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  • Writer's pictureClinical Counseling Associates

Navigating Loneliness: Understanding the Difference, Recognizing Unhealthy Coping, and Cultivating Lasting Connection

Updated: May 16

"It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely." - Albert Einstein


Loneliness is a feeling that might seem familiar to many, maybe you have experienced chronic loneliness or perhaps it’s something that comes up occasionally. There's a difference between loneliness and being alone.  Being alone refers to a state in which you are not physically around anyone, whereas loneliness is an emotion that typically occurs when you don’t feel seen and can often lead to feeling disconnected. A key distinction of loneliness is that you can be in a room surrounded by people and still feel it.


When experiencing loneliness, it can be easy to reach for unhealthy coping skills.  An unhealthy coping skill is something that allows you short term relief but can cause even more issues in the long run.  Common coping skills that can have negative long-term impacts include substance use, self-harm, negative self-talk, emotional eating, avoidance through work (overworking), or mindless/excessive use of screen time.  While these might feel good to reach for in the moment they likely will not address and combat the root of loneliness.


When connection in your life is interrupted, it can lead to feeling hopeless and even the belief that you will have to carry this feeling forever.  There are ways to be comfortable with being alone, but how does one combat the feeling of loneliness?  Connection is an incredibly important part of the human experience.  Lack of connection can happen without us even realizing it, especially in a busy world where you might feel pulled in a lot of directions.  Family obligations like kid’s activities, errand running, work responsibilities, and prioritizing “have to do” over “I want to do” can lead to you feeling burned out and disconnected.


When you are experiencing burnout and a sense of disconnection, loneliness can begin to gradually take a toll. It’s important when this happens that you acknowledge this feeling.  Once you have acknowledged it, ask yourself what you need to move through it.  What is missing in my life?  Do I need to spend more unstructured time with my family?  Do I need to reach out to a friend for lunch or a coffee date?  Is there someone I am missing and wishing I could connect with? 


It’s not helpful to be hard on yourself for feeling lonely.  Instead, it can be beneficial to develop, long-term coping skills.  This can include journaling, mindfulness, meditation, challenging negative self-talk, and identifying self-care routines for lasting improvements. If you feel like you need assistance in working through loneliness, a mental health provider such as a therapist can assist with this process.  You are not alone in your struggle and loneliness doesn’t have to be a permanent part of your life.


By Haylee O’Hara, PLMFT

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