Can Therapy Help With Loneliness?

A recent study found that 36% of Americans report feeling seriously lonely. And while this research was conducted a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, this trend speaks to the silent struggle many people face every day.

Loneliness is real, and it affects people of all ages, demographics, and social classes. Temporary feelings of loneliness may inspire people to reach out and connect with others. But pervasive loneliness can significantly impact your mental and physical health, and it can cause you to feel disconnected and hopeless in daily life.

Understanding Loneliness

Almost everyone experiences loneliness from time to time. When you feel lonely as an emotion, it tends to be specific and fleeting. It’s often in response to a certain relationship stressor or social situation.

But if you struggle with perpetually feeling lonely, this entails a chronic state of disconnection from the world around you. Being physically alone may be part of the problem, but some people feel lonely even when they are surrounded by others.

Who Is Most Prone to Loneliness?

Loneliness transcends age and demographic- it’s a universal emotion that we all experience. When loneliness is more situational, spending time with close loved ones tends to reduce or eliminate the emotion. But when it’s more pervasive, you might still feel lonely, even in the presence of others.

With that in mind, certain risk factors heighten the possibility of someone feeling perpetually alone.

Older adults: Older adults are more likely to be socially isolated, live alone, and experience symptoms of bereavement overload. All of these experiences may perpetuate loneliness.

LGBTQIA+ members: Research shows that people within the LGBTQIA+ community may face higher levels of loneliness, often due to stigma, discrimination, and more barriers to receiving appropriate mental health treatment.

First-generation immigrants: First-generation immigrants tend to have less social support, and they may face assimilation complications associated with language barriers, cultural differences, and work-related stressors.

Teenagers and young adults: Young people are often overlooked when it comes to examining loneliness. But a 2020 study showed that Gen Z members had the highest average loneliness score of all age groups. Because social inclusivity is such an essential milestone during this time, people may feel insecure or isolated if they don’t have a sense of social belonging.

Men: Research suggests that, on average, men tend to be more lonely than their female counterparts. This likely has to do with social constructions about peer connections. Women tend to report having more friends and closer relationships with their family members.

New employees: Being a new person at work can trigger loneliness. The good news is that even having one close friend in the office can mitigate or reverse this effect. That said, employees who identify as feeling lonely are more likely to miss work and may experience more performance problems while on the job.

How to Deal With Loneliness

It is possible to overcome loneliness, regardless of your current circumstances or emotions. However, doing so requires intention and effort. Here are some strategies to keep in mind when coping with loneliness:

Commit to Connection

If you want to combat loneliness, you must be willing to embrace connection. There’s no single way to achieve this, but it needs to be considered the first step toward untangling yourself from loneliness.

Social relationships tend to evolve over the lifespan, and research suggests that what we prioritize in relationships often changes. Sometimes connection starts with you taking the initiative. This may look like:

  • reaching out to an old friend and asking them if they’d like to catch up over coffee
  • volunteering with like-minded people and getting to know them personally
  • making an effort to socialize with people online
  • asking a family member if they’d like help with a certain project
  • joining local Meetup groups to meet people with similar interests

Keep Making an Effort

You won’t connect with everyone you meet, but the more you embrace opportunities for building social ties, the more likely you are to build meaningful relationships. Mindset is important here, and you may need to practice sitting with some of that discomfort of getting to know someone new.

Friends exist everywhere- in support groups, in that new hobby you are ambivalent about pursuing, in the local book club, in an exercise class that piques your interest. The key is exposing yourself to various social situations that feel slightly uncomfortable without feeling downright intolerable.

Work On Your Social Anxiety

Sometimes loneliness emerges from social anxiety. You fear being judged by others, so you avoid certain social settings. Or, if you do spend time with people, you feel preoccupied by how they perceive you. This makes it hard to enjoy social interactions, and this discomfort can persist even when you’re spending time with people you love.

Social anxiety is a mental health issue that generally entails understanding your triggers and gently exposing yourself to uncomfortable situations. Over time, you start to learn that even the most dreaded situations probably won’t be as bad as you imagine them to be.

Build a Better Relationship with Yourself

Loneliness can also stem from having poor self-esteem and a distorted concept of self. If you don’t like spending time alone, it’s worth spending time reflecting on why. Is it simply uncomfortable or awkward? Does it make you feel unlovable or unimportant?

Regardless of how you connect with others, we all need to learn how to enjoy alone time. This is a key part of your emotional health, and it’s rooted in self-care. When you find yourself feeling lonely, ask yourself, Am I lonely, or am I feeling something else like shame, sadness, or fear? What else might my loneliness be revealing about my current needs right now?

Consider If You’re Really Lonely

Do you ever experience loneliness after comparing yourself to others?

If so, you might be holding yourself to an unrealistic standard. Someone else’s life may look perfect on social media, but that doesn’t mean that’s the case. Unfortunately, even if we know everyone has moments of disconnection, it’s easy to assume everyone else has it all figured out.

If spending time with certain people or in certain activities makes you feel worse about yourself, consider reevaluating the role they play in your life. Is it social connection you need in this present moment? Or do you need to step away from social media, reflect more on your gratitude, or focus on the relationships you do have?

How Does Therapy Help With Loneliness?

The heart of good therapy lies within the therapeutic relationship between a therapist and a client. This relationship aims to be trusting, secure, and enjoyable.

Over time, you should feel safe opening up to your therapist with your innermost needs and feelings. Having this unique relationship can act as an essential healing agent for change.

Here are some ways therapy can help if you’re struggling with loneliness:

Exploring the Causes of Loneliness

Therapy is beneficial for recognizing what’s causing you to feel lonely. For instance, do you struggle with physically isolating yourself from others? Or do you struggle more with finding real depth and connection in your current relationships?

Loneliness can also happen after a significant life transition. For example, if your youngest child recently left home, the reality of empty nest syndrome may feel unnerving. Or, if you recently moved to a new home, you might find yourself grieving the social connections you felt in your last city. Unpacking these causes helps create a roadmap for how you might move forward.

Addressing Grief

Grief and loneliness can go hand-in-hand, especially if you’re grieving a close loved one, and the loss has significantly changed your life.

Grief therapy doesn’t necessarily reduce feelings of loneliness, but it can help you make better sense of your personal experiences. It can also provide you with anchored support during this vulnerable time. Many people find that connection makes a big difference in helping them cope with the intense emotions associated with grief.

Treating Underlying Issues Perpetuating Loneliness

Loneliness can sometimes be a side effect of other mental health conditions, like anxiety, PTSD, or depression. Some people socially isolate themselves from others when their symptoms feel too intense or burdensome.

Therapy can help you feel connected, to yourself, your loved ones, and the world around you, regardless of your mental health symptoms. By giving you appropriate coping skills, it can also help you treat some of the more acute issues causing you distress.

Therapy for Loneliness

Seeking therapy for loneliness can help you better understand your emotions and cope with them. While people don’t stop feeling lonely overnight, talking about what’s going on

Human connection is important, both for our survival and our personal happiness. You deserve to have meaningful relationships that bring you a sense of fulfillment. If loneliness is impacting your well-being, I am here to support you.

Contact me today to schedule your initial consultation.

4601 Spicewood Springs Road Building 3, Suite 200
Austin, TX 78759
(512) 988-3363

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