Defining by the terms of the dictionary, loneliness means the feeling of sadness because one has no company. However, a person can be surrounded by all his dear and near ones and yet feel lonely. There are signs of loneliness which we often overlook that might later interrupt our normal functioning. Loneliness and depression are terms that are often used interchangeably but the actual meaning of the two differ.
Depression is a mood disorder that negatively affects the way one thinks, feels, and acts. Depression causes feelings of sadness and it makes an individual lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. Loneliness and depression affect our mental health adversely and that too in a negative way.
Momentary episodes of loneliness can happen to numerous individuals eventually in their lives. These sorts of emotions are ordinarily short and not thought about as ongoing.
However, chronic loneliness is connected to expansions in cortisol levels, that is the stress hormones, causing depression, anxiety, stomach-related issues, coronary illness, insomnia, and weight gain, further making an expanded danger of stroke and cardiovascular sicknesses, hypertension, elevated cholesterol, and obesity. It impedes the body’s immune system, thus increasing the risk of falling sick.
Signs of Loneliness
1. Failure to Associate with Others
The individual having feelings of loneliness might not be able to connect with others on a more profound, more personal level. Possibly you have loved ones in your day-to-day existence, yet commitment with them is at a surface level. Your relationships don’t feel satisfying and there seems no way out.
2. Fragmented or Broken Sleep
Loneliness leads to a broken sleep cycle or more micro-awakening. One might think to themselves that they slept the entire night because the amount of time they were awakened in between was very less, but that little time period of being awake interrupts with the completion of a full sleep cycle. It has been found that lonely people don’t rest well just as people who feel more associated with others. Fragmented sleep is one of the common signs of loneliness yet it is overlooked.
3. Feelings of Self-doubt
One might start to question their worth or go into self-doubt as a result of loneliness. Lonely people usually tend to be extremely self-critical. They have a feeling of not being enough. Individuals suffering from loneliness tend to spend more time on social media and then they compare their lives with others. Supplanting your genuine associations with online media use is unfavorable for one’s well-being.
4. Attachment to Inanimate Objects
When individuals retract themselves from social interactions they tend to get involved in material possession love or attachments to inanimate objects. Loneliness causes materialism in individuals. Individuals might suddenly start to focus on materialistic things, might go on a shopping spree very frequently to fill the void, or be start being possessive about their things.
5. Increased Stress and Overthinking
Loneliness may lead an individual to social isolation which in turn gives them ample time to think about things that are trivial, or in simple terms individual starts to overthink more. Lonely people report more elevated levels of apparent stress in any event when presented to similar stressors as non-lonely individuals, and in any event, when they are resting.
6. Weight Gain
Lonely people tend to get through their random blues with the help of food. Loneliness is perhaps the greatest drive toward gorging or overeating. When we are lonely, we crave social connections, and unable to get that we turn to food to support and sustain us.
Individuals after socially isolating themselves tune into a self-preservation mode, as a result of which their brain constantly searches for possible threats in their environment. Individuals become highly sensitive to their surroundings. Not being able to adapt to any changes in the surrounding environment because one is constantly scanning for unknown danger is one of the signs of loneliness.
8. Steamier and Longer Showers
The lonelier the individual gets the longer the time they spend in the shower and also they tend to take shower with hotter water than normal. In general, lonely people take more showers or baths. Researchers have also found a connection between social and physical warmth. if one feels lonely, or socially cold, he or she tries to compensate for the lack of social, emotional warmth by providing themselves with physical warmth, by taking long, hot baths and showers.
Burnout is the state of complete physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. A lonely individual feels burnt out when tries to engage in social interaction. In any social setting, a lonely individual will start to feel like their energy is draining and there will come a point where they start to feel drained physically, mentally, and emotionally too. A mere social interaction with even a dear one might be dreaded by a person experiencing feelings of loneliness because that will end up making them feel burnt out.
10. Frequent Sickness
We, humans, are social animals, and having a social network or the need for belongingness is a fundamental need. Just like food and water, social connections are needed by an individual to survive. Thus, loneliness might cause a downfall in one’s immune system causing the individual to fall sick frequently. It can turn into an endless loop, as remaining at home with a virus will segregate you from others, thus expanding loneliness.
The signs of loneliness or its symptoms can put you at greater risk for far more serious clinical and emotional problems including depression. Mental health experts say that depression is complexly related to loneliness. The signs of loneliness can be assumed as signs of depression by a layman.
Signs of Depression
1. Feelings of Emptiness and Gloominess.
This can incorporate sensations of disappointment and a conviction that nothing will improve. Individuals experiencing depression regularly feel despondent with no purpose.
2. Loss of Interest
Individuals with depression lose the feeling of joy they used to get from their favorite activities or by engaging with their dear ones.
3. Slowed Sensory or Motor Behavior.
The ones who feel depressed often show slowed body responses and sometimes they take longer to talk even solitary sentences.
4. Anxiety and Guilt
People with depression are either constantly feeling anxious about the future or are in guilt about their past mistakes. They fear failure more than normal.
5. Baffling Physical Pain
Depression might cause unexplained backaches, stomach aches, and headaches, though these physical symptoms are often unclear or have no logical clarification.
Individuals with depression often feel drained out and find it difficult even to get out of their bed, let alone get through the day.
7. Change in Appetite
Depression causes a drastic change in a person’s appetite. Individuals either start overeating or might eat a negligible amount of food.
8. Insomnia or Hypersomnia
People suffering from depression either sleep a lot to avoid things or procrastinate or they cannot sleep at all because of the unwanted thoughts in their minds. One should keep in mind that fragmented sleep is one of the signs of loneliness and not confuse it with insomnia or hypersomnia.
9. Trouble Concentrating and Remembering
When individuals fail to hold their focus on any given task or tend to forget things or have difficulty in remembering, retaining information, it is also a sign of depression.
10. Suicidal Thoughts.
When one severely suffers from depression, they tend to get frequent thoughts about death or about ending their lives.
Loneliness and depression are such things that can affect anyone, irrespective of their age, caste, creed, gender, race, or ethnicity. Due to the stigma surrounding mental health even the ones who discover the signs of loneliness and depression turn a blind eye towards it and let it slide by or think that it’ll get better with the passage of time. One thing that they are unaware of is that with the passage of time and no proper treatment it will just get worse.
As the saying goes, “Prevention is better than cure”, we should look out for the hidden or even the symptoms at the surface level of not only loneliness and depression but of any other mental illness and get help for it. We need to rise above the stigma and normalize taking help to deal with mental illness as it is normal to visit a doctor for any kind of physical difficulty. After all mental health is as important as physical health.
Any information found on the site does not constitute legal or medical advice. Should you face health issues, please visit your doctor to get yourself diagnosed. Icy Health offers expert opinions and advice for informational purposes only. This is not a substitute for professional medical advice.