Loneliness is such a common affliction that recent estimates suggest that a third of the world’s population suffers from it.
The reality is that we all can feel lonely from time to time.
Yet many of the signs go unnoticed and overlooked. That’s because they can be quite subtle, and people may go to great lengths to try to hide them.
But if someone displays many of these 10 traits, they’re probably quite lonely in life.
1) They have a unique way of seeing the world
Here’s a fascinating thing that was discovered about lonely people:
Their brains process information in a different way. Meaning they interpret things differently compared to non-lonely people.
Researchers found significant differences in the way that lonely people’s brains work.
Lead author on the study, Elisa Baek, explained:
“We found that lonely individuals are exceptionally dissimilar to their peers in the way they process the world around them even when taking into account the number of friends that they have.”
So this classic image of a lonely person always being by themselves isn’t necessarily true.
She went on to suggest that “One possibility is that lonely individuals do not find value in the same aspects of situations or scenes as their peers.”
All of this can lead to the next thing on our list — feeling different from everybody else.
2) They feel misunderstood
The irony is, that one of the things many of us have in common is the fact that we feel like we don’t have anything in common with other people.
One US survey noted that a whopping 54% of people report feeling like no one understands them or knows them well.
And when we feel this way, we are more exposed to loneliness.
Because as we’ve just seen, loneliness doesn’t have to be about physical isolation, it can be more about our state of mind.
It is not about the number of connections we do or do not have, but the quality of those connections.
It can become a vicious cycle. Lonely people may start off by feeling alienated from others, and this causes them to alienate themselves further.
3) They hide their feelings
I mentioned in the intro that loneliness may not be so easy to spot.
We all have a tendency to hide behind masks. Unfortunately, this hiding only makes loneliness worse as it further alienates and disconnects you from others.
Lonely people can have a hard time communicating what they feel.
One study from Harvard University suggests as much as half of all loneliness could be down to certain unhelpful ‘emotion regulation strategies’.
It found that people with the highest levels of loneliness tended to hide their feelings and suppress their emotional expression.
That creates a contradiction where people “high in loneliness are, by definition, craving social connection to fill unmet interpersonal needs,” but at the same time, they respond “to negative emotions by suppressing their expression and actively avoiding social contact. As such, these habitual emotion regulation patterns may perpetuate states of loneliness and social isolation.”
In a nutshell, they want connection but deprive themselves of it by hiding the way they feel.
4) They struggle to accept help
The same research we discussed above, found that lonely people also have a habit of either rejecting social support or simply failing to seek it out.
Not because they don’t need it, but because their response to the loneliness is to further withdraw.
In some instances, it may even be due to misplaced pride or stubbornness.
But it is not weak to need support.
In fact, it often takes a lot more courage to reach out and admit that we could do with a helping hand.
5) They are deep thinkers who can fall into the habit of overthinking
Research has shown that introverts are more likely to suffer from loneliness than extroverts.
Of course, introverts tend to be less social in general compared to extroverts. But they often also prefer it that way.
And as we’ve seen, when it comes to connection it’s about the quality, not the quantity.
But perhaps one of the contributing factors for why introverts are more prone to loneliness is not their less hectic social calendar and instead lies in the fact they are often deeper thinkers.
Some of those unhelpful ‘emotion regulation strategies’ we mentioned above, tend to include:
All of which may occur when people fall into overthinking.
6) They are socially anxious
One of the more practical causes of loneliness is circumstantial.
People tend to be lonely is they find it difficult to put themselves out there to form strong social bonds in the first place.
So for that reason, if someone is painfully shy or has incredibly low self-esteem they are usually more withdrawn.
It’s not that they don’t want to be around people, it’s just that their fear of judgment or rejection is more overpowering than their desire for connection.
7) They are lacking in self-awareness
Self-awareness is a really important skill when it comes to our connections with others.
That’s because the more we can understand ourselves, the more conscious we become of our impact on others. It also helps us to better appreciate other’s emotions and behaviors, and be sensitive to them.
Ultimately, when we lack awareness our relationships with others can suffer.
But more than that, our relationship with ourselves can suffer.
Self-awareness is the framework that we use to recognize our own thoughts, feelings, beliefs, expectations, wants, and needs.
Loneliness doesn’t always spring from a disconnection from those around you, it can come from a disconnection from yourself.
8) They struggle with assertiveness
Assertiveness isn’t necessarily something we instantly think of as helpful for reducing loneliness. But lonely people can be a bit too retiring.
Because rather than being about bossiness, it’s simply about the ability to ask for what you need and want.
It’s about being honest and bold enough to speak your truth.
That’s why if someone displays passive-aggressive techniques toward communication, such as sulking, silent treatment, or guilt trips, they may be quite lonely.
Because without this ability to be straightforward, we set ourselves up for keeping quiet and retreating inwards.
9) They get very angry and have a fiery temper
Anger is usually a mask for sadness.
So we shouldn’t be so quick to label someone as being difficult when they are prone to mood swings.
Chances are they could be struggling with some things behind the scenes.
The problem is, that people with anger issues also have a habit of alienating themselves.
People don’t want to be around that aggressive energy, and so they distance themselves.
That can leave angry people feeling lonely and isolated.
10) They have a negative outlook and are often complaining
If there is one key takeaway on loneliness that the evidence points to, it’s that it is often created by the mindset that we use to see the world around us.
The research shows that lonely people have a habit of dwelling on bad experiences and that they can get more worked up by life’s little irritations.
It’s another reminder that working towards a positive outlook is vital to our mental health.
As discussed in Psychology Today:
“The loneliest individuals were less likely to use the strategy of cognitive reappraisal, which is the strategy of giving positive meaning to a stressful or upsetting event. An example of cognitive reappraisal is viewing an unpleasant occurrence as an important life lesson or an opportunity to learn how to become stronger and more resilient.”
It seems that the coping strategies we turn to could have a big impact on the levels of loneliness we might experience.
- If you’re feeling lonely in life, say goodbye to these 10 habits
- 7 personality traits that are making you unhappy at work
- 10 phrases narcissists use to play the victim
Lost Your Sense of Purpose?
In this age of information overload and pressure to meet others’ expectations, many struggle to connect with their core purpose and values. It’s easy to lose your inner compass.
Jeanette Brown created this free values discovery PDF to help clarify your deepest motivations and beliefs. As an experienced life coach and self-improvement teacher, Jeanette guides people through major transitions by realigning them with their principles.
Her uniquely insightful values exercises will illuminate what inspires you, what you stand for, and how you aim to operate. This serves as a refreshing filter to tune out societal noise so you can make choices rooted in what matters most to you.
With your values clearly anchored, you’ll gain direction, motivation and the compass to navigate decisions from your best self – rather than fleeting emotion or outside influences.
Stop drifting without purpose. Rediscover what makes you come alive with Jeanette Brown’s values clarity guide.