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June 29, 2014
by Christie Hunter

The Psychology of Loneliness

June 29, 2014 04:55 by Christie Hunter  [About the Author]

Causes, Symptoms and Impact of Loneliness on Human Psychology and Overall Health

There is no way a person can completely avoid stress, but an easy way to vent out depression is discussing problems with friends, family or an expert counselor. However, the extent to which a person interacts with others depends on his/her personality and communication skills. For example, an introvert finds it difficult to express his/her emotions as compared to an extrovert. Moreover, the impact of stress on mental and physical health also depends on the ability of a person to deal with stressful situations.  

According to Nakhoda (2012),1 in order to understand the psychological impact of loneliness, it is important to understand the difference between comfortable solitude and loneliness. For example, if the person is an introvert, he/she will be more comfortable and happy in interacting with as few people as possible. Loneliness, on the other hand, is when a person wants to interact with others but he/she can’t.

This article has highlighted the concept of loneliness as defined by clinical psychology and how it impacts the mental and physical health of a person. Moreover, readers will also be guided about the easy and effective ways through which a person can tackle loneliness.

Psychological Definition of Loneliness

Cacioppo (2011) 2 highlighted in a research study that psychology views loneliness as an undesirable and depressive state of mind in which a person wants to socialize with other people but can’t find a way to do so. Clinical psychology considers humans as social animals, and therefore no one can make it without interacting with other people. However, the extent and ways of interaction may vary with the personal traits of people. Psychologists define loneliness as the difference between desired and actual extent and level of interaction. This is the reason that the people who have large social circles are more prone to the psychological impacts of loneliness than the people who have few friends and don’t socialize much.

How to Differentiate between Solitude and Loneliness

Shah (2013) 3 in a research study mentioned that it is very important to understand the major differences between comfortable solitude and undesirable loneliness. Here is a quick list of some common indicators of loneliness to help a person understand his/her mental state:

·       In the state of loneliness, a person can’t trust anyone to share his or her feelings. With no one to confide in, a person can suffer from severe depression.

·       A lonely person cries frequently and views very situation from a bleak perspective.

·       Lack of self-confidence and self criticism are also two of the most common indictors of loneliness.

Impact of Loneliness

Frinter (2005) 4 proposed a research study in which the author highlighted some of the many psychological, mental and physical effects of loneliness.

Some of these are:

·       Impaired Communication Skills: A person in the state of loneliness finds it difficult to mingle with others. This not only impacts the social and communication skills of a person, but also makes a person shy to speak in public.

·       Impact on Decision Making Abilities: Loneliness also impacts the ability of person to think simultaneously in multiple dimensions and make decisions. Discussing issues with others not only gives a person a fresh perspective to view a problem, but also encourages him/her to take timely action.

·       Mental Stability: Loneliness can cause several depressive disorders like hypomania, bipolar etc. if not diagnosed on time and treated properly; these disorders can permanently damage the mental health of a person.

·       Other Problems: Loneliness can trigger stress, which ultimately leads to lack of sleep, loss of appetite, etc., thereby impacting the overall health of a person.

How to Deal with Loneliness?

The Australian Institute of Psychology Counselors (2012) published an article to guide people about easy and effective ways of handling loneliness.

Some of these ways are:

·       Counseling: As a person in the state of loneliness does not mingle with friends and family, consulting expert psychologists and counselors is an effective way to vent out depression and frustration. In addition, counselors, by understanding the mental state of a person, can suggest ways to socialize and interact with other people.

·       Therapy: Therapy and exercises like yoga and meditation can help a person calm down his/her nerves and overcome the state of depression. Apart from finding ways to overcome loneliness, stress prevention is also very important and therapies can help a person cope with negative stressors associated with loneliness.


1. Nakhoda N. (2012). Loneliness – Causes, Symptoms and Effects.

2. Cacioppo J. (2011). Psychologist John Cacioppo Explains Why Loneliness Is Bad For Your Health?

3. Shah R. (2013). Under the microscope: The effect of loneliness on physical and mental health

4. Frinter C. (2005). Lonely Madness: The Effects of Solitary Confinement and Social Isolation on Mental and Emotional Health

5. Australian Institute of Professional Counselors. (2012). Symptoms, Causes and Effects of Loneliness.

About the Author

Christie Hunter

Christie Hunter is registered clinical counselor in British Columbia and co-founder of Theravive. She is a certified management accountant. She has a masters of arts in counseling psychology from Liberty University with specialty in marriage and family and a post-graduate specialty in trauma resolution. In 2007 she started Theravive with her husband in order to help make mental health care easily attainable and nonthreatening. She has a passion for gifted children and their education. You can reach Christie at 360-350-8627 or write her at christie - at -

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