Identifying Loneliness: 7 Signs To Look Out For

13.06.2024

We can all feel lonely at times. It’s part and parcel of being human. No matter our age, background, ethnicity – we can and do all feel lonely sometimes. Generally though, it’s a feeling that visits us occasionally: it comes and goes. It doesn’t stay.

But sometimes loneliness does stay. Rather than being a visitor, it’s more like an unwanted guest that takes up residency in our lives. Sometimes this happens suddenly, but more often than not it happens gradually. So gradually that we don’t even realise it.

And there-in lies the danger of loneliness: It’s living right alongside us, like an invisible toxin, but we don’t even realise it.

As long as loneliness remains undetected in our lives, we are unlikely to do anything about it. In this blog I’m going to suggest 7 tell-tail signs of when feelings of loneliness outstay their visit. In my other blog, I suggest 9 Strategies for Overcoming Loneliness.

The importance of meaningful connections

Meaningful connections are essential to our existence. They make us feel valued, like we belong, loved. When we are deprived of these connections, we can become lonely. This can manifest itself in lots of different ways – some visible, some invisible. Identifying these is the first step in addressing loneliness. Here are 7 of the the most common symptoms.

1. Feelings of persistent sadness

Persistent sadness is actually one of the most common symptoms of loneliness, yet it is invisible. Often we can find no clear reason for it – it is just present in the everyday, like a cloud hanging over you.

2. Isolation

While it’s true that being socially isolated doesn’t necessarily mean you will feel lonely (ask my introverted husband!), it’s also true that loneliness and isolation can go hand in hand. Once our social interactions decrease, we can lose confidence in ourselves, making it harder for us to have meaningful connections. This can lead to greater feelings of loneliness, creating a downwards spiral which can be hard to break.

3. Sleeping problems

Believe it or not, loneliness can disturb our sleep patterns. We can find it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep, which can then affect our energy levels during the day. The lack of sleep can also contribute to worsening feelings of loneliness and emotional distress when we’re awake.

4. Low self-esteem

It’s very common for people who feel lonely to become negative about themselves. They may blame themselves for their circumstances, which can lead to self-doubt, not feeling ‘good enough’, low self-worth and lack of confidence in social situations. With all of these negative emotions swirling around, it’s unlikely that they will feel like being the life and soul of the party, and so they may withdraw even further into themselves.

5. Becoming more irritable

Another symptom of loneliness is becoming more irritable or sensitive to people around us. Words, or even looks, from others may be taken the wrong way. We may feel people dislike us or we have offended them when it’s not the case. This can make it harder to connect with others, making feelings of loneliness worse.

6. Loss of motivation

People experiencing loneliness can find it harder and harder to motivate themselves to socialise, go out, make an effort with looking after themselves generally or even self-care such as eating properly. This leads to a downward spiral of feeling even worse about themselves, making it harder to make those much needed connections with others.

7. Physical symptoms

Research shows that loneliness doesn’t just affect our moods and thoughts, but also shows itself in physical symptoms. These can include headaches, stomach aches and muscle tension. Chronic loneliness has also been linked to increased inflammation and a weakened immune system.

Why is it important to recognise symptoms of loneliness?

Being able to identify and name what we are feeling physically and mentally is powerful. As I said at the beginning, loneliness can be like an invisible toxin that zaps the life out of us. But once it’s identified, we can then start to take steps to stand against it and eventually overcome it.

For 9 strategies to come loneliness, read this blog here.

By Angela Caley, Operations Manager at Linking Lives UK

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