Depressed and Lonely Overview
Are you depressed and lonely? Everyone feels lonely from time to time, but loneliness comes far too often for some. Feeling lonely can plague many people — including the elderly, isolated, and those with depression — with symptoms such as sadness, isolation, and withdrawal. Likewise, loneliness can strike a person who lives alone or in a house filled with people. “Loneliness is subjective,” says Louise Hawkley, Ph.D., a research associate in the psychology department at the University of Chicago. “You can’t argue with someone who says they’re lonely.”
Although depression doesn’t always lead to loneliness, feeling lonely is often a predictor of depression one year or even two years later. It indeed leads to sadness. Freeing yourself of feelings like being isolated by depression is part of healing.
What is Depression?
Feeling down from time to time is a normal part of life, but when emotions such as hopelessness and despair take hold and won’t go away, you may have depression. More than just sadness in response to life’s struggles and setbacks, depression changes how you think, feel, and function in daily activities. It can interfere with your ability to work, study, eat, sleep, and enjoy life. In addition, just trying to get through the day can be overwhelming.
Signs & Symptoms
Depression varies from person to person, but there are some common signs and symptoms. It’s important to remember that these symptoms can be part of life’s average lows. But the more symptoms you have, the stronger they are, and the longer they’ve lasted—the more likely it is that you’re dealing with depression.
Difference Between Loneliness and Depression
The most significant distinction between loneliness and depression is that depression is mental health. In contrast, loneliness is a feeling that tends to weigh you down as pervasively as depression does.
Loneliness may not feel very comfortable, but it’s a transient emotional state that relates explicitly to your needs for connection and belonging. Once you meet those needs, you’ll probably feel less lonely.
Depression, on the other hand, doesn’t just relate to the need for connection. Without treatment from a trained mental health professional, depression symptoms can linger for years and become more serious.
Can Loneliness Eventually Become Depression?
Depression is a complex mental health condition that often develops from several factors. Still, feelings of social isolation or dissatisfaction with your relationships can play a part. Social isolation doesn’t necessarily translate to loneliness, though.
Some people who live alone and don’t see people regularly may not feel lonely at all. Yet others might spend time with people every day and still feel overwhelmingly alone. These feelings of loneliness, when left unresolved, could eventually lead to  depression and other mental health concerns.
Am I Lonely or Depressed — Does It Even Matter?
Determining the cause of emotional distress is always an excellent first step toward managing unwanted feelings, so the short answer is yes: It does matter whether you’re dealing with loneliness or depression. Loneliness and depression can involve similar feelings, so it’s not always easy to recognize where one ends, and the other begins. You might notice:
- Restlessness and irritability
- Mental fogginess
- Low energy
- Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
- Aches and pains
How to Fight Depression and Loneliness
Feelings of loneliness don’t have to be constant to call for action, but you will need to give yourself a push to get back into the thick of life and re-engage with others to start feeling better. These strategies for fighting depression and loneliness can help:
- Make a plan: There are two basic types of loneliness. Acute loneliness results from losing a loved one or moving to a new place. In these situations, chances are you know at some level that you’ll have to go through a period of adjustment to get through this feeling of loneliness. The other type of loneliness is the chronic subjective type, which strikes despite your existing relationships. Both require a plan of action. One strategy is making a point to meet people who have similar interests, Hawkley says. Volunteering and exploring a hobby are both great ways to meet kindred spirits.
- Do something: — anything. In depression treatment, there’s a theory called behavioral activation, which is a clinical way of saying, “Just do it.” If you’re feeling lonely and want to change it, any small step you take — even striking up a casual, friendly conversation with the barista at your corner café — is a good move.
- Explore your faith: There are only a few strategies proven to protect against loneliness successfully, which is one of them. “People who have a personal relationship with their God or a higher power tend to do well,” Hawkley notes. There are a lot of factors at work here, one of them being that faith communities provide many opportunities for positive social encounters. You don’t have to have a close friend in the community to get the benefit — just feeling that you belong in the group is enough. In addition, faith can help you accept the things in life you can’t control.
- Bond with a dog: “Pets, especially dogs, are protective against loneliness,” Hawkley says. There are many reasons why this strategy works: Dogs get you out and about, they’re naturally social creatures, and you’ll have a living being to care about. If you’re not in a position to own a dog, find ways to help care for other people’s dogs or volunteer to help dogs at a shelter that need loving attention. Other pets, such as cats and fish, can help ease loneliness.
- Have realistic standards: “Loneliness is a mismatch between your ideal and what you actually have,” Hawkley says. Part of the solution may be to accept that you can have fun and light conversations with various people and that it’s okay if they don’t become lifelong confidantes. Also, reflect on whether you have any unrealistic standards that make it hard to connect with others and stop feeling lonely, such as expecting too much from a new friendship too quickly or relying on another person too much.
- Think beyond yourself: Depression can make you feel very self-focused, meaning that everything is all about you. But remind yourself that if you ask a co-worker to join you for lunch and the person can’t make it, you shouldn’t automatically assume they have rejected you. The person might have a previous lunch date or too much work to leave their desk.
- Reach out to a lonely person: Whether you’re feeling lonely now or know how it feels, you may get an emotional boost from befriending someone else who’s lonely. Some people may view loneliness as contagious, and therefore lonely people often become even more isolated. “We believe there is a responsibility in the community to reach out to people who are suffering,” Hawkley says. In doing so, you can help others and yourself, too. Examples include volunteering for an organization that helps older adults or visiting a neighbor who’s lost a spouse.
- Call, don’t pos: Social networks are fun and provide an important social outlet for some people. Still, research suggests that, on average, people do best if more of their relationships happen face-to-face or over the phone. Use a pal’s post as an excuse to call and talk about it instead of posting a comment back.
- Make time for relationships: Everyone is busy, but relationships won’t wait until you’ve finished your Ph.D., raised your kids, snagged the next big promotion, or moved to your ideal city. Build them now.
- Talk to a trusted friend or relative: Get some feedback and ideas, as well as a sympathetic ear, from a family member or friend with whom you trust your thoughts and feelings. This person could have some ideas about groups you might want to join to meet positive people.
- Meditate: “Mindfulness teaches us that we are more than who we think we are,” says Jeffrey Greeson, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center. Developing a meditation practice can help you identify and release some of the thoughts that could be keeping you feeling lonely and undermining your efforts to meet new people.
- Explore therapy: If you can’t shake profound feelings of loneliness, isolation, and other symptoms of depression, you might want to talk to a mental health professional as part of your depression treatment. Look for a professional with a cognitive-behavioral background, an approach shown to help with depression and loneliness.
9 Secret Signs of Loneliness
- Loneliness Can Wreck Restful Sleep
According to research published in the journal Sleep , loneliness can wreck your chances of getting a restful night’s sleep. Researchers measured the sleep cycles of 95 people in South Dakota, comparing them with the participant’s self-reported loneliness scores. None of them lived isolated lives, but some reported feeling lonelier than others.
The results? The lonelier the participant, the higher the levels of fragmented sleep. “What we found was that loneliness does not appear to change the total amount of sleep in individuals, but awakens them more times during the night,” lead author Lianne Kurina, Ph.D., said in a press release.
“When you feel lonely, you show more micro-awakenings,” noted Cacioppo, a coauthor of the study. This means you wake up a little bit at night even though you aren’t aware of it.
- Steamy Showers and Hot Chocolate May Soothe Loneliness
How does a steamy bath or piping-hot cup of coffee sound to you? If it sounds downright comforting, you may want to read this:
“The lonelier a person is, the more showers and baths they take, the hotter the water, and the longer they stay under the water,” says John Bargh, Ph.D. , psychologist and researcher at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, conducted a study on physical warmth and social connection. For his research, published in February 2012 in the journal Emotion, Bargh surveyed 51 college students about their levels of loneliness and everyday habits and concluded that some people use physical warmth as a substitute for social warmth. The students who reported feeling lonelier also tended to linger in the shower longer.
There’s nothing wrong with this, Bargh contends — people are not always in control of the reasons they feel alone. It could be due to a breakup or a recent move. You can also use this finding to your advantage: Next time you’re feeling lonesome, whip up a cup of hot cocoa.
- Love People, Not Stuff
The reason you’re so attached to your new computer, suped-up bike, or overpriced purse? According to research published in the Journal of Consumer Research, some people go gaga over inanimate objects because they’re lonely.
The researchers call this “material possession love,” and you’ve probably witnessed it several times: your neighbor who calls his car “baby,” or your great aunt who prides herself on her gun collection. Because these folks suffer from a lack of social connections, they start doting on their things.
And as you can probably guess, most experts say possessions aren’t a healthy substitute for real-life relationships. Moreover, several studies indicate that having stuff has little effect on your happiness levels; you’d be better off spending the money on an experience, such as a vacation.
- Can You Catch Loneliness From a Friend?
According to research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by Cacioppo and colleagues, lonesomeness can be contagious. For example, you’re 52 percent more likely to feel lonely if someone you’re directly connected to is lonely as well, says Cacioppo.
Why? When you’re feeling empty or isolated, you may behave in more hostile and awkward ways toward another person, who in turn acts a bit negatively toward someone else, and so on. The result can be an outbreak of social isolation and rejection.
- More Facebook ‘Friends’ Than Real Friends Worsens Loneliness
According to Facebook, users spend an average of fifty minutes each on its Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger platforms. “Social networking feels temporarily satisfying for people who turn to that as means of interacting,” explained Cacioppo. So when you’re feeling alone, you might spend more time posting on social networking sites or online game forums than actually picking up that phone and arranging a lunch or dinner date. But having many Facebook friends or Twitter followers won’t do much to stave off loneliness. Instead, research shows it can exacerbate the problem.
Subsequent time loneliness sets in, Cacioppo suggests using these sites to get in touch with your old friends — instead of just gawking over their wedding photos.
- Being Lonely Makes You Blow Things out of Proportion
If you can count them up without much hesitation (traffic jams, terrible weather, rude waitresses), that doesn’t necessarily mean your stars were crossed this month — instead, it could point to loneliness.
According to Cacioppo, who studied the effects of loneliness on our health and stress levels, feeling alone often means spending too much time contemplating. In addition, research published in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science showed that people who reported being lonely also reported more sources of stress and childhood adversity in their lives. “The brain goes on the alert for social threats,” says Cacioppo.
- Socializing May Help You Stay Skinny
Loneliness and weight gain often go hand in hand, possibly because we compensate for our blues with food. In addition, loneliness can zap motivation — keeping us on the couch instead of the treadmill. And that means it may also be a predictor of health problems, such as high blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol levels, says Cacioppo.
But can socializing help you stay skinny? Perhaps, according to a report published in the journal Cell Metabolism. Although the study looked at mice instead of people, the rodents living in lonelier lab settings weighed more than those in social environments.
- Feeling Alone Can Make You
Sniffling, sneezing, and feeling crummy overall? It could be a bad case of loneliness.
Loneliness has a systemic effect, possibly raising our stress hormone levels and making it harder for our bodies to repair the daily wear and tear of life, says Cacioppo. We, humans, are a social species. Being part of a social network is so biologically fundamental that feeling alone and disconnected might hurt our immunity.
- Nip Loneliness in the Bud to Prevent Depression
Loneliness often goes hand in hand with one major health problem — depression. The American Psychological Association says that loneliness is a specific risk factor for mental health.
But just because you’ve been feeling lonely doesn’t mean you are doomed to become depressed. Here’s what it does mean: You should start taking steps to nip loneliness in the bud — call up a friend, make dinner plans for next week — so you can prevent depression.
We Level Up FL Treatment Center provides world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope. In addition, we work as an integrated team providing information about depression and loneliness and other aspects of treatment. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life. Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our specialists know what you are going through and answer any of your questions.
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 Pschology Yale Edu – https://psychology.yale.edu/people/john-bargh
 Cell – https://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/abstract/S1550-4131(11)00307-X