Thursday, February 22, 2024
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Loneliness and Depression: What’s the Connection?

Feeling a little “blah” lately?
You don’t have much to do?
No one to do it with either?
Feeling sad because you don’t have people to spend time with?

We often use the words loneliness and depression very loosely. Both are extreme conditions that can plague a person’s life if left untreated.

Depression is a multifaceted mental health condition that is growing worldwide. The causes are complex and vary from person to person whereas loneliness is a temporary emotional state. Loneliness reminds us of the pain of being alone and warns us of the threat of becoming isolated which can cause depression. Research on loneliness shows that it has a strong connection with depression. Prolonged loneliness can be the gateway depression needs to creep in and take over your mind and life. Human connection isn’t just a way to pass the time. It’s an important aspect of our well-being. After all, humans are social creatures.

The two states co occur, are co related and influence one another.

The connection between depression and loneliness —

Pinpointing the cause of your emotional distress is always a great place to start and a step in the right direction. Loneliness and depression tend to involve similar feelings, so it’s not always easy to recognise where one ends and the other begins. Restlessness, irritability, low energy, self doubt and even physical changes like your appetite and sleeping patterns are common symptoms of loneliness and depression. Because of the enormous similarities between loneliness and depression, researchers are beginning to consider loneliness to be a subset of depression.

It can be difficult to differentiate between loneliness and depression because the symptoms and feelings are so similar but there is one big, glaring difference. Depression is a mental health condition and loneliness is a temporary emotional state.

The difference between loneliness and depression —

The biggest distinction between loneliness and depression is that depression is a mental health and loneliness is a feeling.

Loneliness doesn’t feel very good but it is a fleeting emotional state that is related to a need for connection and belonging. Once you meet those needs of loneliness, you’ll probably feel less lonely and your loneliness will start to fade.

Depression, on the other hand, doesn’t only relate to the need for connection and belonging. You need proper treatment from a mental health professional to overcome depression.

Loneliness can be changed or controlled whereas depression can be distracted but it never leaves until it is treated.

These are some key differences between loneliness and depression and identifying it.

Can loneliness lead to depression?

Depression is a complex mental health condition that develops from a combination of several internal and external factors. Loneliness can lead to depression if left unsolved, a depressed person can experience loneliness and not everyone who experiences loneliness develops depression and vice versa.

How to cope with loneliness early on —

The obvious solution here is to tackle loneliness before it can potentially turn into depression. These steps will help you increase your chances for meaningful connections. It’s important to remember that being alone doesn’t mean loneliness. Sometimes to address loneliness effectively, you might have to dig a little deeper.

  1. Survey your existing relationships — If you have a lot of people in your life and you’re still lonely, it might be time to examine those relationships. Keep and nurture the relationships that are meaningful, discard those that weigh you down. It really is possible to feel lonely in a crowd.
  2. Do things you enjoy — Spend time doing things that fulfill you and make you feel happy. If something causes unhappiness and boredom in your life, simply don’t do it. Your hobbies can also put you in touch with other people who enjoy similar activities, opening the door to more satisfying relationships.
  3. Show yourself compassion and kindness — Everyone has flaws. Noone is perfect. We all make mistakes. Remind yourself that you are doing your best. Don’t be so hard on yourself and treat yourself with kindness and love. If you are kind to yourself and love yourself, others will love you too. Plus a stronger sense of self-worth can pave the way toward more meaningful relationships. Its called the power of self-love.
  4. Reframe your thoughts — Turn your negative thoughts into positive thoughts and feelings. Push out unwanted and negative thoughts. Reframe negative thoughts into positive ones. For example- when a friend doesn’t pick up the phone, try reframing, “They don’t want to talk to me” to, “They’re probably busy, so I’ll try again later.” If you think of things in a positive way, you will automatically feel lighter.

When to reach out for help if things get too hard —

Depression is more of an immediate cause for concern than loneliness but both issues can seriously affect you. Reach out to friends, family or even professionals if things get unmanageable. Therapy offers a safe space to get to the bottom of it. Left untended, loneliness and depression can have serious consequences. Therefore it is important to intervene and ask for help at the right time.

Conclusion —

It’s normal to feel a little low when you lack social connection or feel sad from time to time. When these feelings hinder your daily life and its all you can think about, that is when you need to tackle it. No matter what you’re dealing with, you don’t have to handle it alone. Talking to loved ones or professionals about how you feel can be a great start to overcoming this hurdle. Working on improving the quality of your interpersonal relationships can reduce feelings of loneliness and even protect you against depression. Recently, the whole world was brought to its knees and we were forced to spend an unusual amount of time alone. However, it’s important to note that loneliness is not caused by being alone, it’s being without fruitful relationships. Just remember you are never alone. There is always someone around the corner willing to help.

Vinita Alvares Fernandes
Vinita Alvares Fernandes is an Economics graduate, a writer and a Trinity College certified public speaker and communicator

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