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loneliness and mental health

loneliness and mental health

feeling lonely from time to time is a common experience, but some people have a deep feeling of loneliness that does not go away

Feeling lonely is a common experience, but some people have a deep feeling of loneliness that sometimes does not go away. Feeling lonely does not necessarily mean you are alone, many people who experience loneliness can be surrounded by friends and family and have active social lives.  

Mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, eating disorders, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can make you feel especially lonely. When you’re dealing with these things, you might end up skipping things you used to enjoy, which just makes loneliness worse. If you’re lonely for a long time, it can even make existing mental health problems like depression and anxiety feel stronger. 

Myths about loneliness

loneliness only affects older people

Loneliness can impact individuals of all ages, including children and young adults. Factors such as major life changes, social isolation, or relationship issues can contribute to loneliness at any stage of life. 

being alone means you’re lonely

Loneliness isn’t just about physical isolation. You can feel lonely even when surrounded by people if there’s a lack of meaningful connections. 

being lonely speaks badly about you

Loneliness is a common human experience and not a sign of weakness. Various factors, such as changes in circumstances or societal shifts, can contribute to feelings of isolation. 

What causes loneliness? 

Whilst mental health problems can cause you to experience loneliness, other factors can also contribute to feelings of loneliness such as:

  • Experiencing the loss of a loved one
  • Feeling like you are a burden to others
  • Getting a new job or losing your job
  • Moving to a new area away from your community
  • Being excluded from activities due to mobility problems
  • Financial difficulties and money worries 

Why do I feel lonely during the holidays and special occasions?

It might sound a bit surprising, but certain occasions, such as Christmas or someone’s birthday, can make people feel even more lonely. Here’s why: 

Social expectations
There’s this idea that holidays should be all about being with family and friends. But if you don’t have a close group around you, that expectation can actually make you feel lonelier.

Social media
Seeing others having a great time during the holidays, whether on social media or in person, can make you feel like you’re missing out on something special, adding an unexpected twist to the loneliness.

Financial strain
The holidays can be tough on the wallet, which can lead to social withdrawal. People who can’t afford gifts or festive activities may feel excluded from the cultural emphasis on gift-giving and celebrations.

Reflecting on loss
Celebrating holidays can bring back memories of good times with people who aren’t around anymore, especially if it’s the first time celebrating it without them. This can make the loneliness feel more intense.

Isolation during traditional social times
The focus on being together during holidays and important occasions can make you feel even more alone if you can’t join your friends and family to celebrate. Those who are geographically distant or unable to travel may feel isolated and lonely.

How can I support myself when I’m lonely? 

There is not one cause of loneliness, and everyone will experience the feeling of loneliness differently. Be aware of the symptoms of loneliness and seek support if you begin to experience them. There are different ways to support yourself during loneliness and what works for someone might not work for you. Here are some examples of ways you can manage your loneliness: 

Don’t compare yourself: It is important to remember we don’t know what people are like behind closed doors, and we don’t always know how people are feeling. 

Spend time with animals: By owning a pet or visiting animals, you can provide yourself with a non-judgmental companion. Some people find that these interactions can reduce the feeling of loneliness and often facilitate social interactions. 

Reach out to a loved one: Talking to someone you trust about how you feel is invaluable. Confide in them about your experiences and feelings, and remember they love you and want to help you flourish.

Make new connections: Feelings of loneliness can be strengthened if you have limited social interactions. Consider joining a class, group or community hub based on your hobbies or interests. Our organisation has resource centres offering peer support groups across Scotland, including Stafford Centre in Edinburgh, where you can access peer support groups and counselling services or simply connect with others.

“Thanks to the support I’ve received (from the Stafford Centre) my mental health has got a lot better. I’ll probably have depression for the rest of my life, but I can manage it now. I can go without anti-depressants and when I do get feelings of depression, I’ve got a lot of help to keep it at bay. Days when I’m down I know I have somewhere to go and I know the staff will help.” 

The Stafford Centre has helped more people like David overcome isolation and cope with their mental health conditions. Read more about David’s story here.  

support

Our Advice and Support Service is open Monday to Friday, 10 am to 4 pm, where advisers can signpost you to local support that most fits your needs, including our Change Mental Health services. We offer initial advice on money worries and help to deal with emergencies.

Contact 0808 8010 515, email us at advice@changemh.org or fill out the enquiry form on the Advice and Support Service page.

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