People suffering from chronic loneliness are at a heightened risk of developing issues with depression. Chronic loneliness, or feelings of loneliness that persist for a long period of time, leave people feeling more than just alone. Often, chronic loneliness leads to a host of difficult symptoms to manage, including depression.
Understanding more about how loneliness contributes to depression is the first step toward identifying the problem and working toward a solution to improve it.
How are loneliness and depression connected?
Imagine you’re spending another evening at home alone. After a long day at work, you interact with plenty of people, but those interactions don’t leave you with a sense of social satisfaction. You’d rather form deeper connections with friends doing mutually-enjoyable activities, but you find yourself at home alone again after work. This pattern has been your norm for months now, leaving you feeling pretty gloomy on top of your usual boredom.
Chronic loneliness already has a host of difficult complications and symptoms that are challenging, including:
- Difficulty forming new relationships and/or maintaining existing ones
- Feelings of inadequacy; a lack of self confidence and self worth
- Interrupted sleeping patterns, such as insomnia
- Physical body aches and pains
- Feelings of anxiousness
If you’re already experiencing challenges like these and then have those complications compounded with depression, you can find yourself in an even more challenging position. People suffering from the effects of chronic loneliness may fall into depression quite easily; when a person is isolated, lonely, suffering from other symptoms, and struggling to reach out for help, depression can settle in easily.
Are loneliness and depression basically the same thing?
Although depression and loneliness are both unpleasant emotions, they are not quite the same. Because both of them tend to exist together, it can be easy to mistake the two or assume they’re the same, but there are some key differences of note. Understanding those differences is important – any time you’re facing emotional challenges, it’s important to find the distinctions so you can correctly identify your specific needs.
People confuse loneliness and depression because they involve some similarities, such as:
- Mental fogginess or a difficulty focusing
- Sapped energy
- Changes in your sleeping and eating habits
- Body aches and pains
- Feelings of self doubt or decrease of self worth
Because of this, it’s easy for a lonely person to believe they’re depressed (or a depressed person to believe they’re lonely), However, the key difference between the two is that depression is a mental health condition. Loneliness is an emotion that tends to feel so challenging that it weighs you down in a way similar to being depressed.
The distinction between diagnosable mental health condition and strong emotion is important when approaching treatment options. For example, there are no medication options for someone with chronic loneliness, but a person with depression could explore medicinal treatment pathways. Someone with chronic loneliness is facing an emotional issue and would likely best benefit from therapy
While depression and loneliness can exist together (and one can make the other feel worse), they are two separate medical and emotional issues that need specific care to diagnose and treat.
Are lonely people destined to develop depression?
It’s easy for chronically lonely people to slide into depression, but this isn’t always the case. Depression can settle in if a person spends a long time in a lonely state with no relief or resolution – emotional suffering like this can absolutely spark issues with mental health challenges, such as depression.
However, being lonely isn’t a guarantee that a person will also become depressed. Every case of chronic loneliness is different; the development of depression or other mental health issues depends on the severity of length of a person’s period of loneliness.