Loneliness and Depression: Is There a Connection?
Do you struggle with loneliness and depression and wonder if there is a connection between the two? Studies show that they are closely linked and that addressing one can often help the other.
The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” – Genesis 2:18, NIV
You were not meant to live in isolation. God created humans with a need to connect and experience meaningful relationships with other humans. He wired us to crave companionship, love, and affection to thrive. This need for social connection has been confirmed by science. Researchers have found that lonely people are more likely to suffer from depression than people who feel connected.
What is the difference between loneliness and depression?Loneliness and depression are closely related. One can cause the other, and their symptoms may overlap, but they are two separate issues.
Loneliness is a painful feeling of being alone even when surrounded by other people. It is caused by a perceived lack of social connection and a longing for companionship that leaves you feeling sad, empty, and isolated. In most cases, it is a transient state of mind that will pass once your needs for connection and belonging are met.
Depression, on the other hand, is a mental health condition that involves more than just a need for connection. It is a mood disorder that can lead you to lose interest in everyday activities you once enjoyed and cause you to feel hopeless and helpless. It can also lead to physical symptoms such as fatigue and changes in sleep patterns and appetite.
What causes loneliness to lead to depression?
Some people enjoy periods of solitude and can be alone without feeling lonely. Some people feel alone even when surrounded by others. Loneliness is not necessarily about being physically alone, but rather about feeling disconnected from others. It is this feeling of disconnectedness that can lead to depression if you start dwelling on the negative aspects of your life or you isolate yourself by withdrawing from social activities because you feel no one understands what you are going through or cares.
Another reason loneliness may lead to depression is a physiological one. Research studies have shown that feeling lonely increases the production of cortisol in your body. Cortisol is a stress hormone that can affect your immune system and increase your risk for various physical and mental health problems including depression.
Tips for combatting loneliness.
Strengthen existing relationships. Reach out to supportive family members or friends and make an effort to spend time with them. Try to build a deeper connection with them by talking about things that help you get to know them at a more intimate level.
Connect with others. Join a group or club to connect with other people who share your interests. This is a good way to cultivate new friendships.
Volunteer. Helping others can help reduce your feelings of loneliness and make you feel better about yourself.
Find things to be grateful for. Focus on the good things in your life to help shift your mindset from what you don’t have to be grateful for what you do have. Try to follow the Three Good Things exercise in which, at the end of each day, you list three good things that happened.
Adopt a pet. In addition to providing companionship and unconditional love, a pet can connect you with other people. Walking a dog, for example, can introduce you to a community of dog walkers.
Talk to people. Start a conversation with a neighbor you encounter on a walk or an acquaintance you bump into while waiting in the checkout line at the store.
Practice random acts of kindness. Help someone struggling to carry their grocery bags, pay the toll for the car behind you, compliment a stranger, write a thank you note to your mail carrier, cook dinner for a sick friend, or leave flowers at a neighbor’s door.
Do something you enjoy. Get involved in a hobby or an activity you enjoy to help take your mind off your loneliness.
Make lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep can help improve your mood and reduce stress.
Keep a thought journal. Write down your feelings and why you are feeling them to help you gain a better perspective. Not only will it enable you to identify patterns or triggers that intensify negative feelings such as loneliness or depression, but it can also make you aware of what causes you to feel happy and connected.
Practice relaxation techniques. Relaxation techniques such as meditation or deep breathing exercises are helpful methods to reduce stress and improve your mood.
Join a support group. Support groups are a good way to connect with other people who are dealing with similar issues as you are. They can provide friendship, hope, and encouragement, as well as the comfort of knowing that you are not alone.
Reach out for help. Counseling offers a safe space to sort out your symptoms and identify potential causes for your distress. A counselor can help you work through your feelings and learn how to make positive changes in your life.
Scriptures to encourage you when you feel lonely.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. – Deuteronomy 31:6, NIV
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9, ESV
. . . and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. – Matthew 28:20, NIV
No matter how alone you may feel, God is always there. You don’t have to face anything by yourself.
For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in. – Psalm 27:10, ESV
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. – Psalm 68:5, NIV
For the sake of his great name the LORD will not reject his people, because the LORD was pleased to make you his own. – 1 Samuel 12:22, NIV
Even when you feel you are on the loneliest path ever where no one is there for you or cares, God is always with you. He will never reject you, even if everyone else does.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? – Romans 8:35, NIV
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39, NIV
God’s love is beyond all reason. Nothing can separate you from His love or take it away from you.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. – Psalm 23:4, ESV
A Reminder to Help You
You do not have to feel alone even when faced with difficult circumstances because God is right there with you.
If you are struggling with loneliness and depression, a counselor can help. Counselors offer support and guidance for how you are feeling. Please call us today. We would be happy to answer your questions or set up an appointment to get you started on your road to recovery.
“Alone”, Courtesy of Anthony Tran, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Lonely”, Courtesy of Gadiel Lazcano, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Coffee Chat”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Studying the Word”, Courtesy of Rachel Strong, Unsplash.com, CC0 License