It is totally normal to feel alone, even when you're surrounded by a sea of people — it's not just in your head. And chances are you're not the only person in that sea who feels like this, says Andrea Bonior, PhD, a clinical psychologist who focuses on relationships. "It's possible to have a tonne of people around you that you like, but still feel lonely and disconnected on and off," she says.
Feeling a little blue if you're home alone on a Friday is one thing, but if your loneliness is pervasive in your everyday life (like you can't sleep, eat, or focus at work), that's a sign you shouldn't ignore, Dr. Bonior says. "If your loneliness goes on for a long time and seems to get worse, or it's not fleeting but happens more often than not, you should consider talking to a professional," she says. "Loneliness can be a component of depression, but that's not to say everybody who feels lonely feels depressed."
Being lonely is part of the human experience, Dr. Bonior says. We all have habits that we turn to when we feel lonely, like snacking or watching TV, but it's worth it to take a step back and observe whether or not these things actually help and if they are productive. "Sometimes, these things we do out of habit are unproductive and make us feel guilty about feeling lonely," she says. The next time you feel lonely, Dr. Bonior suggests you try one of these productive strategies and activities.
If you are experiencing depression and need support, please call the Samaritans on 116 123. Their phone lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.