Be honest, how are you doing right now? With the pandemic, many of us have lost contact with family and friends. Even introverts and the most independent people out there need a social support system. However, loneliness can be hard to identify. You may worry about someone, but struggle to approach them about it since it can be a touchy subject. With this in mind, here are 6 signs someone is desperately lonely. Whether you’re watching to identify them in yourself or another person, knowing what to look for is the first step to improvement!
1. They’re always alone
Sounds obvious, right? You might actually be surprised at how often this sign is overlooked. Some people simply forget to take note of something too straightforward. Much like looking for an item that’s right in front of you, they just need to be reminded to notice. So, is there someone who’s always alone in class, eats alone at work, or doesn’t engage in conversation in your life? If so, they might need some encouragement, so don’t be afraid to approach them and let them know they’re welcomed.
2. They distract themselves with material possessions, hobbies, or movies/shows
Have you noticed them spending more money on possessions and hobbies? When people feel lonely, they tend to try to distract themselves with buying things or another form of entertainment. They may try to fill the empty feeling that comes from a lack of social interaction with things that normally bring them joy. And, when distraction doesn’t work, they might become confused and disinterested in their daily life. If someone you know is constantly trying to maintain occupied, chances are they’re avoiding being idle because they’re lonely. Try to reach out to them and remind them that you care and want to spend time together.
3. They’re always tired and unproductive
Are they constantly exhausted without a reason? People who go too long without social interaction tend to become tired, moody, and unmotivated. This is because talking to other people relieves stress, makes someone feel supported, and helps strengthen relationships. Even introverts may struggle to function without a social support system. This means no matter how independent you think someone is, it doesn’t hurt to offer your comfort and encouragement.
4. They get ill frequently or always seem to have a mild cold
Have you ever met anyone who always seemed to have a minor cold? Maybe a kid in elementary school who always coughed and blew their nose or a coworker who constantly gets headaches. While loneliness might not be the cause, lonely people are more likely to get sick. This is because they typically have worse sleep schedules, higher anxiety, and a weaker immune system. Aside from physical symptoms, it could also be because they feel unhappy, and this feeling subconsciously affects their physical health. If this sounds like someone you know, they’re likely in need of some rest and relaxation with a friend or two!
5. They focus on the negatives
When something goes wrong, do they make it sound like the end of the world? Lonely people are more likely to be anxious and unhappy. They don’t have anyone to confide in, so when something goes wrong, they’re more likely to dwell on it and blow it out of proportion. So, while they may come off as unpleasant, someone who does this might simply be in need of a friend. Try to look past any initial bad impressions and remember that everyone has bad days, weeks, or even months!
6. They spend a lot of time on social media
Are they scrolling through Instagram for hours on end? When someone isn’t getting enough social interaction, they may try to substitute social media interaction. They could subconsciously replace the people in photos with themselves or fantasize about what it would be like to be there. However, after scrolling for hours, they’ll likely feel lonelier as they compare their life to other people’s posts. This could start a vicious cycle of using social media to cope with loneliness only to become lonelier. If you’ve noticed a friend doing this, try to help them break this habit by spending time with and talking to them.
The bottom line is that people need social support now more than ever. Even if it’s a once-a-month zoom call or a quick ten-minute conversation, making time for others is so important. After all, you never know what’s happening with someone behind the senses, so try to be caring and supportive to everyone, including yourself.
Do you know anyone who might be struggling with loneliness? If so, what are you going to do to help? Feel free to comment down below your ideas, feedback, or experience!
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, November 4). Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/aging/publications/features/lonely-older-adults.html.
- Hawkley, L. C., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2010, October). Loneliness matters: a theoretical and empirical review of consequences and mechanisms. Annals of behavioral medicine : a publication of the Society of Behavioral Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3874845/.
- Canli, T. (2017, September 9). How loneliness can make you sick. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2017/09/loneliness-sick.