See and download our full infographic, The Connection Between Loneliness and Depression.
Loneliness and depression can occur simultaneously or on their own, and each can have far-flung effects on physical and mental health. However, those who understand the signs of loneliness, depression, and related issues can identify safe, healthy ways to manage them.
What Is Loneliness?
Loneliness is a state of mind in which there is a gap between what people expect from a relationship and what they actually experience. People can feel lonely when they are by themselves or part of a crowd. Additionally, loneliness can affect people of all ages and occur at any time.
Feeling lonely at different points throughout life is normal. However, chronic loneliness can be troublesome, and it may result in a wide range of physical and emotional symptoms.
Physically, chronic loneliness can cause people to feel exhausted, particularly if they dedicate significant time, energy, and resources to try to connect with others but still struggle to develop rewarding relationships. Exhaustion caused by chronic loneliness may make people increasingly prone to sleep issues and keeping an unhealthy diet. Meanwhile, chronic loneliness may make people more susceptible to health disorders like hypertension and stroke.
Along with the physical ramifications of chronic loneliness, people coping with this problem may feel overwhelmingly isolated. This can cause feelings of self-doubt to crop up, as well as contribute to low self-worth and poor self-esteem. If these feelings continuously go unaddressed, people may start to feel like they are not heard or listened to by others. They may also experience recurring thoughts of self-harm or harming others.
For those who experience any signs of chronic loneliness, help is available. A doctor can meet with people who are dealing with persistent loneliness and offer tips and recommendations to manage this issue safely.
What Is Depression?
Loneliness and depression are closely related, but they are separate problems, and each must be managed appropriately to ensure people can engage with others and enjoy fulfilling lives.
Depression is a mood disorder that can lead to ongoing disinterest in everyday activities that people once enjoyed. The disorder can make it difficult for people to work, go to school, and engage in social settings. As such, depression can result in loneliness, along with myriad physical and emotional side effects.
The physical symptoms of depression include back pain, headaches, and fatigue. Comparatively, depression can cause anger, frustration, irritability, and frustration. Depression can also cause problems related to concentration, decision-making, and thinking. Over time, ongoing depression can make people susceptible to ongoing thoughts of death and suicide as well.
Depression’s physical and emotional symptoms can be short- or long-term, and they can occur at any point in people’s lives. When these symptoms arise, it is crucial to seek medical treatment. This allows people to explore ways to manage depression symptoms healthily and effectively. A doctor can also perform a medical evaluation to diagnose depression and determine if loneliness is contributing to it.
Can Loneliness Cause Depression?
Although loneliness may contribute to depression symptoms, it is virtually impossible to pinpoint a single cause of depression, as many factors may lead people to feel depressed. By consulting with a doctor, people can uncover potential causes of their depression symptoms and take steps to manage them, regardless of whether they feel lonely.
During a medical evaluation, a doctor conducts a physical exam and lab tests to determine if an underlying health problem may contribute to a patient’s depression symptoms. The doctor also performs a psychiatric evaluation to learn about the patient’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. In doing so, the doctor can analyze many potential causes of the patient’s symptoms of depression and offer a personalized treatment.
To help a patient coping with depression, loneliness, or both, a doctor may recommend one or more treatment options. A doctor may prescribe a patient with an antidepressant medication to help reduce or eliminate depression symptoms. A doctor may also recommend psychotherapy, which enables a patient to meet with a mental health counselor to discuss their symptoms and develop techniques and strategies to manage them. There may be times when a doctor recommends the use of antidepressants and psychotherapy in combination with one another. Furthermore, a doctor may recommend a patient take steps on their own to help alleviate loneliness and depression and feel more connected to the world around them.
For patients who do not see significant symptom reduction from taking antidepressant medication, or who experience intolerable side effects from these medications, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) may be recommended. TMS therapy involves the use of magnetic pulses sent to the brain to stimulate neural activity. TMS is safe, effective, and noninvasive, and has been FDA-approved to treat depression for over a decade.
How to Manage Loneliness and Depression
The connection between loneliness and depression can be strong, but people who feel lonely, depressed, or both, may be able to manage both issues simultaneously.
Self-care is important, particularly for those coping with loneliness, depression, or both. Taking a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and spending time doing activities that bring joy may help people feel better.
Engaging with family members and friends is a simple and effective way to deal with loneliness and depression. Loved ones are available to help in many ways, and they can be reached via phone, email, text, and video chat. Reaching out to loved ones regularly may help minimize the impact of loneliness and depression. It may also be helpful to schedule daily or weekly phone or video calls with loved ones.
Connecting with family members and friends in person can be beneficial as well. People can schedule times to enjoy new activities, explore new places, and celebrate new experiences with loved ones. For people who cannot get out of their home, they may benefit from virtual dinners and other remote gatherings with groups of family members and friends.
Social media provides an excellent opportunity to reconnect with past acquaintances as well. People can use social networks to reach out to family members, friends, or colleagues who were once major parts of their lives and lay the groundwork for meaningful, long-lasting relationships.
Finally, it is paramount to stay persistent in the quest to manage loneliness and depression. Even people who leverage techniques and strategies may suddenly start to experience the symptoms associated with these issues. Yet, people who stay the course are well-equipped to manage these symptoms.
Learn About Treatment Options for Loneliness and Depression
Managing loneliness and depression can be challenging and Achieve TMS can help. We are the leading provider of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy in the United States and offer custom treatment programs to patients coping with loneliness, depression, and various mental health disorders. To learn more or schedule a TMS consultation, please contact us online or call or text us today at 877-909-4363.