7 Signs Your Loneliness Is Actually A Form Of Anxiety
Being alone often can stir up a lot of feelings, and if you feel uncomfortable mentally and physically when you're by yourself, it would make sense that you would attribute those feelings to loneliness. However, sometimes loneliness can actually be a sign of anxiety, and getting in touch with the true root of your mental state can help you figure out the best ways to feel better both when you're alone and with others.
"With both anxiety and loneliness on the rise, it can be difficult to tease out what is at the root of particular types of distress," psychologist Doreen Dodgen-Magee, Psy.D tells Bustle. "When feelings that have been identified as loneliness include physiological symptoms such as difficulty breathing, the sensation of a lump in the throat, or heaviness in the chest, or they are accompanied by feelings of dread or hyper-vigilance, it may be that anxiety is actually rearing it’s head. Whether the anxiety results from, causes, or intensifies the loneliness is not nearly as important as naming the fact that it is present and needs to be addressed."
If you think your loneliness is stemming from anxiety, you can try to get in tune with your thoughts and feelings to see if this is the case. Here are seven signs your loneliness may actually be a form of anxiety, according to experts.
1. You Turn Down Opportunities To Socialize
With anxiety, you are more likely to turn down invitations to connect and socialize. "A lonely person will generally jump at invitations to socialize, whereas an anxious person —particularly one who suffers from social anxiety — will tend toward more reclusive behavior," clinical psychologist Dr. Carla Marie Manly tells Bustle. If this becomes a problem, it may be time to consult a loved one or a professional.
2. You Feel Tormented By Fear And Worry
When loneliness is from anxiety, it is usually accompanied by worries and chronic fears. "In cases where constant worry is an issue, an individual may appear lonely when they are actually plagued by nonstop thoughts that result in a sense of needing a 'time out' from everything and everyone, including their own mind," Dr. Manly says.
3. You Feel Chronically Tired
With anxiety, you are more likely to feel chronically tired and "spent," even if your schedule and activities aren’t excessive. "An individual who is feeling lonely will often have reserves of energy and will enjoy going out, having fun, and engaging with others," Dr. Manly says. "However, a person suffering from anxiety will often be so weary from the chronic anxiety that they will opt out of non-essential activities in favor of going to bed or staying at home."
4. You Have Muscle Tension
If you have headaches or muscle tension, it's likely your loneliness could be anxiety. "Those who suffer from anxiety often experience muscle tension, whether it is focused in a few key areas or throughout the body," Dr. Manly says. "Ongoing muscle tension that isn’t the result of physical exercise or a medical condition can be a symptom of anxiety. The existence or absence of muscle tension can be a helpful tool in differentiating between anxiety and loneliness." And if you still have questions, consulting a doctor may be a good idea.
5. You Fear Abandonment
Anxiety can lead to a fear of abandonment in relationships, which can sometimes lead to dependence. "Although this may feel flattering at first, relationships built on an anxious need to be attached at all times can be off-putting to the object of the anxious person's attention," licensed psychologist Dorian Crawford, PsyD tells Bustle. "Ultimately, people struggling with this relational/attachment dysregulation will unintentionally push people away by trying to hold on too tight. The end result is a cycle of intense relationships and almost unbearable loss and loneliness." If you find yourself in this situation, and it's pushing your partner away as a result, open communication with them, and also with a therapist could be a major help.
6. You're Irritable
"Anxiety can make a person feel irritable or out of control," Crawford says. "As a result they may be short-tempered, intractable, or tough to engage. As a result, people start to give a wide berth to the person who is striking out in response to their internal uneasiness. Even if a person wants to be around others, they might be seen as difficult [...] Being avoided by others can contribute to feeling left out, ignored and lonely."
7. You Constantly Check Your Phone And Social Media
"If you can’t stop looking at texts or social media to see if anyone has reached out to you for plans or if you open your calendar and 'freak out' when you see blank spaces, this means that you are fearful of being on your own," neuropsychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez, tells Bustle. "If you glance at social media and see a few people posing at parties, you can feel loneliness, which is really the anxiety of feeling excluded."
If you suspect your loneliness may actually be anxiety, speak with a therapist, who can help get to the root of your issues and help you manage your anxiety and loneliness.