Like most big challenges, before you can overcome loneliness you have to be aware that it’s a problem in the first place.
Sometimes the person in question is in denial, so it may fall upon the family and friends of a lonely person to recognize the issue and try to help their loved one overcome it.
All well and good, but how can you even know if your family member or friend feels lonely?
The following are classic signs that someone you love may be lonely.
1) A lot of alone time
Let’s kick things off with a no-brainer, shall we? If someone you know spends a lot of time alone, it could be a sign that they are lonely.
I know, crazy right? Being alone all the time might cause feelings of loneliness. Who knew?
Now, not everyone who spends much of their time alone is lonely. Some people enjoy their own company. For these folks, being solitary means peace.
2) Veers toward the negative
Perhaps because they don’t have a BFF to vent to and laugh their annoyances off with?
Maybe you can provide a shoulder and an ear?
Negative self-talk is a very powerful thing, especially if you’re already socially isolated. Without another person around to provide perspective, a lonely person’s demons are free to mess with their heads.
There are many possible reasons why people feel distrustful. But we do know it’s an emotion reinforced by both loneliness and a limited social life.
As time goes on, loneliness can sometimes drift into paranoia. In one study, self-described lonely people were more apt to feel suspicious and believe that others didn’t like them, or even intend to do them harm.
The results suggest that loneliness can be the catalyst for paranoia even among those without a predisposition for these thought patterns.
4) Stressed out
If you’ve been more stressed out than usual recently, loneliness could be the culprit.
Lonely people report higher amounts of perceived stress when exposed to the same stressors as other people. Even while they’re supposedly relaxing, lonely people are stressed out.
So if you feel like even the relatively little things are stressing you out, it might be loneliness raising your stress hormones and blood pressure.
5) Prone to anxiety
You probably avoid going anywhere that’s busy if crowds trigger your anxiety. After you’ve been cooped up for a while you may find social situations a bit challenging, to say the least.
It’s easy to become a hermit without hardly noticing it. We can have groceries and prescriptions delivered straight to our door, stream new movies online, and get whatever we need without interaction with others.
So, before you know it, leaving the house at all could prove to be a monumental effort. If you have underlying anxiety, your loneliness puts you at high risk of developing agoraphobia.
6) Unproductive at work
A 2011 study of loneliness in a work setting found that lonely employees struggle with task completion and team building.
These workers were also less invested in their work and company. On the other hand, employees with friends in the workplace were engaged with their colleagues and the tasks at hand.
If someone seems to have lost interest in their work, especially if they were heavily invested previously, loneliness might be the reason why.
On the other hand, some lonely folks prefer to bury themselves in their work in a bid to forget how lonely they really are.
When you use work as an excuse to shut the world out, it’s a red flag signifying there are issues you’re desperate to ignore.
You risk burnout if you continue to hide behind your job. We all need a good work-life balance to be productive in all areas of our lives. Yes, even you.
Did you know that loneliness can negatively impact your memory? When your loneliness stems from depression, memory impairment is pretty common.
Depression hampers your decision-making skills and makes you forget important stuff like birthdays, taking medications, and paying your bills.
If the feeling persists and your day-to-day life is suffering because of it, reach out to your healthcare provider for help.
9) Flaking on plans
When you scheduled that doctor’s appointment or made plans with friends, you had every intention of fulfilling your commitment.
However, when it’s zero hour you just don’t have the gumption to follow through, so you cancel. This is common behavior for lonely people.
Loneliness means that pushing yourself to do anything you don’t absolutely have to do becomes incredibly challenging. You may be forced to work, but no one can make you socialize if you choose not to.
So a lonely person sits at home, reinforcing the negative pattern they’re already enmeshed in.
10) Addicted to social media
Let’s be honest. Many people’s only social interactions occur via the internet. It’s common for people to always have their phone in hand and pay more attention to it than anything, or anyone, else.
A study found that heavy use of social media was associated with feelings of social isolation. People spending two hours a day or more on social media were twice as likely to feel lonely than users who spend less than 30 minutes scrolling social media daily.
But there’s a ‘which comes first, the chicken or the egg?’ component at play: does loneliness cause an uptick in social media use or does using social media result in feeling lonely?
Either way, replacing real-world relationships with social media is detrimental to your mental health. Cyber engagement is great and can take the edge off of loneliness, but it’s no replacement for face-to-face social interaction.
11) Tired and sickly
It’s a fact that emotional turmoil can manifest as physical pain that’s as real and valid as any caused by a serious illness.
Chronic fatigue and frequent illness can signify numerous things – including an underlying health issue – so if you or someone you love has physical symptoms it’s wise to rule out any illness that could be triggering the pain.
Many lonely people use sleep as an escape hatch. It’s concerning if the only thing that gets you through the day is knowing that you’ll be able to crawl back into bed and make the world away at the end of the day.
According to the National Library of Medicine, when people are lonely, they sleep to kill time. However, lonely people are more prone to disturbed sleep patterns, so it’s usually a case of too much or too little sleep.
Also, the increased stress causes the immune system to struggle fighting minor illnesses like coughs and colds.
So if you already have concerns about a friend suffering from loneliness, these symptoms are something to watch out for.
12) Obsessed with their hobbies
When someone’s lonely, they may try to distract themselves with their hobbies and special interests, which is better than sleeping your life away if you ask me.
Short-term bouts of loneliness are not unusual. Many people experience loneliness at some point in life, but usually, the loneliness is temporary and brief.
However, when loneliness and isolation worsen and continue for a long period of time, there could be more serious repercussions. But luckily, there are steps you can take to combat chronic loneliness.
One of those steps is consulting a mental healthcare provider. Loneliness can turn to depression on a dime, and professional help is the best way to avoid an accelerated downward spiral.
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