(Shakira Nandini, Oporto)

Feeling lonely doesn’t have to mean that you’re just physically alone. Some people feel lonely even when they’re in a crowded room of people or at a party. To feel lonely is to have an overwhelming feeling of being separate from those around you. It’s a normal emotion and often a part of growing up, as things like moving out of home, going to a new school or any other changes can make us feel isolated.

Some reasons people feel lonely include:
• Technology. Though the internet and mobile phones are awesome, they can sometimes make us feel detached from the world around us. Seeing other people online who seem to have loads of comments or heaps of followers can sometimes make us feel unpopular or lonely.
• Not fitting in. If you’re in an environment where you don’t feel comfortable, it’s not unusual to feel a bit lonely. This is particularly tough if you’re being bullied or discriminated against, or if you don’t understand the common social interactions for the situation.
• No one listens to you. When you’re young, it can feel like no one listens to you or takes you seriously. This can make you feel more alone or not important.
• Physical isolation. sometimes we’re in a situation where there’s just no one around. This can be as a result of moving to a new place, living alone, family moving away or someone dying.
Common causes of loneliness
Though there’s no one reason people feel lonely, there can be things that contribute to loneliness and a feeling of isolation.
Some people who are particularly at risk of loneliness include:
People with mental illness. People who are living with mental illness are particularly prone to feeling lonely. This can be as a symptom of the illness itself or particular things that make it hard to make friends or get out and about. Anxiety, in particular, can make it difficult to make friends and meet new people.
Lone carers. If you’re caring for someone it can be very difficult to leave the house and get out and about. It is not uncommon for lone carers to feel isolated or alone, particularly if they don’t receive respite or support.
People with physical disability. People with a physical disability are at risk of experiencing loneliness for a number of reasons. Stigma and disadvantage can cause people who experience a physical disability to feel excluded from social activities.
People experiencing discrimination. Being treated as different from others can often make people feel lonely or isolated. Being discriminated against because of ethnicity, gender, sexuality or any other cause can not only result in physical isolation but also a feeling of being separate from those around you.
While some situations make people more prone to loneliness, it's also really important to remember that just about everyone feels lonely from time to time. To hear from some young guys about their experiences with loneliness, be sure to check out our Real Talk: Feeling Lonely vox pops.

How to cope
There are a number of coping strategies you can use to help overcome loneliness, not least having a chat to someone about how you’re feeling. However, sometimes if it becomes ongoing it might be a sign of something a bit more serious. If you can’t put your finger on why you feel lonely or if it’s something that has been going on for a while, check out 'I feel so alone' fact sheet for more info.


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About the Author: Dr. Shakira Nandini

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