What is the Difference Between Loneliness and Social Isolation?
Loneliness is often equated with social isolation. However, the two are not the same thing. Social isolation means that you have little or no contact with other people.
This is objective. Measureable. Tangible.
Loneliness, on the other hand, is a feeling. It is purely subjective. Some people can deal with social isolation and not feel lonely, while others can be surrounded by people and still feel lonely.
Which is Worse: Loneliness or Social Isolation?
It's important to realize that everyone has different needs for human interaction. Some people do well with little contact with others, while others need lots of time and attention.
Social isolation occurs when someone withdraws from social interaction.
This can happen for many reasons including:
- Death of a loved one
- Hectic schedule
- Mental illness
- Introverted personality
Loneliness is a feeling that can have a number of different causes as well.
Social Isolation & Loneliness:
- Increased depression risk
- Elevated blood pressure
- More heart disease
- Increased inflammation
- Higher mortality rates
- Earlier cognitive decline
Social isolation and loneliness share many negative affects. However, social isolation is the deadlier of the two.
Social isolation has been shown to increase mortality rates much more than loneliness.
Causes of Loneliness Include:
- Social isolation
- Feelings of inadequacy
- Low self esteem
- Genetic predisposition
- Introverted or shy personality
Both have negative impacts on your physical and mental health and well being. However, social isolation has a much stronger correlation with increased mortality.
Loneliness is being called the new health epidemic. Studies have shown that it is more detrimental to your health than smoking, drinking, and obesity.
Is Loneliness Genetic?
Two out of five Americans say their social relationships feel meaningless some or all of the time. Furthermore, one in five people say they frequently feel lonely or socially isolated.
Social factors like isolation and shyness clearly play a role in loneliness, but are some people genetically predisposed to be lonelier?
Recent studies have shown that there is a correlation with genetics and feeling lonely. It revealed that your dna may make you more susceptible to being lonely.
What causes some people to be perfectly happy with limited social interaction while others feel lonely and depressed? Genetics seem to be part of the answer.
Up to 27% of people who are chronically lonely share some of the same genetic traits. This suggests that over 1/4 of people who are lonely may feel that way because of their genetics.
Most Common Loneliness Mistakes:
- Ignoring your feelings
- Focusing on it too much
- Using drugs or alcohol to deal with loneliness
- Getting into a relationship just because your lonely
What Not to Do When Your Lonely
Being lonely can result in some unhealthy coping mechanisms. Some people attempt to keep themselves distracted so they don't have to think about being lonely. Others dwell on their loneliness.
Both of these are unhealthy. You need to acknowledge your feelings, without being overwhelmed by them. Take some time to consider why you feel lonely, and things that you can do to feel less alone.
Then, focus on the positive aspects of your life and the positive actions you are taking.
Don't be afraid to feel sad at times, and ask for help if you need it. Don't let being lonely keep you from enjoying your life either.
People often develop drug and alcohol addictions as a way to mask negative feelings, including loneliness. As they become addicts, they find themselves more isolated, creating a negative cycle.
It can be tempting to get into a relationship to avoid being alone. However, a healthy relationship will only occur when the people involved get together for the right reasons.
If your main motivation for the relationship is to avoid being alone, it won't work out. You'll likely feel even more alone when the relationship reaches its inevitable conclusion.
Using Drugs or Alcohol to Cope?
If you are using drugs or alcohol as a means to cope with loneliness, you can learn more about why this happens and the best solution by reading:
How to Ease Loneliness
Oftentimes those that feel lonely are doled out the same advice over and over again. However, there are many ways to feel happier and more connected
4 Unexpected Ways to Ease Loneliness
- Friends and Family
Friends and Family
Friends and family are essential for our well being. In fact, the need to feel accepted and cared about by others is only secondary to our physical needs (food, water), and safety (shelter, resources).
Our need for social acceptance is often overlooked or downplayed, but it is one of our most basic needs as a human being.
Essentially, once our basic needs for survival are met, social acceptance is what we need the most. Friends and family are the way we meet the majority of this need.
Reconnecting With Loved Ones
There are a few ways that you can reconnect with your friends and family and ease your loneliness in the process.
Loneliness can make you feel like an outcast. You may believe you aren't worth the trouble, or your friends and family don't want to be bothered by you.
Generally speaking, if you would want a loved one to reach out to you in a situation, then you should reach out to them. Seeing it from their perspective can help ease some of the doubt.
Ways to Connect:
- Reach out
- Be honest
- Make time
- Show appreciation
When you are feeling down or lonely, it's important to be honest about those feelings. Let those close to you know what you are feeling.
Just being able to talk about things can help a lot. They can help cheer you up and check in on you. Knowing they care can help ease your mind, and your heart.
Make time to spend time with those you care about. It's easy to take long standing relationships for granted. However, these are your most important relationships.
Keep in mind it's about quality, not quantity. Try making a general schedule of times to catch up with everyone.
When you are spending time with them, turn the phone off. Consider turning the tv off as well. Make the time that you do spend with them count.
Small acts of kindness and gratitude will brighten your day as much as anyone else's. Say thank you.
When they've done something that you really appreciate, send them a thank you card or a handwritten note. Invite them over for dinner. Buy them something small but meaningful to them or your friendship.
You will both feel happier and more connected when you do.
Pets Bring Happiness
Pets are scientifically proven to boost our mood and our health. Interacting with a pet releases the brain's bonding hormone, called Oxytocin. It is also released during orgasm and other pleasurable social activities.
In addition to providing a love inducing mood boost cuddle fest, owning a pet can reduce stress and blood pressure and lower anxiety levels.
The cure for your loneliness may have four legs instead of two, but what pets are the best for companionship?
The Best Pets for Emotional Support
- Dogs: extremely loving and loyal
- Cats: more independent than dogs but still affectionate
- Rabbits: super cuddly and low energy
- Hamster: Only requires a small space and a low investment
- Birds: Highly intelligent and fairly low maintenance
Dogs are often seen as the best option for a pet, particularly if your lonely. "Man's best friend" is very affectionate and loyal, but also demanding.
If you don't have the time and resources to properly care for a dog, it could add more stress to your life instead of less.
To put it simply, the best pet for you is the one that best fits your needs and lifestyle. Once you feel you've chosen the right pet, spend some time with a few of them at the pet store.
Chat with someone about the requirements for taking proper care of the pet, but also pay attention to how you feel.
If fish or a snake is what warms your heart, that is the right pet for you. If you are absolutely in love with the playfulness of ferrets, that's your pet.
Your chosen pet should make you feel happier and less lonely when you start interacting with it. The feelings should grow over time, but the initial spark should be there from the beginning.
Technology for Companionship
Technology can distract us and disconnect us from those that we love. However, it can also ease loneliness in a number of ways.
Many single people are turning to sex robots and virtual partners to cope with being lonely.
Is technology a cure for loneliness or the cause? Learn more about the pros and cons of social media here:
Sex Robots For Companionship
Sex robots are still a bit taboo (and expensive), but they are gaining in popularity. You can find robots with g-spots, different personality settings, and even emotions.
The realism is impressive, and a little creepy in my view. There are fears that robots will replace actual human relationships.
However, it seems that people are choosing robots when circumstances in their life make it difficult for them to interact enough with other people.
It's not just single men who are using these robots. They are being used in some assisted living facilities to ease loneliness as well.
These days there are a huge amount of options when choosing a sex bot. Customizable personalities, different levels of emotional interaction, and some of them will even tell you when you hit the right spot in bed.
It's easy to look at this as a risque concept, but for most people, the motivation is companionship more than easy sexual gratification.
Think about what Siri would be like if she was in love with you, and you have a relatively good idea of how virtual ai partners work.
Most of them are app based. You can choose their personality traits as well as their appearance.
The apps are designed to learn as you interact with them. This process feels much like dating. As you communicate, the AI learns what you like, personal details, etc., and uses these to become a good companion.
Japan has developed Gatebox, which provides you with a beautiful 20 inch holographic girlfriend.
The girl is named Aizuma. She gives more of a full girlfriend experience, even sending you text messages when you are away and greeting you when you come home.
Virtual girlfriend apps can be purchased for around $20 and up. Aizuma will cost you about $2500.
In addition to providing companionship, many of these virtual partners (including Aizuma) double as a personal assistant.
If you are lonely and have a hard time forming real life relationships for any reason, virtual partners are an option to take into consideration.
Many fear that the socially awkward will turn to apps and robots instead of real relationships. However, research suggests that these help people develop real life relationships by teaching them how to interact with others.
The Power of Music
Music has a profound effect on your mood. One study showed people happy and sad smileys after listening to happy or sad music.
The participants identified the smileys associated with the music much more accurately. They would also see that type of smiley where none existed.
Happy music can ease loneliness by making you feel happier. Sad music can let you know that others have felt the same way you have, and that you aren't alone in your feelings.
Music brings a sense of connection as well. We love the songs we love because we relate to them in some way. In our loneliest moments, music can make a wonderful companion.
Go Your Own Way
Everyone experiences loneliness differently, so what helps ease loneliness will vary as well. Don't be afraid to try different things to see what helps you the most. Get creative and enjoy the discovery process.
What is your favorite way to ease loneliness? Let us know below!