Help! I feel lonely

No one wants to feel lonely. It’s a miserable feeling, and often people feel too ashamed to talk about it. But feeling lonely is very common and lots of young people feel the same.

two young people talking

What is loneliness?

Loneliness is the unpleasant feeling we have when there is a mismatch between the social relationships we want, and the ones that we have. Mental health charity Mind says loneliness is about ‘not feeling part of the world’. Loneliness makes you feel emotionally isolated – like you’re not connected to people, or you don’t belong.

Am I alone, or lonely?

There is a difference between being alone, and feeling lonely. Solitude – being alone – is different to loneliness. Lots of people live alone, but do not feel lonely because they have social relationships and connections that they want and need.

You’re not the only one who feels lonely…

77% of young people agree that the coronavirus pandemic has made them feel more lonely. It’s normal to experience loneliness, and it’s important that we normalise it to break down the stigma. It can occur at anytime, but there are also triggers to feeling lonely. Loneliness is like hunger or thirst; it’s our bodies telling us that we need social contact. Remember that millions of people experience loneliness – it’s not a failing.

Why do I feel lonely?

Loneliness can occur at anytime, but there are also triggers to feeling lonely. There are lots of reasons why you might feel lonely. Some of these include:

  • Moving to a new city or country
  • Starting university
  • Falling out with your friends, or just growing apart
  • A relationship breaking up
  • The death of someone close to you
  • Having to care for a family member

Social media and technology can also exacerbate loneliness. Sometimes it can help us to make new friends and connections, and meet people who share our interests and passions. But it cannot replace real face-to-face contact and interaction. If it does, it can be isolating and make us feel lonelier.

How does loneliness affect my health?

Human beings are naturally social, so being lonely isn’t good for us. Loneliness can be as bad for physical health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or obesity. It can also contribute to feelings of anxiety, stress and depression, and have a negative impact on our mental health. Feeling lonely and isolated affects our self-esteem, and we can think that people won’t want to talk to us or be friends. You won’t feel like this forever – it’s really just the loneliness talking.

Why are feelings of loneliness increasing?

Loneliness is not a new issue for young people, but our research has shown that the pandemic has made things much worse. When it comes to the reasons young people have felt lonely throughout the coronavirus pandemic, it came as no surprise that most young people selected being unable to see family and friends when asked why. This was closely followed by missing physical contact with others, also known as skin hunger. This indicates that social isolation as a result of the Covid-19 lockdowns is the root cause of young people feeling lonely.

What can I do about it? How can I stop feeling lonely?

Think about what you would to spend more time doing. Do you want to connect with friends or family? Arrange to do something with them (now lockdown restrictions are lifting a little). You could also share your skills and time with others; volunteering is a fantastic way to make new friends. Join a community event; Nextdoor is a great way to find out what is happening in your local area. If you have a passion for something – swimming, walking, reading – join a local club to meet likeminded people.

If loneliness is getting you down, talking to someone can really help. You may want to consider counselling to explore how you’re feeling. You can also contact our team for support and information on any issue – our services are free and confidential.

Head to our loneliness page for support and helpful resources – you don’t need to go through this alone.

Next Steps

  • If you're under 25 and would like free confidential telephone counselling from The Mix to help you figure things out complete this form and we'll call you to arrange your first session.
  • Our Crisis Messenger provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK. If you’re aged 25 or under, you can text THEMIX to 85258
  • Mind offers advice and support to people with mental health problems. Their helpline runs nine to six from Monday to Friday. 0300 123 3393
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Holly Turner

Updated on 19-Apr-2021