At a time when everyone’s being advised to self-isolate and maintain some distance from each other, we have to think of the best ways that will prepare us to live (primarily) by ourselves.
Loneliness is a unique and complex human emotion. Since it has no single cause, the prevention and treatment options can vary dramatically. For instance, a lonely student who’s struggling to make friends at college has different needs than a lonely adult who’s been left by their spouse.
To understand the meaning of loneliness, we need to take a closer look at the meaning of the term “lonely” and its various causes, symptoms and potential treatments.
Many people describe loneliness as being alone or in a state of solitude. Loneliness is a state of mind that causes people to feel empty, unwanted and alone. Lonely people usually crave human contact; however, their state of mind makes it hard for them to form connections with the people around them.
Loneliness is not just about being alone—it’s also about feeling isolated and alone. This is why some people feel lonely, despite being surrounded by their colleagues or peers.
The causes of loneliness
Some of the factors that contribute to loneliness include physical isolation, divorce and moving to a new location. The death of a loved one can lead to feelings of loneliness, and loneliness can also be a symptom of an underlying psychological disorder, such as depression.
Furthermore, loneliness can be caused by low self-esteem. People with low self-confidence think that they don’t deserve people’s attention, and this can lead to isolation and loneliness.
5 signs and symptoms of loneliness
The signs and symptoms of loneliness can differ, depending on your personality and your situation. However, if you’re consistently experiencing some or all of the following feelings, you may be dealing with loneliness:
An inability to engage and connect
You may have family and friends around, but you only engage with them at a surface level. Your interactions don’t connect you with others in a fulfilling way, and this disconnection never seems to end.
No close friends
All of your friends are casual acquaintances, and you feel that you can’t find someone who truly understands you. You may feel that in your social relationships, others don’t reciprocate your efforts.
Isolation within your environment
You might be at a party, surrounded by hundreds or thousands of people, but you still feel separate and isolated. This can also happen at work.
A sense of doubt or low self-worth
If you’re always feeling like you’re less than enough, these feelings are likely a symptom of loneliness.
If you’re dealing with loneliness, trying to engage with others can leave you feeling tired. Exhaustion and burnout can lead to other issues, such as a weakened immune system, sleep problems and a poor diet, just to name a few.
Loneliness and your physical health
Long-term feelings of loneliness can affect your health negatively. Loneliness can stimulate the production of cortisol, a hormone that the body creates when stressed. Higher cortisol levels can then lead to excess weight gain, inflammation, concentration problems and insulin resistance.
If left unchecked, these symptoms may lead to serious medical and emotional problems, such as:
- Sleep disorders
- Other mental and emotional health problems
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- A shortened lifespan
If you think you’re suffering from loneliness, it’s best to talk to a therapist or doctor as soon as possible, before things can get worse.
Loneliness and your brain
Research studies show that loneliness can have a significant impact on the health of your brain. Some studies have linked loneliness to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Long-term feelings of loneliness or isolation can reduce certain cognitive capacities, such as the ability to make decisions, solve problems, concentrate or replace negative beliefs.
Chronic loneliness: What are the risk factors?
Chronic loneliness can affect all types of people. It’s easy to assume that people who are introverted or shy are at a higher risk, but Type A personalities can also suffer from loneliness, even though they appear to be living life to the fullest. Moreover, chronic loneliness can be a side effect of other emotional or medical problems, including:
- Terminal illnesses
- Bipolar disorder
- Sexual issues
- Alzheimer’s and dementia
- Mild forms of autism
Can technology help?
Human beings are social creatures. Therefore, staying connected with your family and friends is essential to your health and well-being. Thanks to technological advancements, you can see the faces of your loved ones, share interesting stories and connect with them on a deeper level—anywhere, and at any time.
For most people, seeing the faces and voices of their loved ones has a greater impact than just hearing their voices. This makes video calls a better solution than phone calls for people who are dealing with loneliness.
Making a video call shouldn’t be complicated. Even if you’re getting older, learning some tech skills can help you live a more satisfying life.
You should first understand that video calls are made through programs or apps on a mobile phone, tablet or laptop. These apps can help you reach people anywhere in the world, as long as they’re connected to the internet. You also need an internet connection with a home Wi-Fi or cellular phone service to make video calls.
Most apps are free to use. However, they transfer a lot of data quickly. This means that you might end up spending a lot of money, if you’re using a cellular service.
4 popular video-call apps
Apps that make video calls usually have extra features that will enable you to send photos and text messages, make audio calls, improve your appearance and record videos. Here’s a short list of some of the most popular tools that people use to stay connected:
This is an app that comes pre-installed on Apple devices, including laptops, smartphones and tablets. The app allows you to make video calls to as many as 32 people at once. You’ll need the phone number of your recipients to call them, though, and you need to keep in mind that this app only works on Apple devices.
Android phones also come with built-in apps to enable users to make video calls, although these apps will vary, depending on the manufacturer. To change from audio-only to a video call, all you’ll need to do is press the video camera icon on your keypad and have the receiver do the same.
This app enables you to make video calls to at least one person, or even eight other people, at most. You can leave video messages for your loved ones so that they can play the message whenever they miss you. Likewise, you can play other people’s messages repeatedly.
Zoom is a great app for video conferences, as it can host around 1,000 people in a single meeting. Most schools and businesses use Zoom regularly, but you can also use this app for personal meetings. Zoom won’t charge you for calls between two people that are up to 24 hours long. It’s also free for 100 people for 40 minutes (or less).
Using Snapchat is a fantastic way to share photo messages and videos. The app has filters that add eyes, noses, hats, voices and stickers to images, and you can take several snaps and combine them into a story to share with others. A unique Snapchat feature is that its messages are deleted automatically after a short period of time. You can also use Snapchat to send text messages.
Seek professional help if you don’t feel better
Once you’ve become conversant within your video calls, you can use the same app(s) to participate in social activities such as support groups, book clubs and exercises. Seeing others and communicating with them will likely make you feel better in the long run, but if your feelings of loneliness don’t change, seek help immediately.
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