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Loneliness and Isolation – What’s the Difference and How Can You Overcome Them?

Everyone needs social connections to be healthy and happy, but loneliness and social isolation are all too common in our society. According to a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM), one-third of adults ages 45 and older feel lonely, and one-fourth of adults aged 65 and older are socially isolated. What’s the difference between loneliness and isolation? What can you do if you feel consistently lonely?

Jessica Dubin, LCSW, is a licensed psychotherapist that’s ready to help you answer these questions and concerns in a comfortable, judgment-free environment. Start your learning process by reading the below and follow up with Jessica to get your questions answered.

What is loneliness?

Loneliness is an emotional feeling that varies and is unique to each individual. It’s defined as a feeling of discomfort, emptiness or distress due to a lack of connection with others or feeling alone.

It differs for people in the sense that the loneliness a child feels when they can’t make friends at school is not the same as the loneliness of someone who just lost a family member or who longs for a romantic connection. It’s important to remember that one can feel deep loneliness even when surrounded by other people – it’s a pervasive emotion, not a physical state of being.

What is isolation?

Isolation is a physical state, and occurs when someone receives little to no contact with other people. Loneliness is a feeling that is typically the result of social isolation, as well as increased sadness and distress.

An individual who doesn’t leave their home, avoids other human interactions and declines all social events can represent social isolation. And while isolation is very common among older generations, COVID-19 has amplified the number of people of all ages who feel socially anxious and therefore not ready to come out of their isolated and comfortable “cocoon”.

At what point does loneliness and social isolation start to have negative effects?

Loneliness is a feeling, just like feeling happy is. While everyone can feel lonely at times, research suggests that feeling consistently lonely or being isolated over a period of time can put you at higher risk for much more serious health conditions, including:

· Alcohol or drug abuse

· Anxiety

· Depression

· High blood pressure

· Heart conditions

· Obesity

· Loss of memory

It’s important to get help when you’re feeling lonely and are isolated, even though it might be intimating. Know that everyone struggles, and you deserve to live a happy, healthy life with solid social connections.

How to get help with loneliness and isolation

Everyone’s loneliness is unique to them, so it’s important to understand your feelings and get the help you need. Here are some things you can start doing to work on your loneliness:

  • Recognize the state you’re in.

  • Be honest with friends and family about your struggles.

  • Research ways to get involved in your community, perhaps by volunteering.

  • Make a conscious effort to live a healthier lifestyle – eat well, exercise, drink enough water, and go to bed earlier.

  • Talk to a licensed psychotherapist. Jessica Dubin, LCSW, serves the Greater Chicago area and offers online sessions.

Above all else, be gentle and patient with yourself. Stepping out of your isolated comfort zone is not easy, especially coming out of a global pandemic that has probably impacted your life in some way. Practice self-care and do something everyday, no matter how big or small, that is a step towards progress. Jessica is here to help you on this journey.

To learn more and get in contact with Jessica, visit Jessica Dubin LCSW

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