We tend to demonize the lonely and the isolated…
The grieving old woman at the end of the street becomes a gnarled old witch, out to eat little children.
The lithe man who lives in the forest feeds upon stray cats and kids who get up to no good, we tell the little ones before bedtime.
Yet we often fail to pick up on the difference between those who choose isolation and solitude, and those who suffer from loneliness in secret.
Knowing the difference between the two is key, as it is through being able to pick up on subtle signs of someone’s struggles that we can dig a hole and flood their loneliness with light, and lift them up out of despair.
So how exactly do you tell when someone is secretly lonely?
How do you prevent yourself from bombarding those who love solitude and want to be left in peace, and instead direct your attention to the right place?
Well, you begin by keeping an eye out for the following 7 signs that indicate someone is far lonelier than they’re letting one…
1) They’re always “busy”
Ah, the ol’ classic, “I’m too busy.”
“Too much going on, sorry.”
“Swamped at work, apologies!”
We’ve all used it at one point or another, let’s be honest!
But here’s the key difference; if someone is consistently “too busy” to hang out, meet up, or even to merely chat, it could be a sign of something deeper brewing.
According to psychologists, people who are lonely often keep themselves busy to distract from their feelings of isolation.
It’s a coping mechanism, and a way for lonely souls to avoid confronting the emptiness that loneliness brings.
So if you notice a friend or loved one always seems to be occupied and never has time for socializing, take a moment to check in with them and reach out.
They’ll likely appreciate the concern and open up about their feelings.
2) Overly social online (yet silent IRL)
The loneliest of people live online, tapping away at illuminated screens and sharing/forwarding/liking every online gesture sent their way.
And psychologists have stated (perhaps unsurprisingly) that an excessive online presence can sometimes indicate loneliness.
It’s an attempt to forge something that mimics real life connections, and fill the void left by the lack of real-life interactions with online replicas.
So next time you see someone who’s always online, who always has that little green dot beside their username, remember that their posts may not reflect their true emotional state.
Reach out, talk to them (hopefully in person).
Sometimes, all they need is a genuine conversation.
3) Quick to lend a helping hand
The first person willing to lend a helping hand is often someone whose heartstrings are sore and raw from lack of human connection.
Psychologists suggest that people who are lonely might go out of their way to assist others. It’s their way of seeking connection, of feeling valued and needed.
However, research also shows that helping others can be a cure for loneliness, and help them to feel less isolated and alone.
So if you’re lonely, consider reaching out to your local volunteer shelter or soup kitchen. If you have a lonely friend, try and get them to sign up with you!
4) Insomnia and sleep issues
Ever found yourself tossing and turning in bed, unable to fall asleep?
This could be more than just an off night. Studies have shown a link between chronic loneliness and sleep disruptions.
You see, loneliness can lead to increased stress and anxiety, which can in turn disrupt sleep patterns. It’s a vicious cycle indeed.
So, if someone you know often complains about not getting enough sleep or having erratic sleep patterns, it might be worth checking in on them. They could be battling feelings of loneliness and isolation without you even realizing it.
5) Hoarding (in the form of shopping, snacks, or other possessions)
This may seem surprising to some, but there’s a link between loneliness and the compulsion to hoard.
According to psychologists, people who are lonely may be more prone to hoarding behaviors. This could be physical items, superficial goods, or even pets or other furry friends.
The theory is that drowning in ‘possessions‘ provides a sense of companionship and security, which to a degree makes up for the lack of human connection.
So, if you notice someone spending every dime on shopping sprees, or bringing kitten after kitten home, it might not just be a random quirk but a sign of something more sinister.
6) Stuck in the past
The lonely tend to find living in the past somewhat more attractive than the present. Even if their pasts are littered with ghouls and bad memories, they still dwell over old memories and times gone by.
Psychologists suggest that this tendency to live in the past can be a big indicator of present loneliness. When current relationships or circumstances are unsatisfying, people may turn to their past for comfort, clinging to those nostalgic memories.
However, other research also suggests that nostalgia can pull the lonely out of this despair, so it is worth contemplating to what degree the past is helping someone in a similar situation.
Nonetheless, keep an eye out for someone who seems overly focused on the past as it might be indicative of their inner loneliness.
They may well benefit from gentle nudge to engage with the present.
7) Unexplained health issues
Did you know that loneliness can manifest physically?
Chronic loneliness can lead to various health problems, including heart disease, depression, and a weakened immune system.
If someone is frequently unwell without a clear explanation, it could be a sign of underlying loneliness. It’s crucial to reach out and offer support, as their emotional well-being could be seriously impacting their physical health.
So remember; everyone battles their own unseen struggles.
It’s our job as friends, family, or even just caring individuals to extend a hand when we see these signs.
Pulling the lonely out of their loneliness…
If you’ve noticed these signs in someone you know, or even in yourself, it might be time to take a step back and reflect on the next best steps. Consider why you might be feeling this way, too.
Loneliness is incredibly complex and it can be masked away under a variety of behaviors. But recognizing these signs is the first step towards understanding and addressing the issue, and helping someone who may be in need.
So remember, it’s okay to reach out, it’s okay to ask for help, and it’s okay to admit that you’re feeling lonely (if these apply to you.)
In unison, let’s strive to understand more, judge less, and extend our compassion to those around us.
Loneliness is a condition which, after all, can onlay be remedied by company.
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