The Roots Of Loneliness Project: 100+ Types Of Loneliness & Counting

We’ve discovered over 100 distinct types of loneliness and created a comprehensive resource detailing them all, their root causes, and how to cope.
Photograph Of An Orange Flower Growing In A Crack On A Sidewalk Signifying Loneliness And Isolation

Through our ongoing research, The Roots Of Loneliness Project found over 100 distinct types of loneliness.

The nature of life is one that brings with it constant change — relocation to a new city, attending college, falling in love or ending a marriage, living with a disability, or suffering the loss of those we love most.

Each of these circumstances — and so many more — can cause feelings of loneliness in just about everyone at some point in their lives.

In its own way, loneliness is a common thread that ties all of us together, even if you like being alone.

This article, and our website, serve as a comprehensive, ever-evolving directory where you’ll learn about specific types of loneliness, their root causes, and how to cope with each.

Over time, we’ll be adding more articles, videos, and resources on every type of loneliness — crafted by those who have experienced them first-hand or who have talked with those who have.

For more, read:


The Roots Of Loneliness Project Infographic

For a quick yet comprehensive visual exploration of loneliness — the three main types, transient vs. chronic loneliness, and loneliness statistics — 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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The Roots Of Loneliness Project Infographic Illustrating Statistics On Loneliness, 3 Main Types Of Loneliness, And Transient Vs. Chronic

Once you understand what loneliness is, the 3 main types of loneliness (Situational, Developmental, Internal) and whether what you are experiencing is transient or chronic, as described in the infographic above and in this article, you can then identify which specific type(s) of loneliness you may be experiencing using the list below.

To get started, just keep scrolling.

  • Each type 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 type of loneliness when applicable.

Over 100 Types Of Loneliness

Life Stage

Mental Health




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.
  • For those struggling with alcoholism — or even just the threat of alcohol addiction — loneliness can arise when social interactions are avoided entirely in an effort to stay away from situations that involve drinking.
  • It can be difficult for someone who is suffering from an addiction to open up to those around them or share how it is affecting them, leading to feelings of loneliness and isolation.

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Autism Loneliness

  • Also includes: Asperger’s 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.

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Birthday Loneliness

  • Birthdays are typically filled with parties or other social engagements, however, some people may find themselves spending the day alone due to life circumstances that prevent them from being with others.
  • The inability to take part in annual traditions that would otherwise occur can heighten feelings of loneliness as a birthday approaches.
  • Additionally, birthday loneliness can result from feelings of existential dread relating to the aging process — serving as a reminder of one’s own mortality and of all the things a person has not yet accomplished with their life.
  • Conditions like depression or other mental health issues can exacerbate feelings of loneliness during a birthday.
  • Studies have suggested that people are more likely to die by suicide on or around a milestone birthday, a phenomenon sometimes referred to as “the birthday blues.”

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Breakup Loneliness

  • 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 but it can also result from the sudden shift in our day-to-day lives, especially if we lived with our former partner.
  • 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.
  • Additionally, seeing an ex-partner in person or on social media can be a painful reminder of the relationship that has been lost and if that person belongs to the same social circles, mutual friends may share “updates” about your ex-partner that you may not want to know, especially if they’ve begun dating again.

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Cancer Loneliness

  • 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.

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Caregiver Loneliness

  • 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.

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Chronic Loneliness

  • Also includes: Extreme Loneliness; Severe Loneliness
  • Chronic loneliness is a more severe and sometimes extreme form of loneliness that 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 circumstances, 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.

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City Loneliness

  • Also Includes: Urban Loneliness
  • Cities are places filled with plenty of opportunities, but living in an urban 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 urban 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.

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Codependency 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.

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College Loneliness

  • 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.

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Cosmic Loneliness

  • 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.

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Creative People Loneliness

  • 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.

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Cultural And Ethnic Loneliness

  • Also includes: Asian Loneliness; Black Woman Loneliness
  • 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 also 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.
  • There are cultural differences in the approach to mental health, such as within Black and South Asian communities.
  • Open conversations about mental health struggles and loneliness are uncommon in some cultures, particularly among immigrant communities or those of color.
  • For this reason, those who are a part of such communities may feel as though they can’t talk about their loneliness or that they shouldn’t be feeling lonely, to begin with.
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, discrimination against Asians and Asian Americans increased greatly. On top of the isolation already being felt as the result of social distancing and shelter-in-place orders, those of Asian descent became a target and an unfair source of blame.

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Dementia Loneliness

  • Also includes: Alzheimer’s Loneliness
  • Although loneliness itself can increase the risk of developing clinical dementia as a person grows older, those already living with dementia (including Alzheimer’s) are prone to feeling lonely.
  • One study found that about 30.1% of those living with dementia feel moderately lonely; 5.2% reported feeling severely lonely.
  • Particularly for those with dementia and who are still living alone, a lack of social interaction with others or not finding ways to occupy time can lead to feelings of loneliness — and even depression.
  • Those who have a support system through family and friends may be less inclined to reach out for help or human connection because they feel like a burden on those around them.
  • Additionally, difficulties relating to one’s ability to effectively communicate and interact with others can affect a dementia sufferer’s sense of belonging, leading to a sense of isolation and loneliness. Likewise, the loss of ability and motor skills that can occur may impact the confidence and motivation a person living with dementia may have once had.

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Depression Loneliness

  • While depression and loneliness are two distinct conditions, research shows that they frequently co-occur and can be a classic “chicken versus egg scenario.”
  • Although it’s difficult to pinpoint which one causes the other — depression or loneliness — 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.
  • Depression distorts the way people view the world and colors all of their interactions with others. This often causes them to self-isolate and avoid social functions altogether, leading to loneliness.
  • Loneliness and depression feed off of one another in a repetitive cycle, which can ultimately lead to feelings of isolation and alienation.

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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.

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Disabled Loneliness

  • 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.

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Divorce Loneliness

  • 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.

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Emotional Loneliness

  • 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.

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Existential Loneliness

  • 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.

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Friendship Loneliness

  • Loneliness can occur in people who have friends just as easily as it can in those who are without them.
  • A person may feel lonely despite having friends because they lack a sense of deep connection with them. This often occurs when one is surrounded by “surface-level” friends, rather than close ones who can be confided in.
  • If someone is going through a situational life change or challenge that is difficult to talk about, they may struggle to connect with their friends, leading to feelings of loneliness.
  • A person may lose friendships for a variety of reasons, including interpersonal disagreements, alienation by a friend group, or situational circumstances such as a change in employment or relocation.
  • Immediately following a major life change, a person may struggle to form new friendship bonds or find themselves unable to maintain their former close friendships. Their loneliness is often a transient situation that resolves once they have made connections with others in their new environment.

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Gender Loneliness

  • Also includes: Female Loneliness; Male Loneliness; Transgender 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.

Female 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.
  • Some women experience feelings of loneliness when they are considered to be “too pretty” by members of their own gender, sometimes even being shunned because of their looks or seen as making their way in the world more “easily” due to their physical features.

Male Loneliness:

  • 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.

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Generational Loneliness

  • Also includes: Gen Z Loneliness; Millennial Loneliness
  • Just as loneliness can occur at different stages of a person’s life, the generation a person belongs to can also influence their susceptibility to loneliness because of situational struggles and the general outlook shared with their peers.
  • Those belonging to the Gen Z and Millennial generations, in particular, experience loneliness at rates higher than previous generations.
  • In one survey, 30% of millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) report being lonely “often or always” and one in five reported having “no friends.”
  • Generation Z (those born in 1997 or later) has been dubbed by some as “the loneliest generation” of all.
  • Although Millennials and those belonging to Gen Z face similar struggles in relation to loneliness stemming from social media usage, Millennials are often overworked and underpaid — living career-driven lives with little time or resources for vacation and respite. Additionally, they’re dealing with financial stresses, health concerns, and many face burnout in the workplace.
  • Conversely, Generation Z is comprised of the youngest workers, many of whom are not yet established in their careers — if they even know what they want them to be — and are living on their own for the first time.
  • Additionally, the experience of working in an office cubicle or remotely from home can make it difficult for both generations to make connections with others at work.
  • Many belonging to Gen Z are attending college while living away from home; particularly in larger cities, it can be difficult to find a sense of community or build meaningful connections with those around them.

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Grief Loneliness

  • Also includes: Miscarriage Loneliness; Widow Loneliness
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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Holiday Loneliness

  • Also includes: Christmas Loneliness; New Year’s Loneliness; Thanksgiving Loneliness; Valentine’s Day Loneliness
  • As its name suggests, holiday loneliness pops up around holidays that are typically spent socializing with other people — including Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Valentine’s Day.
  • This type of loneliness is common and can affect anyone from divorcees and those who are single 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.

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Intellectual 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.

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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.

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Leadership Loneliness

  • “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.

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LGBTQ+ Loneliness

  • Also includes: Bisexual Loneliness; Gay Loneliness; Lesbian Loneliness; Queer Loneliness; Transgender Loneliness
  • Those who are part of the LGBTQ+ community are prone to experiencing loneliness, as are those struggling with gender identity.
  • Queer is not necessarily synonymous with “gay” in its meaning; “queer” refers to anyone who isn’t cisgender or heterosexual.
  • Queer people are more likely to experience loneliness than those outside of the LGBTQ+ community.
  • 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.

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Life Stage Loneliness

  • Also includes: Adult Loneliness; Childhood Loneliness; Empty Nest Loneliness; Middle-Aged Loneliness; Retirement Loneliness; Senior Loneliness; Teenage Loneliness
  • Loneliness can occur at any point in one’s life although certain stages can make a person more susceptible to it.
  • Generally speaking, loneliness commonly emerges during a person’s 20s, mid-50s, and late 80s.
  • Childhood loneliness can be caused by situational factors relating to their peer relationships, a lack of social skills, anxiety, shyness, and low self-esteem.
  • In teens, loneliness may emerge as they try to discover “who” they are, but in modern times it can also be caused by social media. Additionally, teenagers often struggle to express themselves, leading to a sense of disconnection with their parents and peers
  • Adult loneliness can occur at any point during adulthood, although it tends to peak in the 20s, mid-50s, and 80s for reasons that relate to each life stage.
  • During midlife, changes in adult social interactions can be a factor in one’s loneliness, as can relationship changes, the development of health issues, professional statuses (or lack thereof), and income fluctuations.
  • Empty nest loneliness is a shock to the system for parents whose lives previously revolved around their children.
  • 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.
  • After retirement and during the senior years, loneliness becomes common due to the loss of spouses, friends, and/or children through death; family and friends who have moved away; having fewer opportunities to socialize (particularly if a person no longer drives or has mobility issues), and degenerative health problems that keep a person at home.

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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.

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Living Away From Family Loneliness

  • 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.

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Love Loneliness

  • 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.

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Marriage Loneliness

  • 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 or not having sexual intimacy.
  • 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.

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Mental Health Loneliness

  • Also includes: ADHD Loneliness; Anorexia Loneliness; Anxiety Loneliness; Bipolar Loneliness; Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) Loneliness; Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) Loneliness; Bulimia Loneliness; Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) Loneliness; Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Loneliness; Social Anxiety Loneliness
  • People who struggle with mental illness may experience feelings of loneliness as a result of their affliction.
  • Mental health disorders and 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 unfortunately carries a stigma that can make it difficult to connect with others.
  • 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.
  • Those who struggle with bipolar disorder may experience loneliness due to the stigma, insecurity, and mental health issues associated with it, which can result in both internal and external difficulties maintaining relationships with others, leading to loneliness and/or depression.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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Military And 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.

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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.

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Only Child Loneliness

  • Being an only child doesn’t necessarily equate to a life full of loneliness, as some parents of only children may fear.
  • Some research has found that children who grew up with siblings were more likely to be lonely.
  • Only children are generally ambitious, self-confident, organized, and mature, although their maturity may make it easier for them to connect with adults, rather than their peers.
  • 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.

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Pandemic Loneliness

  • Also includes: COVID-19 Loneliness; Quarantine Loneliness
  • Loneliness results when a person is not receiving the amount of social interaction that they desire with others and during times of a pandemic, safety measures may mandate the intentional avoidance of face-to-face contact with other people.
  • Our COVID-19 loneliness survey found that many people struggled with it for this reason; shelter-in-place orders that lasted for weeks — and sometimes months — forced people to stay in their homes while severely limiting contact with others.
  • Additionally, lengthy school closures required children to learn remotely and the sudden halt of daily social interactions with their friends became a source of loneliness and isolation.
  • Similarly, many adults struggled with loneliness as their employment environments changed from busy workplaces to home offices, often while providing childcare to their children, who were learning from home.
  • A pandemic can impact access to vital mental health care due to the inability to conduct in-office visits during shelter-in-place mandates and social distancing.
  • This occurred during COVID-19, as well; many mental healthcare providers found it challenging to fully connect with their patients remotely due to struggles reading body language across a computer screen and technical difficulties when using telehealth apps over the internet.

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Parent Loneliness

  • Also includes: Motherhood Loneliness; Single Dad Loneliness; Single Mom Loneliness; Single Parent Loneliness; Stay At Home Dad Loneliness; Stay At Home Mom Loneliness; Stay At Home Parent Loneliness
  • One study of 2,000 mothers found that more than 90% of them reported feeling lonely since having children.
  • 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.
  • Just like new mothers, parents in general 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, and this holds true for moms and dads alike.
  • 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 because single parents must 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.

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Pathological Loneliness

  • Pathological loneliness is characterized by persistent unrelenting feelings of being alone and isolated from others, even if a person is not physically alone.
  • Rooted in causes that may be internal, developmental, or situational, a pattern emerges where a person cannot pull themselves out of their loneliness — rather than overcoming it, they are overwhelmed by it.
  • This type of loneliness takes place in an ongoing cycle that is difficult to break; some researchers consider it a disease because it is more than a symptom.
  • Those struggling with mental health disorders may develop a pattern of cognitive distortions, having irrational thoughts and beliefs that perpetuate their psychopathological state.
  • Pathological loneliness affects all aspects of a person’s well-being and it does not simply go away on its own.

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Post College/Grad 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.

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Pregnancy Loneliness

  • Also includes: Postpartum Loneliness
  • 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.
  • During the postpartum stage following pregnancy, many new moms hesitate to 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. 
  • Struggles with postpartum depression can worsen feelings of loneliness in new moms.
  • New moms may also 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.

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PTSD Loneliness

  • Also includes: Traumatic 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, violence, childhood trauma, natural disasters, 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.
  • Those suffering from PTSD are prone to loneliness because they may feel that others cannot understand their trauma, they may not have access to necessary resources, and may struggle with the stigma associated with seeking mental health care.

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Relationship 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.

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Religious 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.

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Romantic Loneliness

  • Romantic relationships are not necessarily a “cure” for loneliness.
  • Romantic loneliness can occur when there is a lack of shared quality time with a partner, poor communication, or a decline in physical intimacy.
  • Additionally, when partners don’t appreciate or acknowledge one another — or make the time to do so, it can erode the sense of connection that once existed between them.
  • 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.

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Separation Loneliness

  • 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.

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Sexual 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.

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Single 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.

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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.

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Social 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.

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Social Media Loneliness

  • Also includes: Facebook Loneliness
  • 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.

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Solitude 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.

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Spiritual Loneliness

  • 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.

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Technology 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.

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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.

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Workplace Loneliness

  • Also includes: Entrepreneur Loneliness; Work From Home Loneliness
  • 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.
  • Working from home can be beneficial for many reasons, but the lack of in-person socialization with others can lead to feelings of loneliness over time, especially in those who enjoy social interactions as a way to break up the monotony of the work day.
  • Those who are entrepreneurs may struggle with loneliness for a number of reasons, as well, depending on their work situation.
  • Entrepreneurs who work entirely alone do so without the company of others — and often while putting in long hours; a lack of commiseration and routine social interaction can cause feelings of isolation, particularly if they’re working from home and also live alone.
  • Entrepreneurs who work in collaborative environments may have employees and others to talk to, however, keeping a company afloat while being responsible for everyone’s financial survival can be a source of extreme occupational stress.
  • Additionally, the type of passion an entrepreneur has for their work — and whether it is harmonious or obsessive — can impact the amount of strain and social loneliness they experience.

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Closing Thoughts

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 — and take steps to cope with feeling lonely.

If You Need Help Now

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). If you are Deaf or hard of hearing, you can call that same number using a TTY through your preferred relay service or by dialing 711 before the number, or connect via online chat. There are additional resources 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.