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Loneliness: Alone in a crowd

Have you ever felt lonely despite being surrounded by people? The feeling that you

are misunderstood or unwanted by others? At some point in our lives, we all go through such

rough patches that are challenging. Loneliness can be described as a subjective feeling of loss

of companionship or emotional attachment with other people around you. For a few people, it

is short-lived and temporary while it can become a chronic state for others. Being able to

have a sense of belongingness or relatedness with others tends to increase the emotional and

motivational level, that aids health in an individual. However, people who experience

loneliness are unable to form a deep, intimate connection with others. There are times when

we can have momentous conversations with others but are unable to feel relatedness and

belongingness. Mostly, we tend to indulge in superficial rather than meaningful conversations

daily, whether at work or home. Research has shown that chronic loneliness can have

detrimental effects on mental as well as physical health. The risk of psychiatric disorders like

depression, sleep disorders, personality disorders, substance abuse, or even Alzheimers can

be accelerated. Physical symptoms like diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, or

obesity become high-risk factors (Hwang et al., 2020).

If we throw light on the causes of loneliness, we will be unable to find one prominent

factor source. Several personal and social constituents induce such feelings. Evidence

stemming from insecure attachment with their primary caregivers during infancy, feeling

rejected by their peers, negative attributions for their failures are a few causes that often

hinder their development of social skills as a child. People with borderline personality

disorders, depression, or a chronic illness are also prone to loneliness. In certain

circumstances, it is conspicuous such as a sudden change in environment, prolonged social

isolation, experiencing bereavement or undergoing a divorce, and other uncertainties.

Chronic feelings of loneliness arise as trusting others without being skeptical can be a

strenuous task. It can lead to high social anxiety, chronic fatigue, sleep disturbances,

persistent guilt, poor self-esteem as well as low life satisfaction which are a few common

characteristics. It makes a person unlikely to be dominant and rather prefer conformity due to

social dependency (Cummins, 2020).

As per experts, there also lies the fear of judgment by others that hinders their ability

to make more efforts. Sometimes, people find it hard to find common interests among others,

which makes them feel disconnected. Another factor that contributes to loneliness is

egocentric behavior, as individuals can be self-engrossed and prefer to talk about themselves.

Self-related self-talk is more convenient which ables them to share their feelings yet wonder

why are they finding it hard to connect with others. It is not necessarily a conscious behavior,

that we tend to think about ourselves most of the time even while having regular

conversations we look for benefits for ourselves. For example, even if we compliment

someone we look forward to hearing something good about ourselves in return, which might

not always be deliberate. Therefore, sharing is not enough we need to listen and reciprocate

to make connections with people.

The current pandemic has aggravated situations regarding mental health, one of them

being loneliness arising from social isolation. The digital world does not suffice or

compensate for physical interactions. However, when things are not under our control, it is

good to adapt to novel situations. Practicing solitude, which is voluntary and involves

enjoying being with ourselves. Indulging in solitary activities while maintaining healthy

relationships to reach out to when in need. Acknowledging the feelings of loneliness rather

than hiding behind a facade is another way to take a step towards a healthy balance. Engaging

in community service or activities of one’s preference can help you find people of similar

interests and get a sense of belongingness. Support groups are a good way to feel that you are

not alone and they might also provide you with a platform to share your thoughts and

feelings. In addition to that, try to pay attention to others and understand them by listening to

what they have to say as well. Make an effort to identify people within your circle, who are

trustworthy and make you feel comfortable. Strive towards making amendments with

yourself and persevere in your endeavor.

Cummins, R., 2020. Loneliness through the Lens of Psychology, Neurology and Philosophy.

International Journal of Community Well-Being, 3(3), pp.273-276.

Hwang, T., Rabheru, K., Peisah, C., Reichman, W. and Ikeda, M., 2020. Loneliness and

social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. International Psychogeriatrics,

32(10), pp.1217-1220.


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