Loneliness and depression are two words everybody is familiar with. Whilst loneliness is usually associated with being alone, you can be surrounded by people you love and still feel lonely.
This is because Loneliness describes the feeling of being alone, rather than being a direct measure of physical isolation. You may feel that the people around you don’t understand your problems, that you can’t express yourself or that you simply haven’t found people you want to be around.
So, can being alone cause depression? Absolutely. Research has found that loneliness is not only a symptom, but also a predictor of depression.
First of all, let’s look at the effects that loneliness can have on your mind.
How being alone affects the mind
The feeling of having no one to connect to on a personal level can be very demoralising.
One study concluded that loneliness is a specific risk factor for depressive symptoms. The problem is – the longer it goes on, the more people avoid others company in response to a perceived flaw or insecurity. This, in turn, creates more negative feelings.
Holding in your problems and worries can be very unhealthy for the mind and it is important to find people to confide in. Finding others in similar situations can be a great way to start.
When considering the question ‘Can being alone cause depression?’ – It’s essential to identify and mitigate the onset of any depressive symptoms as a result of loneliness. The earlier people notice these symptoms, the quicker they can act.
Can being alone cause depression? Yes! But what you can do about it?
Once you’ve identified any feelings of loneliness, here’s a few ways you can keep them in check:
1. Practise mindfulness
Mindfulness is the art of being able to focus on the present moment and to be conscious of your thoughts and feelings, without judgement.
Being alone for long periods of time will naturally evoke feelings of loneliness. It’s easy get overwhelmed by these feelings and come to rash conclusions. Remember, you are not destined to be lonely forever and it’s in your power to achieve this.
Notice your lonely thoughts as they pass and remind yourself that you don’t have to adhere to them. You are bigger than your thoughts.
The practice of mindfulness meditation allows you to be more aware of your thoughts, and to let them go if needed.
2. Remember that you are not alone
Ironically, the feeling of being lonely is a shared experience. Especially in such a time with the coronavirus pandemic, people are feeling lonely all over the world. Even in regular times, people feel lonely when their social life appears to be thriving.
Loneliness stems from having a lack of a true personal connection with others. Therefore, one of the best ways to overcome it is to seek other people who are experiencing the same lonely thoughts.
They will understand what you are going through and at the same time can give your insight from their own experience. For inspiration, you could also connect with people who’ve had and overcome these feelings in the past.
Can being alone cause depression? Sure. Do you have to be alone? The answer is up to you.
3. Use self-affirming messages
Use of affirmations can work wonders for people experiencing feelings of loneliness.
When feeling lonely, using positive affirmations designed for positive thinking is a great way to improve your mindset.
Tell yourself that the loneliness you’re experiencing is just a fleeting moment. Remind yourself of things to grateful for. Think about how you can make meaningful connections.
Whatever it may be, encourage yourself to be positive and fight whatever’s in front of you. Most people are capable of things greater than they imagined and self-affirmations are one of the best ways to come to this realization.
4. Use these feelings of loneliness to reshape your life
When asking yourself ‘Can being alone cause depression’, also ask yourself the question ‘Can being alone lead to self-improvement?
If you are feeling lonely, you must change something about your life. Instead of letting them hold you back, use these feelings of loneliness as a source of motivation. Feel free to read our article on 30 things you can do when feeling lonely.
As a natural response, people who go through these feelings tend to retreat into a corner and hide. You might be incredibly busy but staying inside every night watching Netflix and browsing your phone will only make the situation worse.
Use these feelings as a motivator to reach out to new people as well as strengthen your current relationships. Find a new hobby to take up or group to connect with. Use this time to improve yourself and become somebody who people are attracted to.
5. Connect with people online
If you live somewhere with very few people around you, or are still building up your confidence, try connecting with people online.
If you play video games, there are many multiplayer games where you can meet people of similar interest and engage in fun conversations.
It’s important to not get too caught up in a virtual world, but these are real people you are talking to. It’s actually quite common to find strong real-life friendships that started through online games.
Further to this, there are a lot of online forums dedicated to all kinds of interests. Here you can discuss topics with others who are also passionate about the subject.
Whilst the short answer to the question ‘Can being alone cause depression’ is yes, it is not definitive. Loneliness can lead to depression, but you don’t necessarily have to let it reach that stage.
Using the techniques covered in this article will help you react to these feelings in a positive way. However, negative thoughts can be powerful and if you feel overwhelmed by these feelings – don’t be afraid to seek professional therapy or counseling.