Ideally, we are neither lonely nor depressed. But sometimes we’ll feel one and not the other, or both simultaneously.
It’s clear from multiple studies that loneliness and depression frequently occur together. And you may have experienced the connection, yourself.
So what’s the difference between loneliness and depression? And how are they related?
With depression, you usually feel lonely because you isolate yourself – not because you have nobody to talk to. The isolation, caused by feeling depressed, can leave you feeling alienated from your loved ones, which furthers feelings of depression-spurred loneliness.
Plain loneliness, on the other hand, usually involves a lack of intimacy and authenticity in relationships, which feels unfulfilling. Additionally, in some cases, loneliness really is caused by a complete lack of people who care (if so, we’re here and want you to feel cared for right now!).
When left unchecked, the feeling of loneliness can lead to feelings of depression. And the other way around, feeling depressed can cause us to isolate ourselves from others, leading to more loneliness. Because we are lonely and feel we have no one, we become even more depressed.
This is the vicious cycle of depression and loneliness. We may not always be depressed and lonely at the same time. But it’s easy for the two to rebound off of each other, in a positive feedback loop.
You may feel like the cycle of depression and loneliness is unbreakable. But all is not lost! Here are a few ways to combat loneliness that may also alleviate depression:
This is perhaps the toughest and most important step to fighting loneliness and depression. Start with a friend or two that you trust, and gradually form a group of people that you feel can support you.
They’ll be there for you when you feel down or lost. Just remember to push yourself to reach out for help when you need it.
Writing and organizing your thoughts on paper can help you get in touch with these emotions. Try sorting out why you feel sad, and take note of events that happened throughout the day.
This can be painful at first, but the payoff is huge. Being honest with yourself will also help you with other steps of overcoming loneliness.
It’s easy to start blaming yourself for your own loneliness. Take a step back and be kind to yourself when you feel this way, because it’s not your fault.
Remind yourself, you do deserve happiness and you won’t always feel this way. Write down a positive phrase like this or repeat to yourself several times to build your self-confidence.
Going outside and getting your body moving has been shown to improve mood. You may feel tempted to stay in bed and zone out, but fight this urge!
Feeling depressed is often physical as well as mental, so exercise can really break the depression loneliness cycle. Try taking a walk or a hike with friends to get the endorphins flowing.
Fighting loneliness is even harder when you’re feeling down, depressed, or foggy. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and reach out for understanding and a listening ear, here.