Loneliness is a normal emotion to experience at different intervals of your life. As the seasons of your life change, it’s natural for other aspects of life to change as a part of those cycles. For example, a major change that happens as you move forward in life is to experience a change in your relationships (or even see some of them end entirely).
Experiencing loneliness – especially after experiencing a big change or ending of a relationship – is normal. While uncomfortable, it’s a normal feeling to experience. Usually, the loneliness fades after some time passes; for example, if you just ended a relationship with a romantic partner, you’ll eventually move on from the loss and meet new people, ending those feelings of loneliness.
However, your feelings of loneliness can cross into unhealthy territory. How do you know if your loneliness is unhealthy? Consider the following hallmark signs that your feelings of loneliness may be unhealthy.
1 – You notice that your feelings of loneliness are prolonged enough to make you feel isolated from the outside world.
Feeling lonely is a result of feeling isolated from other people. If your loneliness has continued long enough that you’re feeling isolated from the outside world, you may be experiencing unhealthy loneliness.
For example, after the end of a relationship, you may feel lonely because the interactions you had with that specific person also ended. When these feelings begin to leech into other areas of your life, you can cross into an unhealthy form of loneliness. Even though that specific relationship ended, you should still be able to interact with other friends, family members, coworkers, and folks you encounter while going through your daily routines, like shopping in a supermarket. When these outside relationships begin to suffer, your loneliness may become unhealthy and prolonged.
2 – You don’t have any best or close friends.
Loneliness is unhealthy when it affects your ability to develop deep relationships with others. People suffering from unhealthy loneliness likely don’t have anyone they’d identify as a best or close friend.
These folks may have some acquaintances or people they speak to on occasion, but nobody they know on a deeper, more meaningful level. Instead of developing close relationships, people suffering from unhealthy loneliness struggle to connect with folks on an intimate level and tend to shy away from those opportunities.
3 – You feel overwhelmingly alone, even when you’re in a situation where you’re physically surrounded by many other people.
Unhealthy loneliness doesn’t fade when you find yourself in close proximity with others. Cigna reports that folks suffering from chronic or unhealthy loneliness have trouble feeling “at ease” around other people.
Even though these people may feel incredibly lonely and isolated, being around large groups of people doesn’t relieve any of these difficult emotions. For example, someone with unhealthy loneliness can be in the middle of a big crowd at a concert and still feel isolated, lonely, and disconnected from others.
4 – When you’re in a situation where you must interact with others, you leave the experience feeling exhausted and/or overwhelmed .
Unhealthy loneliness isn’t resolved by interacting with other people. In fact, one way you can identify whether or not your loneliness has reached an unhealthy level is by gauging your emotions after you interact with people for a prolonged period of time.
Even after an experience where you had to interact with others (for example, helping customers at a sales job or attending a family party), you somehow feel worse – you may leave the experience feeling exhausted and overwhelmed with no significant change to your existing feelings of loneliness.