Loneliness & Isolation

Feeling lonely is not in itself a mental health issue, but the two are closely linked. Having a mental health issue increases the possibility of being lonely, and feeling lonely can have a seriously negative impact on your mental health.  Research shows that loneliness and social isolation can be as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes per day.
We all have differing social needs. Some of us are happy to circulate within a small group of friends.  Others require a larger group.  Being alone is not the same as feeling lonely.  Being alone in itself is ok if you are comfortable with that, however it becomes an issue when you are not.
Loneliness is quite often described as:
  • not seeing or talking to anyone very often
  • being surrounded by many, but not feeling understood, listened to, or cared for
What can make us lonely:
  • bereavement
  • relationship break up
  • living alone
  • being a carer
  • retirement
  • moving to a new area without family, friends or community networks
  • experience of physical trauma / abuse
  • experience of discrimination and stigma
  • mobility problems / poor physical health
  • mental health condition such as depression or anxiety
  • lack of purpose or meaning in life
  • social deprivation
  • reduced connection with culture of origin
How can loneliness & isolation affect mental health:
  • physical symptoms – aches and pains, headaches, illness / worsening of medical condition
  • mental health condition – increased risk of depression, anxiety, panic attacks, paranoia
  • low energy – tiredness or lack of motivation
  • sleep difficulties – difficulty in falling asleep, disturbed sleep patterns or sleeping too long
  • diet problems – loss or increase of appetite, sudden loss or weight gain
  • substance abuse – increased alcohol, smoking, drugs, medication or self-medicating
  • negative feelings and thinking – feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, negative thinking, thoughts of suicide

Coping Strategies for Loneliness:

  • get connected – join a group you have an interest in
  • reconnect – contact friends or family and stay in touch with loved ones
  • get involved in your community – volunteer and enjoy “giving back”
  • talk about it – find support from a mental health organisation
  • religious and spiritual – find a place where you can comfortably express your spirituality
  • eat healthily – remember what you eat and drink affects your wellbeing
  • take up a sport or exercise – exercise reduces stress and anxiety
  • sleep & rest – sleep deprivation affects your judgement
  • stress – use relaxation techniques and mindfulness
  • get a pet – pets are amazing companions