The world is a crowded and bustling place. Then why are so many people suffering from loneliness? Partners who have grown apart, teenagers feeling isolated within the family unit, even colleagues who feel as if they are always functioning outside of the group - this feeling of emptiness and separation can only intensify as the holiday season approaches.
A reader, educated and in his thirties, writes that he is totally friendless and depressed by his loneliness, and asks for advice on how to change his situation.
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 to be with friends or wanting to do something with another person. Loneliness is about feeling disconnected and alienated from the people who surround us – friends, family, partners or colleagues. Lonely people often find it difficult to initiate or sustain any form of meaningful contact, and can experience a sense of inner emptiness, with feelings of separation or isolation from the world.
Alone in a crowd
Everyone experiences loneliness at some stage, often when placed in a new environment such as changing to a new school, neighbourhood or job. The situation would usually normalise as we make acquaintances and begin to form new relationships.
Being lonely while surrounded by friends and family can be a far trickier proposition. Whether one feels alienated by difficult relatives or completely isolated within a marriage, or due to a condition such as depression or another illness, loneliness of this nature can be devastating. It is important to consult a professional for advice and assistance.
Worse over the festive season
For some - especially the sick, elderly or those far from home - the holiday season brings loneliness and depression because they are separated from their loved ones. For others, being surrounded by difficult family only makes the situation worse.
Do not suffer in silence
People suffering from loneliness can explore various options to change their situation. If the thought of spending yet another festive season amongst squabbling relatives terrifies you, then you may choose not to spend Christmas with your family this year. Tell family members well in advance what your new plans will be; or, if you have obligations you can't get out of consider very clearly limiting the time spent with them.
If you're feeling isolated and alienated within your marriage due to relationship problems, or because of illness, it is important to consult a medical professional for advice.
(Joanne Hart, Health24, November 2007)