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Three Types of Loneliness and How to Combat Them

Loneliness is a function of affective need for companionship and belonging and it can leave us questioning our value to others and where we belong.

Many individuals are spending more time digitally networking than is healthy for their emotional well-being.

The presence of loneliness reflects the absence of connection, not the absence of people, which is why a person may tend to feel lonely even when in a crowd. Individuals can also experience loneliness when they feel they are not receiving support from their typical support network.

Below are three types of loneliness:

1. Existential Loneliness

Loneliness tends to stir up negative feelings, and while those negative feelings are something that can be helpful in terms of self-exploration, they are also something to which we are averse and we may try to avoid.

2. Emotional Loneliness

This arises from feelings that you lack relationships or attachments. You may experience this when everyone in your friend group has a romantic partner except you. This type of loneliness can be felt when you need to talk to someone about challenges in your life but you feel there is no one available to contact or reach out to. If someone has moved out of your life, you may experience this loneliness.

3. Social Loneliness

This type occurs when you do not feel a sense of belonging to a group. Even if you are in a romantic relationship, you may feel social loneliness if you do not have a wider circle of social support. You may also experience this if you do not feel your presence is valued in a wider circle of people.

To combat existential loneliness:

Existential fears (such as fears of death, isolation, and meaninglessness) are experienced by virtually everyone at some point in time. We can use this fear as a motivator to live more in the moment which can help us immerse ourselves in the present.

To combat emotional loneliness:

The lasting solution is to establish and maintain a healthy support system. You may not be able to make an "instant friendship" overnight, but you can maximize your chances of deepening a friendship by reaching out to friends and being willing to suggest a get-together.

Because loneliness reflects a sense of isolation, if you make the effort to reach out to others, you may be surprised at how much better you start to feel. Letting someone know you need to talk can open the door to a deeper connection, so long as you are not overburdening others with your needs.

To combat social loneliness:

Exclusion from a group can be painful, even if it's not intentional. An easy way to combat this is to jump into a new activity or group, such as volunteering at an animal shelter, taking part in an art class, or joining a gym. If everyone in the room is "new," it can be easier to strike up conversations and new friendships.

Original article written by Dr. Suzanne Degges-White