In this blog UKCP psychotherapist Nicholas Rose outlines why loneliness is such an important concern, as more changes are made to lockdown guidelines.
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, research in 2019 showed that one in five in the UK said they experienced loneliness. Further almost two-thirds of those who struggle with loneliness reported finding it a difficult thing to talk about.
Media reports say loneliness has increased over recent months so spending some time to think about it is even more relevant. Changes to how we interact with others, face coverings, social distancing, fear and anxiety around catching or giving the coronavirus, are all factors that are impacting upon how we usually connect.
The amount and the speed of change has meant that many of the relationships that we rely on have been disturbed. Ordinarily we have a network of relationships including family, friends, colleagues, neighbours and it is often the case that those relationships bring us a range of experiences. We might laugh with some people, cry with others, speak about the weather or current affairs with some and how we feel with others; the pandemic and its restrictions have impacted on our various social interactions, and this may have left us feeling isolated and neglected.
Feeling lonely is natural, anyone and everyone can experience loneliness at some point in their lives. But it is something that needs attending to because it can coexist, exacerbate or bring other psychological wellbeing problems such as depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol use, anger to name just a few.
One of the difficulties with loneliness is that other difficult feelings often and quite naturally co-exist. For example, people can feel embarrassed or ashamed about being lonely and this can make it feel harder to address.
Often we recognise our feelings by speaking about them and so if you are isolated and do not have the opportunity, then identifying loneliness can be difficult. One solution might be to write a journal where you explore each day how you are feeling. Another way of identifying whether you are lonely is to see how you answer the following question:
Do you feel sad and do you think this might be connected with the relationships you have?
Loneliness is an issue that some people bring as their main concern to psychotherapy whilst for many others it is often an aspect, or an experience arising from the struggle with some other concern. As psychotherapists we understand that our relationships can go some way to relieve the feeling of loneliness. Psychotherapy is a place where a client and therapist can work together to address loneliness and its causes.