Loneliness is one of the most common human emotions, but that doesn’t make it easier to explain or understand. You can feel alone even if you’re in a crowded room. You can be a very social person, surrounded by loving relationships, and still feel lonely at the end of the day.
Whatever your reasons for feeling lonely, you’re not alone in those feelings. And you can find ways to better understand, manage, and heal from the pain of loneliness.
What Loneliness Feels Like
People who’ve reached out to me at TheHopeLine are often afraid to talk about their loneliness. Maybe it’s difficult to talk about the past trauma that’s led to their loneliness (like abandonment, fighting, or being in a toxic relationship). Sometimes they feel ashamed to admit that they’re lonely. Sometimes they are in denial about how lonely they are. Sometimes they feel trapped in their loneliness. Other emotions and physical sensations that accompany loneliness include:
- Sadness/Depression: “I feel sad, depressed, or disappointed by how alone I feel.”
- Tension in the body, a feeling of being closed in
- Isolation: “It feels like no one understands how lonely I feel, and that no one has ever been this lonely.”
- Feeling a pit in your stomach
- Frustration: “I’m angry because it seems like I can’t click with others, no matter what I do.”
The Purpose of Loneliness
People feel lonely at different times and for different reasons. In general, they have one thing in common: they don’t have to be alone to feel alone. Clinician Dr. Karyn Hall puts it this way:
“Feeling lonely has little to do with how many friends you have. It’s the way you feel inside. . . In general, those who feel lonely actually spend no more time alone than those who feel more connected. Loneliness is a different experience than solitude. Solitude is being alone by choice and wanting that aloneness or being comfortable with it. Loneliness means there is a discomfort – you want to be more connected to others.”
Loneliness is difficult to feel, but it’s not completely negative. It has an important purpose. Loneliness is your brain’s way of signaling (through your emotions) that you may benefit from reaching out for help, conversation, friendship, or companionship.
Calming a Lonely Heart
Help is within your grasp when it comes to understanding why you’re lonely and doing something to calm those feelings. You can talk to our mentors about how you’re feeling, and get answers to your questions about the source of your loneliness. You can request prayers whenever you’re feeling lonely. Making connections like these can be a great start on the path toward greater calm and less intense feelings of loneliness.
It’s important to remember that, no matter how lonely you feel, happiness, contentment, and a feeling of safety is still possible.
There are people who care about you and want to help you do the necessary work to have a meaningful connection with them. If you need to start small, that’s okay. Making a phone call, sending a text, or dropping a line via email — all of these are important steps that you can take right now to break the cycle of loneliness. You can do this – and we’re here to help whenever you need it.