Loneliness is a totally normal emotion to experience from time to time. All human beings experience some form of loneliness over their lifetimes. Usually, it’s a temporary emotion that disappears, allowing a person to return to a sense of normalcy when they settle back into old relationships or discover new ones to enjoy.
However, it is possible for loneliness to become unhealthy. Unhealthy loneliness is often referred to as chronic loneliness, meaning it continues onward for an indeterminate amount of time. Rather than being a temporary, uncomfortable roadblock of life, chronic loneliness becomes more of a permanent fixture in daily living for people suffering from it.
The point where regular loneliness crosses into chronic or unhealthy loneliness can be difficult to determine – consider the following four signs that your loneliness may be unhealthy.
Sign 1: You feel isolated even in very large, bustling groups of people.
Chronically lonely folks do not feel any connection with other people, even when they are surrounded by them! If you’re suffering from chronic loneliness, you may feel isolated in a packed music venue or a busy grocery store, for example.
Despite being surrounded by other people, a chronically lonely person can’t shake the feeling that they’re alone. This feeling is often described as “being outside of the window and looking in”: You can see that everyone around you is busy, engaged with the environment, and interacting with each other, but you just don’t feel like part of the crowd….even though you’re standing in the middle of it.
Sign 2: When you actually socialize with other people, you feel completely exhausted afterward.
Feeling tired after going out on an adventure with friends is normal, but for a chronically lonely person, these feelings of exhaustion afterward are a bit different.
Rather than feeling tired from the day’s activities, a chronically lonely person feels tired or burned out from the action of trying to interact with other people appropriately. When loneliness becomes chronic, interacting with other people can feel like a giant obstacle course – trying to keep up at the same pace with the other people you’re with can feel incredibly challenging. At the end of the experience, you feel tired and worn down from trying to hold conversations and maintain your socializing with them.
Sign 3: You struggle with insecurities, such as not being good enough for other people.
Chronically lonely folks tend to have insecurities that stop them from forming new relationships or interacting with others. If you are really hard on yourself and insecure about different aspects of who you are, it may prevent you from interacting in a positive and healthy way with other people.
Rather than learning how to overcome insecurities, a chronically lonely person will allow those nagging feelings of being “not good enough” consume their self worth. Rather than risking a chance to form a new relationship with someone, a chronically lonely person will allow that insecurity to stop them from ever making the effort, isolating them even further.
Sign 4: When you do reach out to other people, the interactions feel shallow and pointless.
Chronically lonely people have a tough time connecting and interacting with others. When someone suffering from chronic loneliness does reach out to someone, such as an old friend or a family member, they may feel like there isn’t much substance to the conversation.
If your interactions with others don’t seem to have any substance, you may be suffering from chronic loneliness. Substance can refer to all sorts of things that make interactions with other people meaningful, including intimacy, trust, honesty, depth of discussion, and more.
If you are feeling lonely, you may want to talk it out. Join a support group, volunteer at your local community organization or seek a mentor coach, therapist or spiritual counselor. You do not need to suffer alone and in silence. Help is available. Take the YADA assessment ($20 value) and let's map out a plan for you to make a change.