of renters who live in cities temporarily before moving to the suburbs, long-term friendships are often more difficult to establish or nurture. This can be exacerbated by gentrification.
- In addition, high-pressure jobs can mean more hours spent working and fewer hours spent socializing with others.
- Social media and our reliance on technology can also play a role in city loneliness with increased feelings of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).
- Subconsciously, the physical layout of a city can add to feelings of loneliness and isolation.
- New transplants may be dealing with general loneliness that is further magnified by having to adjust to life in a new city.
- Finally, cultural norms like negative politeness — staying out of other people’s personal space — can make feelings of social isolation worse for those living in a city.
- Also includes: Codependent Loneliness
- A codependent person sacrifices their own needs to attend to those of their romantic partner, family members, or friends, and may not receive the same level of care in return.
- This imbalance of give-and-take within the relationship can result in feelings of codependency loneliness, as well as anger, frustration, and resentment over time.
- When a person who is struggling with codependency perceives their partner as being absent in some way, they may also feel emotionally abandoned, triggering loneliness.
- Also includes: Being Lonely In College; Feeling Lonely At College; Loneliness In College; No Friends In College; Not Making Friends In College
- Major life changes are always a challenge, but feelings of loneliness are common during the college years.
- Loneliness afflicts freshmen students, in particular, as they’re navigating their first foray into the “real world,” although it can affect students at any college level.
- Loneliness in college may arise from culture shock, the overwhelming pressure to succeed, social media use, and even the religious differences among those attending classes on campus.
- Additionally, single-occupancy dorm rooms can worsen feelings of loneliness when a student doesn’t have a roommate to provide a sense of companionship.
- College scholars who struggle with anxiety or depression (or both) are less likely to seek out or make connections with others, impacting not only their feelings of loneliness but their overall wellness.
- Other causes of loneliness in college can include being away from home, not having an established group of friends, adapting to a new routine, experiencing uncertainty about the future, struggling to balance college life with domestic and social activities, having an undetermined major or being unsure of the “right” career path, struggling with time management, not getting along with a roommate, feeling like everyone else is happy, or facing academic challenges.
- If you’ve ever pondered the meaning of life or your place in the universe, you may have felt a fleeting sensation of cosmic loneliness.
- The idea that the Earth is alone in the universe, at least in terms of sustaining life, can lead to cosmic loneliness and the fear that we are, indeed, completely alone on a tiny hunk of rock hurtling through a little solar system in a vast and unending universe.
- For decades, scientists have been driven to find definitive answers to the question: Are we really alone in the universe? While the search continues onward for intelligent life beyond our world, contemplating the possibility that no other life exists beyond the Earth’s atmosphere can prompt feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Creative People Loneliness
- Also includes: Creative Loneliness; Lonely Artists; Lonely Writers
- Creative people may produce fine art, music, poetry, prose, or other artistic composition to make a connection with others through their work. This urge to create — to connect — can stem from loneliness, although certainly not always.
- Creative loneliness can sometimes arise when a person locks themselves away to toil on their artistic endeavors for extended periods of time. For instance, an artist might spend days or weeks alone as a part of their process, which can lead to isolation.
- Those who express themselves creatively may struggle with loneliness for a variety of reasons that include time spent alone and immersed in their craft, the pressure to succeed in their artistic endeavor, or if they have difficulty earning money through their finished work.
- A creative individual may also struggle to find their “tribe,” a close-knit community of other artists and creators they’d like to have an opportunity to associate with.
- Moving to a foreign country or unfamiliar locale may trigger feelings of loneliness as a person adapts to their new surroundings and community.
- Cultural loneliness can occur when a person begins to integrate into a society they are not already acquainted with. They might feel misunderstood — even if language isn’t a barrier — and they may also feel like an outsider, finding it difficult to make meaningful connections with others.
- Additionally, this type of loneliness might arise when a person feels disconnected from their own culture, even while living among it.
- Global citizens and those who long for destinations and experiences elsewhere in the world may experience cultural loneliness while residing in their native country.
- Also includes: Depression And Loneliness; Loneliness Depression; Lonely And Depressed; Loneliness Of Depression
- It’s difficult to pinpoint which one causes the other — depression or loneliness — but they are intrinsically tied to one another.
- Loneliness certainly can result in depression, but those suffering from depression may also struggle with loneliness and a host of other negative feelings in tandem.
- Loneliness and depression feed off of one another in a repetitive cycle, which can ultimately lead to feelings of isolation and alienation.
- Also includes: Disability Loneliness; Disabled And Lonely; Disabled And Alone
- People who are living with a disability are more prone to experience loneliness than their able-bodied peers.
- Isolation is a key source of loneliness in those who are disabled; a disabled person experiences their body’s ailments firsthand, whereas able-bodied people cannot understand the depth and scope of a disabled person’s physical struggles.
- More than half of people living with a disability report feeling lonely. Their reasons include the physical barriers and accessibility issues that make it difficult to move through an able-bodied world and feeling incapable of making meaningful connections with people who are not disabled themselves.
- Also includes: Divorce And Loneliness; Loneliness After Divorce; Lonely After Divorce; Separated And Lonely
- It’s common for feelings of loneliness to emerge after a divorce.
- Loneliness can follow a divorce for several reasons: grief, sadness or anger over the relationship ending; custody battles over children; or the loss of friends and familial relationships that takes place once the marriage ends.
- Different situations can provoke loneliness in a person after their divorce; what triggers loneliness in one person may not give rise to loneliness in another.
- Sometimes the best way to deal with divorce is to go through it — and not around it.
- Loneliness after a divorce can feel endless, especially for a newly-single parent who has suddenly become the primary child caregiver.
- Emotional loneliness is the state of feeling emotionally disconnected from the people around you or being unable to connect with them on a deep or meaningful level.
- This type of loneliness can begin in childhood if a child is unable to bond with their parent(s) or other family figures or has suffered from emotional deprivation and neglect.
- Trauma during childhood or adulthood can also make it difficult for individuals to establish quality relationships with others, which may contribute to feelings of emotional loneliness.
- Those who abuse drugs are more likely to feel emotionally lonely, although it is uncertain whether the drug abuse develops from loneliness — or causes it.
- Situational life changes such as moving to a new city or ending a romantic relationship can result in short-term emotional loneliness.
- Emotional loneliness differs from emotional isolation; while the former refers to a feeling of disconnection from others, the latter is the act of pulling away from people on an emotional level.
Empty Nest Loneliness
- While raising children, parents often lament not having much time alone, but when their children reach adulthood and move away, loneliness can settle within the quiet walls of a home that was once filled with daily activity.
- Empty nest loneliness is a shock to the system for parents whose lives previously revolved around their children.
- Additionally, parents must face the loss of daily companionship with their children and may struggle with real and/or imagined concerns over their welfare.
- Also known as empty nest syndrome, this type of loneliness may be further exacerbated by other midlife changes that sometimes occur in tandem, including menopause, retirement, or even divorce.
- Also includes: Existential Isolation; Existential Awakening
- Existential loneliness is most often encountered by those nearing the end of their lives, although it can also be experienced by those who feel disconnected from others and the universe as a whole.
- When someone is aware that their time on earth is limited due to terminal illness or advancing age, a person might feel overwhelming sadness or emptiness while wondering whether their life was truly well-lived.
- Additionally, someone who is facing their own mortality may find it difficult to articulate such feelings to others, leading to further isolation and loneliness.
- Existential loneliness should not be confused with existential anxiety — the feelings that arise when one ponders the reason for their existence, considers the passage of time and where their life is leading, or questions the meaning of life and existence in general.
- Some people make the mistake of thinking that something is wrong with them for feeling existential loneliness, or trying to run away from such feelings instead of dealing with them head-on.
- Also includes: Female Loneliness; Women’s Loneliness; Loneliness In Women; Male Loneliness; Male Loneliness Syndrome; Loneliness In Men; Transgender Loneliness; Genderqueer Loneliness; Non-Binary Loneliness
- Men and women feel loneliness as a result of their genders for different reasons. Additionally, transgender and non-binary individuals also face their own unique struggles with loneliness.
- Women tend to report feeling lonelier than men in general, but the perception that females are the lonelier sex may be inaccurate since women are more likely to admit to those feelings than men are.
- Women may experience gender loneliness as the result of life changes like relocation or becoming a widow, their social circles (or lack thereof), and social media usage.
- Men may experience loneliness when they are unable to find meaningful friendships and social connections with other men.
- Some men also suffer from a lesser-known form of loneliness known as “Empty Man Syndrome” — a term that describes men in their 40s who have no friends, are single (or divorced), unemployed or unhappy in their job roles, and who have no hobbies to occupy their time.
- Men may struggle with loneliness silently if they don’t want to appear weak, have been taught that men shouldn’t talk about their feelings at all, or because they don’t want to be vulnerable in the presence of others.
- Men sometimes lose close friendships as they get older and as work, family, or other obligations leave them with little time for nurturing social relationships with other men.
Transgender, Genderqueer, and Non-Binary Loneliness:
- Transgender men and women can experience loneliness as they struggle with self-acceptance, coming out, and navigating a society that so often rejects them.
- Their cisgender friends might accept them with open hearts, but they cannot fully relate to the transgender experience.
- Likewise, non-binary individuals can also struggle with feelings of loneliness.
- The combination of emotional and social isolation from others may contribute to feelings of loneliness in transgender and non-binary individuals.
- Transgender and non-binary identities were once typically viewed as a “problem” that needed to be “fixed.” While societal attitudes are evolving, it can take time for gender-nonconforming individuals to benefit from the effects of these changes.
- Also includes: Grief And Loneliness; Loneliness After Death Of A Spouse; Loneliness After Death Of A Parent; Loneliness After Death Of A Friend; Loneliness After Death Of A Child
- Grief is a deeply personal experience that can feel vastly different for everyone.
- When a person is grieving the loss of a loved one, they may find themselves turning inward as they deal with their personal pain, resulting in loneliness.
- A grieving person may detach themselves from their social support circles over time. They may not want to burden others with the weight of their grief or they may not feel like they can be around other people.
- Grief loneliness can sometimes manifest during milestones like anniversaries, holidays, or birthdays.
- Additionally, it can arise during routine moments like eating a meal, reading the morning paper, or even watching a television show that would have been enjoyed with the person being grieved.
- Also includes: Loneliness During Holidays; Loneliness At Christmas
- As its name suggests, holiday loneliness pops up around holidays that are typically spent socializing with other people — including Thanksgiving and Christmas.
- This type of loneliness is common and can affect anyone from divorcees to the elderly, those living far away from family, parents whose children have moved away, and those who are grieving the loss of someone they love.
- Holidays can be especially difficult because those who are lonely may feel the sting of being alone more intensely during traditionally happy celebrations, especially when it seems like everyone else is busy enjoying the spirit of the season.
- Also includes: Intelligence And Loneliness; High-Intelligence Loneliness
- Although intelligence — in a traditional sense and an emotional one — can make life easier in many ways, it can also make life much lonelier.
- A person may experience intellectual loneliness when they don’t feel intellectually stimulated by their family, friends, or peers.
- When someone is much smarter than those around them, they may struggle to connect with others, especially if they don’t feel like they can share their ideas or interests, or think that they won’t be understood.
- People with high emotional intelligence, or EQ, can also experience this type of loneliness, particularly when their need to provide emotional support to others crosses over into codependency.
- Also includes: Loneliness Of Leadership
- “It’s lonely at the top” is a common phrase that is often very true: leadership can be a lonely position to be in.
- The responsibilities associated with being a leader can and do lend themselves to feelings of loneliness.
- Half of CEOs report feeling lonely in their roles, even though they might be surrounded by folks who are there to advise and support them.
- Leadership loneliness isn’t a concept that is unique to our modern society; Andrew Jackson wrote about the loneliness of his role just four months into his presidency in 1829.
- Also includes: Gay Loneliness; Gay Men Loneliness; Epidemic Of Gay Loneliness; Lesbian Loneliness; Bisexual Loneliness; Transgender Loneliness; Queer Loneliness
- Those who are part of the LGBTQ community are prone to experiencing loneliness, as are those struggling with gender identity.
- There are several reasons why those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual, or queer are at an increased risk of being lonely.
- These reasons can include social isolation, emotional isolation, cognitive isolation, being different from others, and/or actively concealing their sexuality from those around them.
- The world can be lonely for LGBTQ people, particularly because they’re walking uphill in every direction. It is harder for them to own homes, they experience discrimination in the workplace, they’re more likely to become homeless, and simply being accepted by their families is a challenge.
Living Alone Loneliness
- The number of people who are living alone has nearly doubled in the U.S. over the past 50 years, but the trend toward single-person households is becoming more and more common around the world.
- Feelings of loneliness are common when a person lives on their own, but loneliness can present a risk factor for premature mortality if a person lacks adequate social interaction with others.
- While living alone does not necessarily mean someone will feel lonely, it may increase their risk for loneliness and incidence of common mental disorders.
- Other additional factors can contribute to this, as well, like being unmarried (single, divorced, or widowed), not having many friends, not participating in social groups, being retired, struggling with a physical impairment, or having strained familial relationships.
Living Away From Family Loneliness
- Also includes: Living Away From Family; Isolation From Family; Living Far From Family; Isolated From Family; Family Isolation
- It can be exciting to move away from home but relocating far away from loved ones and an established support system can be a jarring experience that leads to loneliness.
- More than 8 million Americans are living overseas, but even on the mainland, many people move far from their hometowns and families for school, employment, or richer opportunities.
- When a person moves a great distance away from their family, they miss out on gatherings and social time spent together.
- That struggle is exponentially multiplied when children are involved: grandparents miss out on time spent with their grandchildren, aunts and uncles don’t have an opportunity to visit with their nieces and nephews, and cousins may not develop close relationships as they grow up apart from one another.
- A person who lives far from their family may struggle with getting “home” in the event of an emergency, whether due to the sudden financial cost of the trip itself or the length of time spent traveling.
- Also includes: Love And Loneliness; Loneliness And Love
- Love is thought by many to be the “cure” for loneliness and that love will somehow remove any and all feelings of loneliness — like magic.
- Much like romantic loneliness, love loneliness is a desire to share love with someone else; when an individual is without love, loneliness can arise in its stead.
- Love can reduce loneliness in some circumstances, but it can also exacerbate feelings of loneliness in others.
- An addiction to “love” — or at least the hormones released in the early stages of a relationship — may lead to feelings of loneliness when the initial rush of euphoric hormones (dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin) wanes or ends altogether.
- Also includes: Being Lonely In A Marriage; Feeling Alone In A Marriage; Feeling Lonely In Marriage; Loneliness In Marriage
- Although marriage provides companionship, people who are married can still experience feelings of loneliness.
- Established couples might begin to feel lonely in their marriages if they grow apart in their interests, no longer discuss their interests with one another, or if they settle into daily routines that seemingly run on autopilot, particularly when they’re raising children together.
- When the companionship aspect of marriage breaks down, loneliness may surface in its wake.
- This doesn’t necessarily mean that the couple is incompatible with one another, however, it could be signaling that something in the relationship should be addressed.
Mental Illness Loneliness
- Also includes: Bipolar Loneliness; Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) Loneliness; Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) Loneliness; Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) Loneliness; OCD Loneliness; Social Anxiety Loneliness
- People who struggle with mental illness may experience feelings of loneliness as a result of their affliction.
- Mental illness and mental health issues include body dysmorphic disorder, borderline personality disorder, depression, dissociative disorders, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder and hoarding, mania, paranoia, psychosis, and schizoaffective disorder, among many others.
- The cycle of loneliness as it pertains to mental illness is one of repetition, particularly when mental illness is severe.
- A person’s impairments might make it difficult to begin or maintain relationships and they may also lack the opportunity or ability to take part in social activities.
- Mental illness carries a stigma that can make it difficult to connect with others.
- Also includes: Middle Age Loneliness; Midlife Loneliness; Loneliness In Midlife
- By the time they reach middle age, 30% of middle-aged people in the United States will experience loneliness for a variety of reasons.
- Changes in their social interactions at midlife can be a factor, as can their professional statuses (or lack thereof), income levels and income fluctuations, relationship changes, and the development of health issues.
Military And Combat Loneliness
- Also includes: Veterans Loneliness; Combat Loneliness
- Those serving in the armed forces are at risk for developing feelings of loneliness during and after their service.
- It can be difficult to connect with other people after returning to daily life because no one — aside from their military peers — really understands the military experience.
- Returning to civilian life is a challenge for many veterans because the social construct and day-to-day activities are completely different than what they were used to while serving in the military.
Military Spouse And Family Loneliness
- Also includes: Military Wife Loneliness; Military Spouse Loneliness
- Spouses of those who are serving in the military often struggle with loneliness during deployment, in part because of decreased military support for families.
- Some military spouses will reach out to other military spouses for support but many lack the opportunity to do so.
- Military families may experience a range of emotional struggles — which can include loneliness — before, during, and even after military service ends.
- Changes in daily routines, relocations, and deployments can be physically and emotionally isolating for military families.
- Also includes: Loneliness In Your 20s; Loneliness In Your 30s
- Loneliness is an epidemic among the millennial generation; in one recent survey, 30% of millennials report being lonely “often or always” and one in five reported having “no friends.”
- Social media may be partly to blame for loneliness in millennials, especially when such platforms are used to compare one person’s life to another’s.
- Loneliness can also occur as a result of the career-driven lives being led by many millennials who are dealing with workplace burnout or low-paying jobs that exacerbate their financial stresses.
- Millennials are facing more illness at earlier ages compared to previous generations and such physical and mental conditions can contribute to loneliness.
- The combination of being overworked (and often underpaid), struggling with finances, using social media, and dealing with health concerns can make it difficult for millennials to engage with others or spend time in social settings among their peers.
- Although miscarriage is common (between 15-25% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage), society doesn’t talk about it and women who experience the loss of a pregnancy often feel very alone.
- A woman may struggle with miscarriage loneliness because her loss is too difficult to discuss or she doesn’t feel that her grief will be understood by others.
- Additionally, a woman may carry guilt and shame over the loss of her pregnancy because she assumes fault for it happening in the first place.
- From a social standpoint, women may avoid social situations to avoid triggers — like being around other people’s children — and may lack adequate support from their partners who do not know how to help them through the loss.
- Also includes: Loneliness In Motherhood; Lonely Mom; Lonely Mother; Stay At Home Mom Loneliness; Lonely Stay At Home Mom; Single Mom Loneliness; Lonely Single Mom
- One study of 2,000 mothers found that more than 90% of them reported feeling lonely since having children.
- While loneliness and isolation are common for new mothers, moms of older children may also struggle with it for a variety of reasons.
- Motherhood means exploring an entirely new world of daily activities and the adjustment is often overwhelming — especially for stay-at-home moms and single mothers.
- Struggles with postpartum depression can worsen feelings of loneliness in new moms.
- Mothers may feel like they’re losing part of their own identities because every single thing they do now revolves solely around the care of someone else.
- It can be difficult to make new friends or to spend time with existing ones, especially for a mom who doesn’t have much in the way of free time to begin with.
- Some mothers find it difficult to maintain connections with friends who don’t have children because they’re unable to relate to the experience of motherhood.
- Many moms won’t reach out for help when they need it because they feel it might negatively reflect upon their ability to be mothers and they don’t want to feel like a burden to others.
Only Child Loneliness
- Also includes: Lonely Child Syndrome; Only Child Lonely; Lonely Only Children;
- Being an only child doesn’t necessarily equate to a life full of loneliness, as some parents of only children may fear.
- In fact, only children are generally ambitious, self-confident, organized, and mature.
- That said, only children may experience loneliness as they grow older, particularly because they alone are responsible for caring for their aging parents — without siblings to help by sharing the burden.
- Also includes: New Parent Loneliness; Single Parent Loneliness; Single Dad Loneliness; Single Mom Loneliness; Lonely Single Parent
- Just like new mothers, parents are prone to loneliness for similar reasons: changes in their daily routines, the demands of looking after a child, and having limited free time to spend in their social circles.
- It takes considerable effort to foster and maintain social relationships after becoming a parent.
- Parents of children with disabilities may experience deeper feelings of loneliness and isolation due to frequent doctor appointments and other care related to their child’s health, and being unable to connect with other parents and friends who don’t fully understand their struggle.
- Many single moms and single dads contend with loneliness as they balance full-time childcare while making a living and managing a home on their own — responsibilities which leave little time for socialization with friends or romantic partners.
- In pathological loneliness, a pattern emerges where a person cannot pull themselves out of their loneliness — rather than overcoming it, they are overwhelmed by it.
- Pathological loneliness is a type of loneliness cycle that is difficult to break; some researchers consider it a disease because it is more than a symptom.
Post College/Grad Loneliness
- Also includes: Post-College Loneliness; Postgraduate Loneliness
- There is a considerable shift in a person’s daily routine and level of responsibility after they leave college.
- Where college students have spent years surrounded by peers, professors, and administrators, postgraduates must leave that familiar landscape in search of careers.
- The process of starting new endeavors — often in new locales — can be a lonely experience, especially if post-grads feel unsure about what will come next in their life.
- This type of loneliness can worsen as a young adult faces student debt, faces pressure to make the “right” decision, feels unsure of what career path to take, or struggles with their first “real” job.
- Post-college loneliness is different than post-college depression; where the former can result from the loss of friendships or routines associated with college, the latter is marked by constant feelings of sadness, aimlessness, emptiness, or misdirection that won’t go away.
- Also includes: Pregnant And Feeling Lonely; Feeling Alone In Pregnancy; Loneliness During Pregnancy; Feeling Lonely During Pregnancy; Pregnant And Feeling Alone
- Pregnancy is a time of great change that may be accompanied by loneliness, even if it was planned.
- Pregnancy loneliness doesn’t only affect mothers who are expecting their first child; it can also occur in those who have been pregnant before.
- As many as 12.9% of pregnant women will experience symptoms of prenatal depression, which may heighten their distress.
- Hormonal fluctuations, feeling physically ill, and stress over impending motherhood can exacerbate loneliness during a woman’s pregnancy.
- Women may limit their communication with others because they fear that discussing the pregnancy will cause something to go wrong.
- Those who find themselves with an unsupportive partner — or no partner at all — may also struggle with loneliness during their pregnancy.
- It can be difficult for pregnant women to find their “tribe,” as they find themselves somewhere in limbo between their old life and a new one that soon waits.
- Also includes: Traumatic Loneliness; Childhood Trauma Loneliness
- Those who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may experience loneliness as a result of past trauma — whether it stems from military experience, childhood trauma, or sexual trauma.
- While the connection between PTSD and loneliness hasn’t been studied widely, researchers suggest that loneliness is a major factor in complex PTSD.
- One analysis discovered that the risk for loneliness was greater in those who suffer from higher levels of PTSD symptoms versus those with very low PTSD symptoms.
- Chronic PTSD symptoms — regardless of their origin — are additionally associated with mental health issues that include loneliness and even hostility.
- Queer is not necessarily synonymous with “gay” in its meaning; “queer” refers to anyone who isn’t cisgender or heterosexual.
- Queerness and loneliness have been intertwined with one another throughout history and even now — despite society’s strides toward acceptance of those in the LGBTQ+ communities.
- Loneliness can be experienced by queer people for a variety of reasons that include rejection from their family and/or friends, internal struggles with their own sexual identity, isolation resulting from the inability to come out, not having a “community” to interact with, or living in a geographical area that is unsafe for queer people.
- Queer people are more likely to experience loneliness than those outside of the LGBTQ+ community.
- Also includes: Lonely In A Relationship; Alone In A Relationship; Love Loneliness; Feeling Lonely In A Relationship; Long Distance Relationship Loneliness; Romantic Loneliness
- There are a number of reasons why a person may feel lonely even though they are in a relationship.
- Some facets of the relationship may not be working out, or one person might be using their partner to fill a void that remains unfilled.
- Likewise, partners may not be communicating adequately with one another or expressing their individual needs.
- Loneliness can occur after the honeymoon phase of the relationship has ended, particularly if a person has been spending so much time with their partner that they’ve neglected their circle of friends in the process.
- When someone is involved in a long-distance relationship, feelings of loneliness can manifest as a result of the prolonged absence of their partner and the lack of opportunities for intimacy.
- Also includes: Christian Loneliness, Buddhism And Loneliness, God Loneliness, Desiring God Loneliness
- Religious loneliness is a type of loneliness that a person may experience as they travel along their own religious journey.
- While many people wonder whether their beliefs are truly correct, feelings of doubt can sometimes cause a sense of loneliness.
- For Christians specifically, church attendance is declining, leaving them with fewer connections with others who share their faith. Additionally, the expression of “negative” feelings is often discouraged, which can lead to feelings of isolation.
- Religious loneliness can also affect relationships with family members and even friends when one person leaves an established religion they shared in favor of following another path (or none at all.)
- Some people try to escape their loneliness by exploring different religious traditions, with varying degrees of success.
- For some, religion can provide a means of overcoming loneliness and isolation, as with Buddhist teachings that encourage the acceptance and embrace of such feelings.
- Also includes: Loneliness In Retirement
- People who have retired from the workforce may experience loneliness because their daily and weekly routines are marked by a profound change following retirement.
- Retirement can have a negative impact on a person’s opportunity to socialize with others, resulting in isolation.
- Prolonged loneliness can lead to health problems and depression over time, especially if a retiree stops taking care of themselves.
- Those who have retired may lose their social support, experience changes in their living situations, and could develop health issues that make it difficult to maintain social relationships with others.
- Men struggle with isolation and loneliness in old age at a rate higher than women and they also tend to have less contact with their children.
- Also includes: Love Loneliness; Relationship Loneliness; Single Loneliness
- Romantic relationships are not necessarily a “cure” for loneliness.
- Being in a constant search for a romantic partner may leave a person feeling more lonely, particularly if they experience a series of short-term relationships with very little success or fulfillment.
- Modern culture prizes romantic relationships, which can add unnecessary strain on single people who feel pressured to pair up with someone as soon as possible.
- Even those who are currently in romantic relationships or marriages may contend with loneliness for a variety of different reasons.
- Also includes: Elderly Loneliness; Loneliness In Seniors; Loneliness In Elderly
- The Golden Years are not so golden for many people; 1 in 3 seniors report feeling lonely and about 28% of them live alone.
- Loneliness increases senior mortality rates and their chances of developing dementia.
- Loneliness in the elderly is common for a number of reasons: they often have lost spouses, friends, and/or children to death; family and friends have moved away over the years; they may have fewer opportunities to socialize (especially if they are no longer driving or have mobility issues); or they might suffer from degenerative health problems that keep them at home.
- Some senior citizens isolate themselves as a way of coping with their situation or because they don’t want to feel like a burden to others.
- Many seniors find it difficult to ask for help when they need it, further exacerbating their loneliness.
- Also includes: Loneliness During Separation, Loneliness After Separation
- Feelings of loneliness are common during and after a separation for several reasons: grief over the loss of a relationship (even if temporary), sadness and anger over changes in the relationship, or fear that the relationship cannot be restored or will end in divorce.
- Separation loneliness can also occur in those who become separated from the ones they love due to situational circumstances that may be short or long term.
- Also includes: Sexual Frustration And Loneliness; High Sex Drive Loneliness
- Sexual frustration can be a source of loneliness, even if you’re in a relationship.
- There is a stigma surrounding loneliness where sexuality is concerned: in particular, the idea that being sexually lonely means a person is also undesirable, inadequate, or different and unworthy of sex.
- There are a number of reasons a person may feel sexually frustrated and lonely: they aren’t in a relationship; they may not be getting enough sexual intimacy in their current relationship (particularly if their sex drive differs from their partner’s) or they are in a sexless marriage; they may not be connecting with their partner emotionally; or there may be health issues that stand in the way of a sexual relationship.
- Also includes: Lonely Single Women; Lonely Single Men; Lonely And Single; Single And Lonely; Loneliness While Single; Single Mom Loneliness; Single Dad Loneliness
- A person might be perfectly happy being single, but that doesn’t mean they won’t experience loneliness from being romantically unattached.
- Loneliness in single people may arise because their emotional, romantic, or sexual needs are not being met; it can be difficult to feel fulfilled in such ways without having an intimate relationship with someone.
- Single people may feel like they should already be in a stable partnership, particularly when their friends are married or in relationships themselves, but those comparisons can make their loneliness worse.
- There is a stigma surrounding those who are single, suggesting that there is something inherently wrong with a person if they’re unattached romantically.
- Disability presents an additional set of challenges in the dating scene, as some people can’t — or won’t — view disabled people as potential romantic partners.
- Single moms and dads may experience internal pressure to date if they feel the need to “replace” their ex-spouse and create a nuclear family again.
Single Mom Loneliness
- Also Includes: Lonely Single Mom; Lonely Single Mother; Single Mom Isolation
- While there are many different aspects to single motherhood, loneliness is a common struggle for single moms who are trying to balance everything on their own.
- The financial strain of single motherhood can mean working overtime or multiple jobs to make ends meet. That, coupled with being a full-time parent and the head of the household, can leave very little time for a social life.
- The journey of a single mother can be a lonely experience, one that may be also be accompanied by feelings of guilt.
- Single moms often have to face both the joys and the burdens of parenthood — alone.
Social Anxiety Loneliness
- Loneliness can stem from a lack of social interaction with others and those who suffer from social anxiety — or a fear of social interactions — are at risk for developing it.
- Many people experience varying degrees of social anxiety in different situations throughout their lives.
- Social anxiety is not the same as being introverted, which is a person’s natural preference for spending time alone or with small groups in intimate settings.
- Individuals who are trying to manage social anxiety can experience a number of physical and mental symptoms and may be very self-conscious about themselves or feel like others are always judging them.
- Chronic social anxiety can cause people to avoid social gatherings altogether, making it difficult for them to maintain existing relationships or begin new ones with others.
- Also includes: Social Isolation Loneliness; Isolation Loneliness; Solitude Loneliness
- Negative life events, debilitating health issues, or mental health conditions can contribute to social loneliness and isolation.
- This type of loneliness can also occur in those without friends or family nearby to offer support.
- Humans are social by nature and when they are isolated from other people, loneliness can occur — particularly in those who lead nomadic lifestyles.
- Social loneliness differs from social isolation in that the former refers to a lack of connection with others, while the latter describes the state of being physically alone.
- Not every isolated person will experience loneliness and conversely, a person living in a bustling city surrounded by people can still feel lonely.
- Solitude loneliness that stems from social isolation — physical solitude that makes it difficult to connect with others — can be a temporary or long-term problem.
- Although one’s inherent personality traits can make them more prone to feeling lonely, others may struggle with finding a community or social circle to join.
Social Media Loneliness
- Also includes: Facebook Loneliness; Loneliness And Social Media
- Although the average person spends two and a half hours per day on social media, the activity can exacerbate feelings of loneliness in several ways.
- People may prioritize their online world over the real one — ignoring family and friends who are in the same room with them and causing those relationships to suffer.
- For some individuals, spending too much time on social media can lead to feelings of inadequacy and even jealousy; people tend to compare their own lives to those they see as “perfect” or “glamorous” online.
- In a similar vein, if a person wasn’t invited to take part in a group activity, they may feel left out while scrolling through photos being shared after the event took place.
- Putting too much stock in receiving “Likes” from friends or followers on social media can make loneliness worse, especially when others appear to be much more popular on the platform in comparison.
- Also Includes: Social Loneliness; Social Isolation Loneliness; Isolation Loneliness
- Even though the terms are used interchangeably, solitude, loneliness, and isolation are actually very different things.
- Loneliness is desiring more social interaction and human connection than one is currently getting, whereas solitude is the physical state of being alone.
- Isolation, on the other hand, is the state of being physically alone and lacking contact with others — whether by choice or extenuating circumstance.
- Solitude on its own isn’t always bad — in fact, it can be good to spend time alone with yourself.
- Solitude can lead to loneliness and become problematic, however, when a person isn’t choosing to exist in solitude and/or desires social interaction that their solitude prevents.
- Solitude can be a way for a person to get to know themselves better, boost their productivity and creativity, seek solutions to problems, gain inner clarity, develop more self-reliance, and formulate a life plan.
- Also includes: Feeling Lost After Spiritual Awakening
- Spiritual loneliness is a type of loneliness a person may experience as they travel on their own spiritual journey.
- It’s normal to reflect on whether our spiritual beliefs are correct, but those feelings of doubt can sometimes cause loneliness.
- Spiritual loneliness can also affect familial relationships when one individual breaks away from an established religion to follow another spiritual path.
- A “general crisis of meaninglessness” is the term used by some professors of philosophy to describe the way that modern people are losing their source of meaning — which was previously based on the divine, family, and tradition — in favor of science, exacerbating feelings of spiritual loneliness.
- Also includes: Does Technology Make Us More Alone; Connected But Alone; Technology And Loneliness
- Increased use of technology — like smartphones, tablets, and computers — can lead to feelings of loneliness, isolation, and even detachment from others because people often spend more time using technology instead of interacting with people directly.
- While technology is a boon in many ways, the constant distractions it provides can cause loneliness.
- Furthermore, by being glued to our phones, we’re making those around us lonely too — including our children.
- Also includes: Lonely Teens; Lonely Teenager
- More than 70% of teenagers experience recurring loneliness and even those who have an existing circle of friends may feel lonely.
- Modern teenagers are especially at risk for loneliness stemming from social media and technology because they are the first generation to be raised in a world driven by it.
- Teenagers are prone to loneliness as they grow and develop into adults because they are “trying on” different values to identify themselves as individuals and figure out who they are.
- Teens are often unaware of how to express their loneliness verbally, so they may demonstrate reckless or negative behaviors when they are feeling lonely.
- Although teenagers may face loneliness for a variety of different reasons, the signs are often easily missed by parents and guardians if they don’t know how to recognize it.
- Also includes: Urban Isolation
- Urban loneliness can occur when a person lives in a city full of people, yet feels isolated and alone.
- On the surface, a bustling city may appear to be the least lonely place on earth, but the opposite is often true.
- Many people who live in cities don’t know who their neighbors are, even if they walk past them every single day.
- Negative politeness — when people ignore typical social niceties because they don’t want to infringe upon another’s space — makes city-dwellers less likely to engage in small talk with others in a public environment.
- Urban loneliness and isolation are caused by a variety of factors, including the loss of public spaces, housing developments that utilize security measures like fences and gates, and the stigma that low-income housing areas should be avoided.
- Urban loneliness is so common that some people are driven to explore city designs and landscapes that would make them more amenable to socialization and community engagement.
- Humans throughout history have lived and thrived in smaller tribes; people have not yet evolved or fully adapted to life in a busy metropolitan setting.
- Also includes: Loneliness After Death Of Husband; Loneliness After Death Of Spouse; Widows And Loneliness; Widower Loneliness
- When someone loses a spouse, they are 66% more likely to pass away during the initial three-month period following the loss. This phenomenon is known as the “widowhood effect.”
- Spousal bereavement — mourning a spouse who has passed away — can be a source of oppressive stress and loneliness that may be brief or long-term.
- For many people, widow loneliness is not only due to the loss of their spouse, but also the loss of a routine that was once associated with them.
- Also includes: Feeling Lonely At Work; Loneliness At Work; Isolated At Work
- The incidence of workplace loneliness has increased in recent years, a likely result of modern technology and an expanding remote workforce.
- Although many people conduct business via texting or emails, they have fewer face-to-face interactions with one another, which can lead to feelings of loneliness or isolation — even when they work in the same office together.
- Loneliness in the workplace can negatively impact a person’s job performance and lessen their motivation and commitment to the company.
Even though we wander the world using cell phones, accessing the internet, and talking to one another through social media almost constantly, loneliness is a plague on the contemporary human experience.
By understanding loneliness in all of its many (many) forms, we can begin to recognize symptoms of loneliness not only in ourselves, but in others.
If you find yourself struggling with loneliness, understand that you are NOT alone. Millions of people around the world are sailing in the boat right beside you, at this very moment.
- You owe it to yourself and the rest of the world to get the help you need. If loneliness is leading you toward suicidal thoughts, you can call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline any time, day or night, at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Deaf or hard of hearing can call 1-800-799-4889. There are additional resources and a live chat option available through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s website.
- If you are seeking resources for help with loneliness and are not struggling with thoughts of suicide or self harm, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers treatment referral and information 24/7, 365 days a year. You can call their National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). The Deaf or hard of hearing can call 1-800-487-4889 via TTY. The helpline is confidential, free, and available in both English and Spanish.