The process of separation begins at birth and, as such, feeling alone is a healthy emotion and, indeed, choosing to be alone for a period of solitude can be enriching. To experience loneliness, however, can be to feel overwhelmed by an unbearable feeling of separateness at a profound level. This can manifest in feelings of abandonment, rejection, depression, insecurity and anxiety. If these feelings are prolonged they may become debilitating and serve to prevent us from developing healthy relationships and lifestyles. Loneliness can be:

  • Situational – provoked by a change in circumstances, such as moving to a new environment
  • Developmental – our need for intimacy balanced with our need for aloneness is a process that develops throughout the life stages
  • Internal – unrelated to external situation or age-and-stage, often including feelings of low self-esteem and vulnerability, probably stemming from early years

Experiencing bouts of loneliness is common and may include

  • Believing that ‘everyone else’ has friends
  • Feeling embarrassed and self-conscious
  • Being in a crowd but not feeling part of the crowd
  • Feeling shy and scared
  • Experiencing low self-esteem
  • Feeling angry, defensive and critical
  • Feeling socially inadequate and de-skilled
  • Being convinced there is something wrong with you
  • Feeling disconnected and alienated from your surroundings
  • Feeling frightened and sad that no-one knows how miserable and isolated you feel
  • Losing your capacity to be assertive
  • Feeling reluctant to attempt to change
  • Feeling depressed, contemplating suicide

Moving out of Loneliness

The feelings associated with loneliness feed on themselves – the more lonely you feel, the harder it is to take steps to break out of loneliness. However, feeling lonely is a phase and does not have to be a constant way of being. As with changing any patterns of behaviour, it may take effort and commitment to begin to move out of feeling lonely.

To begin to break the cycle of loneliness, it may be helpful to consider:

  • What is the cause of your loneliness?
  • How do you cope with the feelings associated with loneliness? (hide away, drink alcohol, sleep, become manic?)
  • Distinguish times when you feel relaxed in your own company and when you feel unpleasantly lonely
  • Determine whether your preferred style of relating is on a one-to-one basis or in a group
  • Take some risks – speak to people, smile a lot, make an effort, get involved, do something new
  • Seize opportunities, even if you don’t feel like it!


  • Feeling lonely is a common, human emotion experienced by everyone at times (and therefore is not a defect)
  • Intimate friendships take time to develop