How Does Loneliness Affect Mental Health?

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The holiday season can bring a mixed bag of emotions. On the surface, we mostly tend to see individuals who are joyful and fulfilled by the holidays. Overwhelmingly we see these portrayals in commercialized advertisements and social media, platforms that capitalize on the festive season or aim at self-promotion.

Beneath the surface, however, many people experience more negative emotions during the holidays. It’s common for individuals to feel isolated, left out, stressed, anxious and alone. Whether it’s grief, financial troubles or loneliness that disrupts the holidays, you’re far from alone if you’re not feeling the season’s cheer.

Loneliness during the holidays

It may seem counterintuitive that loneliness is so common during the holidays, but the emphasis on togetherness often magnifies the struggles of those who are alone. There are numerous reasons that a person may experience loneliness during the holidays, and here are a few.

  • Physical distance from loved ones
  • Estrangement from family
  • Few family members living
  • Grief after losing a friend or relative
  • Recent divorce or separation
  • Loss of custody or parental rights
  • Social anxiety
  • Desiring to be in a romantic relationship
  • Feeling emotionally distant from family
  • Struggling to fit in with relatives, in-laws or a new community

A picture-perfect holiday always includes happy images of loved ones gathered around, enjoying each other’s company. Any deviation from that norm can leave us feeling inadequate and that’s where the connection between loneliness and mental health comes in.

How does loneliness affect mental health?

Loneliness is both a precursor and a product of mental health issues. Loneliness can contribute to psychological distress, and complicate essential tools for mental wellness like socialization, communication, coping and self-care. 

When a distressing event or stressful period occurs, people tend to self-isolate. It can feel burdensome to share hardship with others, and the loneliness that causes creates a snowball effect, even leading to a clinical diagnosis.

Moreover, loneliness can be a symptom of a mental health condition as well. It’s not a guarantee, but a person who exhibits the following behaviors and risk factors is likely to be affected by loneliness and mental health:

  • Low desire to socialize with others
  • Abrupt or frequent changes to friend groups
  • Lack of social support
  • Struggling to create or maintain relationships with peers
  • Falling into co-dependent or toxic relationships
  • Feeling on edge around others
  • Failing to uphold social commitments

Someone who is facing a mental health challenge may seem to make the problem worse for themself. If you have a loved one who struggles with feeling lonely, yet seems to avoid spending time together, it’s likely a symptom of a mental health condition that requires professional treatment and is not meant as a personal insult. 

Loneliness and depression

While loneliness can be connected to other conditions, like anxiety, substance use disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and so forth, depression is perhaps the disorder most commonly associated with loneliness. 

Depression clinically referred to as major depressive disorder, is characterized by persistent sadness and loss of interest. Like other disorders, loneliness can come before or after the onset of depression, although it’s most likely present throughout. 

If you have experienced the loneliness that keeps you from doing things that you previously found enjoyable, it’s possible that there’s something more at the root of the feeling. 

The best way to address loneliness and depression is by first seeking a professional opinion on whether depression is at play. With a diagnosis, you can seek proper treatment for depression. Odds are high that loneliness is a manifestation of depression, and the feeling of being alone can be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy and the right socio-emotional support.

How to cope with loneliness during the holidays

If you or someone you love struggles with loneliness and mental health challenges, there are plenty of ways to cope, especially during the upcoming holiday season. Here are the best tips for managing loneliness:

1. Therapy

There’s no method more tried and true than mental health therapy for feelings that seem like too much. Unloading the stress and sorrow of loneliness is half the battle, and your therapist can help you identify reasonable solutions to overcoming loneliness and depression.

2. Self-care

Falling into a rut of loneliness feels defeating. When you need a win or a mood boost, self-care can do the trick. Try incorporating affirmations, positive self-talk, exercise, mindful eating or prayer into your daily routine.

3. Social outlets

The feeling of loneliness can snowball into itself, leading to a cycle, similar to the cycle of anxiety. It can be hard to spend time with others, but the longer you stay away the harder it becomes to break out of the pattern. Start socializing today by making plans at least twice a week with others.

4. Set realistic standards

No holiday ever plays out like the ads you see or the movies you watch. Manage your expectations of the holiday season and the ensuing celebrations by limiting media exposure. Accept that your loved ones aren’t perfect, and the holidays don’t need to measure up to an unreasonable standard.

Get connected with help for loneliness and mental health

With the holidays fast approaching, you don’t want to wait to address the sinking feeling of loneliness. Take care of yourself and start therapy now with High Focus Centers. At any of our facilities, you can be assured of compassionate care that fits your needs so you can focus on the positive and enjoy the season. 

Reach out to High Focus Centers today.