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Ask a Therapist: How does loneliness impact mental health?

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Loneliness is not a mental health condition but linked to the development of or the worsening of mental health conditions. Loneliness is really a lack of meaningful contact and it can be a vicious cycle for your mental health. Mental health conditions can often make you feel lonely and lead you to isolate yourself from others and not surprisingly, the isolation can lead to increased feelings of depression or just make the state of your mental health worse.

Feeling lonely can lead to worse performance on tests of thinking abilities and cognitive decline in general (impaired cognitive performance and cognitive decline), impact optimism and self-esteem, and of course, have an impact on our overall mood.

If you're wondering what causes loneliness, it can be a variety of different changing life situations. It might be a breakup, changing jobs or even trying to survive a pandemic. What's important to know is that loneliness can occur even if you have friends or are surrounded by people. First-year university students, for example, can feel lonely even though they're surrounded by peers. Or, you could be in an office full of colleagues, part of a large family or have a few good friends and still feel lonely.

To overcome loneliness, first accept that loneliness is a common and normal experience, and also a possible sign that you need to take action. For some, it can be as simple as recognizing this sign and then making a plan to take action and make some changes in your life. Take some time to consider what your values are and evaluate what you want to look for in friendships and relationships. Then, take action and reach out to that old friend or look to build new relationships within your community. Remember to take care of yourself too - prioritize the activities that bring you joy, eat balanced meals and exercise to help you cope with feelings of loneliness.

If you're feeling lonely and need some support, visit us here to complete your assessment and get started with the therapy that's best suited for you. 

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Stronger Minds content is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to establish a standard of care with a reader, you should always seek the advice of your mental health professional, physician or other qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition. If you think you may have a medical or mental health emergency, call your doctor, go to the nearest hospital emergency department, or call emergency services immediately. You should never disregard or delay seeking medical advice relating to treatment or standard of care because of information contained herein. Medical information changes constantly. Therefore the information herein should not be considered current, complete or exhaustive, nor should you rely on such information to recommend a course of treatment for you or any other individual. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.