Can You Be Lonely If You Have Friends?

Loneliness and Friendship

Loneliness can affect anyone.
Loneliness can affect anyone. Rachel Watson/Getty Images

Loneliness can happen to anyone, even to someone with plenty of friends. When you're lonely you crave a deep connection with someone, often a friend or romantic partner. The true meaning of loneliness isn't about the number of people you know, it's about how having the right people in your inner circle. 

What can make one person feel loneliness (spending time by themselves, being alone at the holidays) might just sound like heaven to someone else. Therefore, when you define the term loneliness, you need to also get to the heart of what makes someone feel this way, and it isn't just "being alone." Loneliness hits when you don't feel you have anyone who cares about you. 

How to Tell If You're Lonely

To be clear, we can all feel short bouts of loneliness at common times during the year. Being alone on Valentine's Day often makes us feel a little sad and isolated, for example. But these bouts usually pass once the event (like the holiday) passes and you resume your normal routine. 

True loneliness lingers, and while it can affect people differently, some common signs include:

  • Negative attitude toward relationships in general. (You start to resent happy couples or people with a lot of friends.)
  • Feeling sad about lack of friends.
  • Feeling like you aren't part of "the crowd" or "a group."
  • Feeling as if you aren't accepted in the world.
  • Feeling as if you are "too different" to have friends.

If you are generally unsatisfied with the amount and nature of your personal relationships, you may feel lonely.

Actions That Mask Loneliness

Sometimes people feel lonely but try to "work through it" by keeping busy. Perhaps they don't want to slow down enough to fully realize how lonely they are. However, if the problem is a failure to connect with others, adding more activities to your schedule won't fix the empty feeling deep down. Some common things people do (usually to the extreme) in order to mask loneliness include:

  • Throwing yourself into work.
  • Exercising frequently or when you have any downtime at all.
  • Signing up for a lot of activities, but failing to truly connect with someone.
  • Spending too much time on the computer (and hiding behind social media).

You can't hide loneliness forever. It's better to meet it head on and do something about it so you can work through it. Don't mask it with a packed schedule and endless time surfing online.

The Difference Between Loneliness and Solitude

Don't confuse loneliness and solitude. Solitude brings with it feelings of peacefulness, reconnecting with spirit, and enjoying one's time alone. Some people crave and appreciate the time they spend alone, while others feel lost without other people around.

Introverts and Loneliness

There is a false perception that introverts are "loners" and therefore lonely. This is not the case. Introverts very often do spend large amounts of time alone, not because they are lonely but because they process the outside world differently than extroverts. Introverts recharge their emotional batteries by spending time collecting their thoughts and enjoying quiet, reflective, periods. Extroverts, on the other hand, are energized by the external world of people and conversation.

If you're someone that is prone to loneliness, you could learn a lot from observing a well-adjusted introvert. Typically, they use their alone time to do hobbies, read, enjoy music, or engage in other creative pursuits.

Moving Beyond Loneliness

The first step in conquering loneliness is to get out. Don't isolate, even if you have no friends right now. Then, acknowledge your feelings of loneliness and vow to work through him. Know that loneliness is not permanent, even though it may take some time to completely change your situation.

Even small steps in meeting people and interacting with others can help. Volunteer. Join a club. Say yes more often to invites. All of these are great for making friends but also important to staving off loneliness for good.

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