Experiencing depression and loneliness at the same time often feels like a trap. Depression symptoms can include feelings of hopelessness and loneliness, and loneliness can lead to depression. It seems like a never-ending cycle. It’s easy to feel like you’ll be this way forever, or that there’s nothing anyone can do to help you feel better. These thoughts can lead you to isolate yourself, which can cause even more feelings of loneliness and depression.
But while managing loneliness and depression is extremely challenging, millions of Americans are dealing with the same problems. You’re never alone, and there are many resources out there to help you get through this.
How Are Depression and Loneliness Connected?
Depression and loneliness go hand in hand. The more isolated a person is, the more lonely and depressed they become, and the more brain function and health decline. The region of the brain that researchers believe generates loneliness, called the dorsal raphe nucleus, is also associated with depression.
Even minor forms of depression can be associated with loneliness. It’s important to note that loneliness is more than just “feeling left out.” People can feel lonely when they are surrounded by a crowd of people. Loneliness is the perception that you are fundamentally different from those around you, and that no one can relate to you or your issues. These feelings mentally isolate you from others, making you want to physically isolate yourself, too.
Loneliness has gotten so rife that it is now a global problem said to be as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. The U.K. has declared it an epidemic, even appointing a “minister for loneliness.” As one of the most common mental health disorders, major depressive disorder (MDD) has a similar epidemic status. MDD is a persistent form of depression that affects over 16 million Americans and is especially prevalent in women and people of more than one race.
The good news is that since loneliness and depression are so common, there are many avenues of treatment available to you. Some are more clinical, and others involve creativity and exercise. There is no one way to treat depression and loneliness, but there are ways to get back to feeling your best—even when your mental illness remains persistent.
Seek Medical Treatment
Out of all the items on this list, this is the most important. Many people suffering from depression think that seeking help, whether that means going on antidepressants or seeing a therapist, is an act of weakness. In fact, 35% of people who suffer from depression do not seek treatment. It can be difficult to ask for help, especially for an illness that is rarely visible on the outside. People may ask themselves, “Am I really struggling enough where I need to seek medical attention?” But no symptom of depression is too small or too insignificant. Even the most high-functioning person with mental illness needs help—often on a regular basis.
There’s nothing wrong with making a doctor’s appointment to address your depression and loneliness. In fact, it can save your life. But remember that some treatment methods require patience. One medication might not work for you, while another may be just what you need. Some also find that a combination of medication and talk therapy works best for their mental illness.
Keep an Open Mind
When seeking treatment or searching for ways to cope with depression and loneliness, you may encounter methods that are out of your comfort zone. Some healthy coping mechanisms like meditation, art classes, or equine therapy seem out of the norm, but that can be a very good thing. Sometimes it takes stepping out of your comfort zone to truly thrive.
These treatment methods also offer a place to escape from intrusive thoughts and deal with depression symptoms in a healthy, productive way. Don’t be discouraged if these methods seem odd at first. Stick with them to see the full benefits. If they don’t end up working out for you, there’s no harm in trying something new.
One of the most difficult aspects of depression is the temptation to isolate yourself. When intrusive thoughts are telling you that you’re not good enough or that you’ll end up alone, it’s easy to give in. But it’s important to realize that these thoughts are only YOUR thoughts. Most likely, no one in your life feels that way about you and would never think hurtful things about you. Your mental illness is the only author of these thoughts.
If you do your best to stay connected to your friends and family (assuming these are not toxic relationships), you’ll see that they want to spend time with you, too. Even if you are at your loneliest point, there’s nothing wrong with being honest with a friend and saying, “I’ve been feeling a bit lonely recently. Are you available for lunch this week?” Chances are, your friend will appreciate the honesty, and you’ll appreciate the opportunity to connect with someone who cares about you.
Self-care is not selfish. You wouldn’t call your friend selfish for going to the gym every day, so you shouldn’t call yourself selfish for giving your brain what it needs. There is no one way to practice self-care, so start by looking inward. What activities help you relax and separate from intrusive thoughts? This could include reading a new book, cooking a healthy meal, taking a day off work, or attending a church service.
Sometimes self-care is practical, like paying your bills on time to avoid fees and extra financial stress. It can also mean scheduling regular dentist appointments to keep your teeth healthy and pain-free. However you do it, self-care should feel good to you, and should complement your unique personality and lifestyle. All that matters is that you are connecting and dedicating time to your physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional self.
What Treatment Is Available to Me?
If you are struggling with loneliness and depression, seeking treatment can be the best decision you’ll ever make. Licensed mental health professionals at treatment centers know what you’re going through, and they know how to help you find the treatment that works best for your individual situation.
At Viewpoint Dual Recovery Center, our goal is to help clients address their depression and loneliness head-on. This can include developing healthy coping mechanisms, seeing counselors regularly, and connecting to others who have been in your shoes. If you are struggling to deal with depression and loneliness, contact Viewpoint Dual Recovery Center or call us at (877) 777-5150 to find the right treatment for you.