The 9 Different Types Of Loneliness And How To Deal With Each, According To Therapists
When you think about loneliness, you might imagine yourself sitting at home — literally alone. But there are many different types of loneliness that can occur in life, and not all of them have to do with isolation. Yes, you might have a rather intense bout of loneliness after a breakup or the loss of a loved one. But it's also possible to feel lonely even when you're surrounded by others, as well as when you're going through transitions in life.
Acknowledging all the different types of loneliness can be an important step, as well as remembering that remedying loneliness isn't "merely [about] being around other people, but connecting with them on an emotional level," Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. "This is why someone can feel lonely and isolated, even if [they are] active in the workforce or even in a relationship. Being around people isn’t enough if the emotional connection is lacking."
We all need to experience a connection, and a feeling of security, whether it's by working on our friendships, connecting with a partner, or even speaking with a therapist. Without that connection and sense of understanding, loneliness can begin to have an impact on your mental health. Here are the different types of loneliness that can occur throughout life, as well as what you can do about it.
1. Post-Breakup Loneliness
When you go from seeing the same person everyday, to no longer having them in your life at all, it can create a strong feeling of loneliness that's difficult to ignore. In fact, "the process of breaking up can sometimes be compared to the death of a loved one," Bennett says. "It’s also been linked to similar symptoms as giving up a drug, including physical pain and a form of 'withdrawal.'"
While it's definitely intense, there are a few helpful ways to move on. "The first is to remember that time will help ease the pain," Bennett says. "As the days and weeks pass, as long as you don’t remain totally focused on the breakup, the pain will lessen."
Keeping busy can help. "The more you can keep yourself occupied with healthy, fun activities, the less time you have to dwell on your pain," he says. And, it's important not to isolate — even if you feel lower than low. "Lean on family and friends," Bennett says. "Don’t let yourself become isolated ... After you breakup, reach out to family and friends and reconnect with them. Don’t suffer needlessly if you have a support network."
2. Transitional Loneliness
Major changes can create a sense of loneliness, even if they're positive. You might be "leaving a job or starting a new job, ending a relationship or embarking on a new relationship, getting married, getting divorced, [or] starting a family," Saba Harouni Lurie, LMFT, ATR-BC, owner and founder of Take Root Therapy, tells Bustle. And yet there you are, feeling lonely.
When struggling with the adjustment period, "it can help to acknowledged the feeling and also acknowledge that it's likely temporary," Harouni Lurie says. "Also, if it's appropriate, I always encourage clients to access their social support system when they are feeling lonely."
3. Caregiver Loneliness
There's a very specific loneliness that can creep in when you're responsible for the care of another person — be it an elderly parent, a sick sibling, a disabled partner, etc.
Not only is there a lot of stress associated with caregiving, but it can also be isolating. Many times, "the caregiver loses all opportunity for meaningful conversations, friends very often disappear because of fear or embarrassment, and their ability to socialize is extremely hampered because they cannot leave their loved one alone for any length of time," Lynette Whiteman, executive director of Caregiver Volunteers, tells Bustle.
So even though it's a big job, it's important to not forget about yourself. "[The] remedy is identifying that this type of loneliness exists and finding a supportive friend to talk to without judgement," Whiteman says. "If possible, attending a support group helps, and there are a myriad of online communities for caregivers to connect with others. There are also nonprofit agencies like mine who provide respite for caregivers so they can get out and socialize."
4. Loneliness Within Friendships
It's common for friendships to come and go throughout your life, especially as you switch jobs, move, finish school, and so on. But did you know it's also possible to feel lonely, even when surrounded by friends?
"Some people have many friends but often feel lonely," Darlene Corbett, a licensed therapist and success coach, tells Bustle. "There are different kinds of friendships such as acquaintances versus confidantes. If one only has acquaintances and no one to whom they can truly confide or be authentic, they will often experience loneliness."
The remedy for this is to work on establishing those deeper connections. Or, of course, finding new friends if you don't think that'll ever happen. "It is important to have at least one person with whom [you] can develop a relationship built on trust and confidence," Corbett says. By being authentic, getting out there, joining groups, and being friendly, you can find your people.
5. Lack Of Family Support
Even if your family is still around, if they aren't supportive or in contact with you in a meaningful way, don't be surprised if you feel super lonely. "Many people are not blessed with strong family connections," Corbett says. "This can produce loneliness, especially on holidays when ... gatherings are an emphasis."
That doesn't mean, however, that you're doomed to be lonely forever. "Seek organizations where [you] can gain a community," she says. Or join a club, work on your friendships, or create a family of your own. Not all family ties are strong ones, but that doesn't mean you have to be lonely.
6. Loneliness Caused By Social Media
Though its goal is to bring us all together, social media can actually create a deep feeling of isolation. So if you find yourself feeling lonelier after scrolling through everyone else's posts, give yourself a break. "Decrease your time on social media," Corbett says. "Recognize it for what it may be, [which is] not necessarily reality." And work on creating bonds with friends, family, and partners IRL. Social media is great, but it should add to your life — not leave you feeling worse.
7. Work Loneliness
While work is all about securing that paycheck — and not necessarily being best friends with coworkers — it can make for a long, lonely week if you don't have any connections at your job.
And this is especially true if you work from home. "If someone is isolated in their work or does not have a regular group of work friends, loneliness can permeate," Corbett says.
Office workers might also not have a connection with coworkers, or find anyone they can relate to. And that's OK — especially if you make an effort to create connections with friends and family outside of work.
But if you spend a lot of time working, and are feeling super lonely, it can help to "try to find an organization which also supports your type of work," Corbett says. "If possible, connect through video conferencing with others in your place of employment." And, again, make sure you create meaningful connections outside of work.
8. Loneliness In A Relationship
It's possible to feel lonely within a relationship, especially if you aren't making an effort to connect with your partner. It can feel very isolating, but it is possible to remedy the situation.
"For those relationships where the bond has been strained through outside forces, the key is to make the relationship a priority," Bennett says. "This means setting boundaries with work, kids, and other obligations in order to focus on meeting each other’s needs."
If you've been feeling alone — despite the fact your partner is right there — let them know. By saying it out loud, you can set the wheel in motion towards creating a stronger connection.
9. New Baby Loneliness
You might think having a baby would make you too busy to experience anything like loneliness. But it can certainly happen. "Starting a new family can lead individuals to feel lonely in very different ways," Harouni Lurie says. "While it can be an exciting and joyous time for some, others may feel very lonely and like they are going through this difficult transition all alone."
One reason is that, "with a new baby in the house, parents are often alone with the baby for long periods of time, without contact with other adults," Harouni Lurie says. "This can be a very isolating experience and can lead to intense feelings of loneliness."
It's important for new parents to get out, or to have friends over so they can see other adults — and remember that they aren't alone. "This is true for parents with babies and also true for parents adopting older children," Harouni Lurie says. "To know that your experience, while it is specific to you, can be understood by someone who may be experiencing something similar can be very reassuring."
Which is solid advice when dealing with any type of loneliness. Whether you're feeling friendless, going through a breakup, or grieving a major loss or change, do what you can to reach out for support — even if that means calling a therapist. It's always possible to speed up the process of settling into a new life, or establishing connections where you didn't think you could. And speaking with a professional can certainly help.