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Encyclopedia > Loneliness

Loneliness is an emotional state in which a person experiences a powerful feeling of emptiness and isolation. Loneliness is more than just the feeling of wanting company or wanting to do something with another person. Loneliness is a feeling of being cut off, disconnected and alienated from other people. The lonely person may find it difficult or even impossible to have any form of meaningful human contact. Lonely people often experience a subjective sense of inner emptiness or hollowness, with feelings of separation or isolation from the world. For other uses, see Emotion (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Person (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Emptiness (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Solitude (disambiguation). ... Italic text This article does not cite any references or sources. ...

One of the first recorded uses of the word "lonely" was in William Shakespeare's Coriolanus.[citation needed] Wikipedia does not yet have an article with this exact name. ... Venturia at the Feet of Coriolanus by Gaspare Landi Photo courtesy of The VRoma Project. ...


Distinction from solitude

Loneliness is not the same as being alone. Everyone has times when they are alone through circumstances or choice. Being alone can be experienced as positive, pleasurable, and emotionally refreshing if it is under the individual's control. Solitude is the state of being alone and secluded from other people, and often implies having made a conscious choice to be alone. Loneliness is therefore unwilling solitude. For other uses, see Solitude (disambiguation). ...

In their growth as individuals, humans start a separation process at birth, which continues with growing independence towards adulthood. As such, feeling alone can be 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, anxiety, hopelessness, unworthiness, meaninglessness, and resentment. If these feelings are prolonged they may become debilitating and prevent the affected individual from developing healthy relationships and lifestyles. If the individual is convinced he or she is unlovable, this will increase the experience of suffering and the likelihood of avoiding social contact. Low self esteem will often trigger the social disconnection which can lead to loneliness. Resentment is an emotion, from ressentiment, a French word, meaning malice, anger, being rancorous. The English word has the sense of feeling bitter. ... Look up relationship in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...

See also: Loner

In some people, temporary or prolonged loneliness can lead to notable artistic and creative expression, for example, as was the case with Emily Dickinson. This is not to imply that loneliness itself ensures this creativity; rather, it may have an influence on the subject matter of the artist. Look up Loner in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Emily Dickinson (December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886) was an American poet. ...

Common causes

People can experience loneliness for many reasons, and many life events are associated with it. The lack of friendship relations during childhood and adolescence, or the physical absence of meaningful people around a person are causes for loneliness, depression, and "incelism". At the same time loneliness may be symptom of another social or psychological problem (for example chronic depression) which should be analysed. Involuntary celibacy is the state of a person who has not established an intimate relationship or engage in sexual intercourse for reasons other than voluntary celibacy or sexual abstinence. ... Look up depression in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...

Many people experience loneliness for the first time when they are left alone as a baby. It is also a very common though normally temporary consequence of divorce or the breakup or loss of any important long-term relationship. In these cases, it may stem both from the loss of a specific person and from the withdrawal from social circles caused by the event or the associated sadness. Divorce or dissolution of marriage is the ending of a marriage before the death of either spouse. ... A relationship whether it be romantic or friendly, which has lasted, subjectively, a long period of time. ...

Loss of a significant person in one's life will typically initiate a grief response; here, one might feel lonely, even in the company of others. Loneliness may also occur after the birth of a child, after marriage or any socially disruptive event, such as moving from one's home town to a university campus. Loneliness can occur within marriages or similar close relationships where there is anger, resentment, or where love cannot be given or received. It may represent a dysfunction of communication. Learning to cope with changes in life patterns is essential in overcoming loneliness. It has been suggested that Anticipatory Grief be merged into this article or section. ... For other uses, see Child (disambiguation). ... Marriage is an interpersonal relationship with governmental, social, or religious recognition, usually intimate and sexual, and often created as a contract, or through civil process. ... This article is about the marriage ceremony. ... Italic text This article does not cite any references or sources. ... This article is about the emotion. ... Interpersonal communication is the process of sending and receiving information or communication with another person. ...


Common types

Loneliness can be summarized as falling into these categories:

  • Situational / circumstancial - such as due to a move to a new environment or the loss of a relationship.
  • Developmental - a need for intimacy balanced by a need for individualism
  • Internal - often including feelings of low self-esteem and vulnerability

Common symptoms

  • Believing that 'everyone else' has friends
  • Feeling socially inadequate and socially unskilled
  • Being convinced there is something wrong with you
  • Feeling that no one understands one's situation
  • Feeling reluctant to attempt to change, or try new things
  • Feeling 'empty', depressed, or even contemplating suicide
  • Going to bed very late in spite of feeling sleepy because of fear of sleeping alone
  • Feeling extremely lonely in crowded places mainly due to observing others socializing and laughing
  • Running errands after dark to avoid crowds which make one feel lonely

In modern society

Ironically, loneliness frequently occurs in heavily populated cities; in these cities many people feel utterly alone and cut off, even when surrounded by throngs of other people. They experience a loss of identifiable community in an anonymous crowd. It is unclear whether loneliness is a condition aggravated by high population density itself, or simply part of the human condition brought on by this social milieu. Certainly, loneliness occurs even in societies with much smaller populations, but the sheer number of random people that one comes into contact with daily in a city, even if only briefly, may raise barriers to actually interacting more deeply with them and increase the feeling of being cut off and alone. Quantity of contact does not translate into quality of contact.[1] Image File history File links Gnome-globe. ... A city is an urban area, differentiated from a town, village, or hamlet by size, population density, importance, or legal status. ... For other uses, see Human condition (disambiguation). ...

Loneliness appears to have become particularly prevalent in modern times. At the beginning of the last century families were typically larger and more stable, divorce was rarer and relatively few people lived alone. Today, the trend has reversed direction: over a quarter of the U.S. population lived alone in 1998. In 1995, 24 million Americans lived in single-person households; by 2010, it is estimated that number will have increased to around 31 million.[2] Physical separation often weakens familial bonds, and nowadays, it is not at all unusual for family members to be separated by hundreds or even thousands of miles. a family of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso in 1997 Family is a Western term used to denote a domestic group of people, or a number of domestic groups linked through descent (demonstrated or stipulated) from a common ancestor, marriage or adoption. ...

A 2006 study in the American Sociological Review found that Americans on average had only two close friends to confide to, down from an average of three in 1985. The percentage of people who noted having no such confidant rose from 10 percent to almost 25 percent; and 19 additional percent said they had only a single confidant - often their spouse, raising the risk of serious loneliness in case the relationship ended.[1] The American Sociological Review is the flagship journal of the American Sociological Association (ASA). ...

As human condition

Some existentialist philosophy views loneliness as the essence of being human. Each human being comes into the world alone, travels through life as a separate person, and ultimately dies alone. Coping with this, accepting it, and learning how to direct our own lives with some degree of grace and satisfaction is the human condition.[3] However, other existentialist thinkers argue the opposite. Human beings might be said to actively "engage" each other and the universe as they communicate and create, and loneliness is merely the feeling of being cut off from this process. For other uses, see Human condition (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Universe (disambiguation). ...

American Buddhist monk Ajahn Sumedho taught: "We suffer a lot in our society from loneliness. So much of our life is an attempt to not be lonely: 'Let's talk to each other; let's do things together so we won't be lonely.' And yet inevitably, we are really alone in these human forms. We can pretend; we can entertain each other; but that's about the best we can do. When it comes to the actual experience of life, we're very much alone; and to expect anyone else to take away our loneliness is asking too much." Source Categories: Buddhism-related stubs | Buddhist terms ... Ajahn Sumedho is a widely venerated modern figure of Theravada Buddhism. ...


Chronic loneliness (as opposed to the normal loneliness everyone feels from time to time), is a serious, life-threatening condition. At least one study has empirically correlated it with an increased risk of cancer, especially for those who hide their loneliness from the outside world.[4] It is associated with increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.[2] People who are socially isolated also report poor sleep quality and thus have diminished restorative processes.[5] Loneliness is also linked with depression, a risk factor for suicide.[6] Émile Durkheim also described loneliness, specifically the inability or unwillingness to live for others (i.e. for friendships or altruistic ideas), as the main reason for what he called 'egoistic' suicide.[7] ... For other uses, see Suicide (disambiguation). ... Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Émile Durkheim Émile Durkheim (IPA: ; April 15, 1858 – November 15, 1917) was a French sociologist whose contributions were instrumental in the formation of sociology and anthropology. ...

Loneliness can play a part in alcoholism, and in children a lack of social connections is directly linked to several forms of antisocial and self-destructive behavior, most notably hostile and delinquent behavior. In both children and adults, loneliness often has a negative impact on learning and memory. Its effect on sleep patterns, as well as the above-mentioned other effects can have a devastating effect on the ability to function in everyday life.[6] Alcoholism is the consumption of, or preoccupation with, alcoholic beverages to the extent that this behavior interferes with the drinkers normal personal, family, social, or work life, and may lead to physical or mental harm. ... A male Caucasian toddler child A child (plural: children) is a young human. ... Antisocial personality disorder (APD) is a personality disorder which is often characterised by antisocial and impulsive behaviour. ... For other uses, see Sleep (disambiguation). ...

Some other effects may not be symptomatic for years. In 2005, results from the U.S. Framingham Heart Study demonstrated that lonely men had raised levels of IL-6, a blood chemical linked to heart disease. A 2006 study conducted by the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago found loneliness can add 30 points to a blood pressure reading for adults over the age of 50. Another remarkable finding, from a survey conducted by John Cacioppo, a psychologist at the University of Chicago, is that doctors say they provide better medical care to patients who have a strong network of family and friends than they do to patients who are alone. The Framingham Heart Study is a cardiovascular study based in Framingham, Massachusetts. ... Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a pro-inflammatory cytokine secreted by T cells and macrophages to stimulate immune response to trauma, especially burns or other tissue damage leading to inflammation. ... Heart disease is an umbrella term for a number of different diseases which affect the heart and as of 2007 it is the leading cause of death in the United States. ... The University of Chicago is a private university located principally in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. ... A psychologist is a scientist or clinician who studies psychology, the systematic investigation of the human mind, including behavior and cognition. ... The University of Chicago is a private university located principally in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. ...

Enforced loneliness (solitary confinement) has been a punishment method throughout history. It is often considered a form of torture. Solitary confinement, colloquially referred to as the hole (or in British English the block), is a punishment in which a prisoner is denied contact with any other persons, excluding guards, chaplains and doctors. ...


Basic methods

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.

Breaking the cycle of loneliness requires finding its cause, then identifying any existing dysfunctional ways of dealing with it (hiding away, drinking alcohol, sleeping). The next recommended steps usually include identifying the settings and conditions under which one feels willing to communicate with others, and finally encouragement to take the 'risk' of contacting new people or former acquaintances.

It should be remembered that feeling lonely is a common human emotion experienced by everyone at times (and therefore is not a defect). Intimate friendships take time to develop, and sometimes it is useful to help deal with the loneliness by sharing your experiences with someone else.

First-hand contact

Often, people mitigate loneliness by interacting with others via distance contact, such as via phone or Internet. However, it is widely believed that purely remote relationships are no substitute for in-person relationships - an opinion based at least partially on the fact that a person's true identity is difficult to determine on the Internet, and also that such relationships are less stable. Commitment to a friend or acquaintance is less strong, partly because the remote situation makes it easier to ignore the demands friends place upon each other, and because it is harder to share emotions in such a way. Look up phone in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... In philosophy, the issue of personal identity concerns the conditions under which a person at one time is the same person at another time. ...

Most importantly however, human beings react much more strongly to direct face-to-face interaction (even without physical contact of any sort) than to the abstracted type of communication present in remote relationships. Human beings are naturally gregarious creatures, and social interaction - including subconscious forms like reading another person's body language - has been proven in various studies to be a key element to improve / retain memory and other brain functions.[citation needed] For other uses, see Body language (disambiguation). ...

Medical treatment

To the extent that loneliness is caused by depression (instead of vice versa), it may be helped by similar treatments, such as various forms of psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy (anti-depressant medications), or both.

Animal treatment

Another treatment for both loneliness and depression is pet therapy, or animal-assisted therapy, as it is more formally known. Some studies and surveys, as well as anecdotal evidence provided by volunteer and community organizations, indicate that the presence of animal companions -- dogs, cats, and even rabbits or guinea pigs -- can ease feelings of depression and loneliness among elderly people in nursing homes, for example. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are a number of health benefits associated with pet ownership: In addition to easing feelings of loneliness (because of the increased opportunities for socializing with other pet owners, in addition to the companionship the animal provides), having a pet is associated with lowered blood pressure and decreased levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. Trinomial name Canis lupus familiaris The dog (Canis lupus familiaris) is a domestic subspecies of the wolf, a mammal of the Canidae family of the order Carnivora. ... Binomial name Felis catus Linnaeus, 1758 Synonyms Felis lybica invalid junior synonym The cat (or domestic cat, house cat) is a small carnivorous mammal. ... Genera Pentalagus Bunolagus Nesolagus Romerolagus Brachylagus Sylvilagus Oryctolagus Poelagus Rabbits are small mammals in the family Leporidae of the order Lagomorpha, found in several parts of the world. ... This article is about the species Cavia porcellus. ... The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta is recognized as the lead United States agency for protecting the public health and safety of people by providing credible information to enhance health decisions, and promoting health through strong partnerships with state health departments and other organizations. ...

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
Look up Loneliness in
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Image File history File links This is a lossless scalable vector image. ... Wikiquote is a sister project of Wikipedia, using the same MediaWiki software. ... Image File history File links This is a lossless scalable vector image. ... Wikiquote is a sister project of Wikipedia, using the same MediaWiki software. ... Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... Wiktionary (a portmanteau of wiki and dictionary) is a multilingual, Web-based project to create a free content dictionary, available in over 150 languages. ...

See also

Autophobia is a phobia (persistent and irrational fear) of being alone. ... Individualism is a term used to describe a moral, political, or social outlook that stresses human independence and the importance of individual self-reliance and liberty. ... Italic text This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Look up Loner in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Harry Harlows pit of despair The pit of despair, or vertical chamber, was a device used in experiments conducted on rhesus macaque monkeys during the 1970s by American comparative psychologist Harry Harlow and his students at the University of Wisconsin. ... The Total Perspective Vortex, in the fictional world of Douglas Adamss The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, is the most horrible torture device to which a sentient being can be subjected. ...


  1. ^ a b Lonely Nation: Americans Try to Connect in a Country Where Isolation Is Common - author unknown, from healthyplace.com, Saturday 05 August 2006
  2. ^ a b Loneliness and Isolation: Modern Health Risks - The Pfizer Journal; Volume IV, Number 4, 2000
  3. ^ An Existential View of Loneliness - Carter, Michele; excerpt from Abiding Loneliness: An Existential Perspective, Park Ridge Center, September 2000
  4. ^ [1] - Smith, Eleanor; Psychology Today, May 1988
  5. ^ Loneliness and pathways to disease (pdf) - Hawkley, Louise C. & Cacioppo, John T.; Institute for Mind and Biology, University of Chicago, Thursday 18 July 2002
  6. ^ a b The Dangers of Loneliness - Marano, Hara Estroff; Psychology Today Thursday 21 August 2003
  7. ^ Social Depression, Loneliness, and Depression (from the Online Social Networks website)
  • University of Florida Counseling Center, "How to Deal with Loneliness," based on an audiotape script developed by the University of Texas, Austin. [2]
  • Meysa Maleki, "Loneliness," Counselling and Learning Skills Services, University of Toronto. [3]

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