Whether it’s the result of a new job, a new school, or just hitting a rough patch in life, feeling lonely, isolated, and sad is not uncommon. In fact, loneliness is actually a normal and healthy reaction.

“When one of my clients feels lonely, I view it as a good problem to have because people who are lonely are motivated to make friends, to date, and to find companions,” says Christine M. Allen, PhD, a psychologist and life coach in New York.

Many different life circumstances can lead to feelings of loneliness. One of the most common is being thrust into a new situation. “When people frequently relocate for work and work long hours, it’s easy to become cut off from family and close friends,” says Dr. Allen. “It can be hard to find time to build new connections.”

What Causes Loneliness?

Some other causes of loneliness include the death or illness of a loved one, the loss of a job, a move to a new part of the country, going off to college, or being a victim of a crime, says Penny B. Donnenfeld, PhD, a psychologist in private practice in New York City.

Sometimes, you can feel lonely and isolated even when you’re not actually alone. “In a relationship, if one partner is a workaholic, it puts a strain on the relationship and causes a lack of communication,” says Leslie Seppinni, PsyD, a psychologist in private practice in Beverly Hills, Calif. “Sometimes when a spouse gets too tied up in the daily responsibilities of a household, it can cause feelings of loneliness and isolation.”

Another factor adding isolation to our lives is the Internet, adds Dr. Seppinni. “People are spending tons of time in chat rooms and having emotional affairs via the Internet,” she says. “Because they’re not seeing the person, they feel like it isn’t a real affair, but it is an emotional affair.”

At other times, feeling lonely, sad, and isolated can be signs of more serious medical conditions, such as depression, phobias, or anxiety disorders, says Dr. Donnenfeld. Terminal illnesses like cancer and heart failure can also leave people feeling lonely, as can burns, facial paralysis, and other disfiguring injuries.

How to Fight Loneliness

If you feel lonely, there are a number of things you can do to regain control. Step one, says Allen, is to realize that a little bit of loneliness is normal, and that you have the power to do something about it. “Accept loneliness as a normal human experience that no one likes, and recognize the situation as something that you have the power to change,” she suggests.

With that refreshed mindset, go out and do something about your loneliness. “Get involved in an activity that you can enjoy and that leads you to be around or with people, even if you do not immediately make new friends,” says Allen. “For example, if you like hiking or biking, join a related club or group.”

Once you’ve taken that step to get involved, stick with it until you feel relaxed and comfortable with this new group of people. “People are drawn to [those] who are comfortable with themselves,” says Allen. “When we are relaxed, we come across as interested and open, which makes social interaction easier.”

If you have older friends or family in your life that you’d like to reconnect with, make the extra effort to do so. “Take a look at your current social network, prioritize who you would like to reconnect with most, and then start the process with small steps such as e-mailing one or two people or calling a relative you have been out of touch with,” says Simon A. Rego, PsyD, the director of clinical training at the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy in New York. “Remember, if you have been disconnected for a while, people may be skeptical about your outreach. Pay them back with repeat[ed] efforts, if need be.”

Loneliness: When to Seek Help

There are times when loneliness is a sign or symptom of a deeper, underlying condition like depression. “If you find yourself socially isolated; experiencing feelings of sadness with feelings of loneliness, hopelessness, or worthlessness; or being more emotionally reactive than usual, it is good to seek professional help,” says Seppinni.

Donnenfeld adds that the assistance of a psychologist is helpful for people even when they don’t have clinical depression. “If you find yourself unable to act on reversing these problems, professional help would be useful,” she says. “People can elect to consult with a psychologist at any point in the process of trying to change their feelings — to aid in understanding or identifying patterns or self-defeating behaviors, and in conceiving and testing strategies for greater involvement with others in one’s world.”

View original article:   https://www.everydayhealth.com/emotional-health/how-to-handle-loneliness.aspx