Loneliness is the perception of being alone and isolated, it is a feeling of disconnection from the people around us. Thus, it is associated not with the number of interpersonal relationships we have, but with the quality of these relationships and their ability to make us feel emotionally and socially connected. For this, it is essential to have the perception that the other hears and understands us, that they are empathetic with us – creating the feeling that we are accepted and that we belong to some side or someone. Otherwise, we can feel lonely even when we are together.
In evolutionary terms, loneliness reflects the feeling of social exclusion. The human species is a social species, considering that our ancestors learned to survive in a group. Not belonging to a group or tribe often meant not surviving (due to the difficulty in finding food resources, etc. and difficulties in defense and protection). Possibly, this is the reason why human contact and social relationships are basic human needs, as evolutionarily our species and our ancestors did not survive without the support of others. And possibly this is the reason why we feel loneliness so intensely and deeply, as our brain is creating a warning signal for a potentially dangerous situation – being alone.
As this situation is read as a potential danger by our brain, we are likely to also feel some level of anxiety and stress associated with feelings of loneliness. It is an immediate reaction of our body, which prepares to fight and face this danger, which has consequences for our health in general and aggravates our own psychological suffering.
Currently, it is usual for relationships to occur through technologies, with no physical presence of people. However, physical contact and touch are important for creating close relationships, in which we feel comforted and connected. This is very visible in children who need a hug or physical comfort to feel safe and loved. A healthy adult learns to self-regulate and create this feeling of security and affection for himself, however he still needs this physical comfort from other people.
Thus, there are some situations that can lead to feelings of loneliness, such as, for example, the loss of someone important, the break up of an important relationship or communication difficulties in a love relationship or another equally important relationship. In addition, moving to another country or city, lack of knowledge of values and culture, or living in cities with many inhabitants and a very busy lifestyle, in which relationships tend to be superficial and fleeting, can lead to to the emergence of feelings of loneliness.
Thus, loneliness does not have a single cause and each person feels it in a particular and personal way. Therefore, the intervention has to be tailored to each case. However, this will always involve building healthy close relationships with others. After all, we are social beings who yearn for relationships in which we feel loved and cherished.
Do you want to know how to deal with loneliness? Then go to our article about what you can do about it.