Help! I feel lonely

No one wants to feel lonely. It’s a horrible thing, and often people feel too ashamed to talk about it. With the dawn of social media you’re meant to be surrounded by people and feeling amazing 24/7 but that isn’t reality. Feeling lonely is actually pretty commonplace and there are tonnes of young people in the exact same position. The Mix talks you through it.

A young woman is standing by a window. She is thinking about being lonely. This is a wide-angle image.

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 leaves you feeling isolated – like you’re not connected to people, or you don’t belong.

The difference between ‘I’m lonely’ and just being on your own

As Kelly Clarkson once sang: doesn’t mean I’m lonely cause I’m alone. Contrary to popular belief, there’s a distinct difference between being alone, and feeling lonely. Lots of people live alone, but wouldn’t say ‘I feel lonely.’ This is because they have social relationships and connections that they want and need. This means that they can have their me-time while maintaining a healthy social life. Loneliness, on the other hand, is a nagging feeling that won’t go away – no matter how many people you have in your life.

You’re not the only one who feels lonely…

The Mix found that 77% of young people agree that the coronavirus pandemic has left them feeling like saying ‘I feel alone’. It’s normal to experience loneliness, and it’s important that we normalise it and break down the stigma. It’s also normal to say ‘I feel lonely’ sometimes because odds are, multiple people are feeling the exact same thing. So, if you feel like you’re the only one saying ‘I’m so lonely’ – trust us, you’re not.

Loneliness can occur at any time, but it can also be triggered by something. Loneliness is like hunger or thirst; it’s our body’s way of telling us that we need social contact. Remember that millions of people experience loneliness – it doesn’t mean you’re a failure or less than, just means you’re human.

Why do I feel 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 video games can’t replace real face-to-face interaction and meaningful relationships. If it does, it can quickly become isolating, which makes us feel even lonelier and creates a vicious cycle.

How does loneliness affect my health?

It’s pretty bleak. Human beings are naturally social, so being lonely isn’t good for us. According to according to former Surgeon, Vivek Murthy, 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 mental health conditions. Feeling lonely and isolated affects our self-esteem, and we can end up thinking that people don’t want to talk to us or that we’ll never make meaningful connections ever again.

But please try to remember, you won’t feel like this forever – it’s really just the loneliness talking. When you feel better, you should start thinking about how to stop feeling lonely. This is honestly an individual journey that depends on your likes and dislikes so take time getting to know yourself.

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 as a primary factor, closely followed by missing physical contact with others, (also known as skin hunger) The final results indicated that social isolation as a result of the Covid-19 lockdowns is the root cause of young people feeling lonely.

How to stop feeling lonely

Think about what you would like to spend more time doing. Do you want to feel more connected with friends or family? Arrange to do something with them. 

You could also share your skills and time with others; volunteering or joining a group is a fantastic way to make new friends. Stay on the lookout for community events; 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 like minded 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.

Another option is to head to our loneliness page for support and helpful resources – you don’t need to go through this alone. We’re right here with you, every step of the way.

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 06-Nov-2021