Loneliness and depression have different meanings, and although they are related, they are often mistakenly thought of as being the same. Loneliness does not always cause depression. Depression is but one response to loneliness. On the other hand, someone who is truly depressed often does experience loneliness to a serious degree. Also, our culture, as a whole, does not have an active and conscious way of dealing with depression and loneliness.
Let’s start by defining loneliness. A lonely person misses a connection they no longer have with another person or they feel an emptiness that is due to not having any special connections with other people. The lonely individual feels compelled to fill this emptiness and is motivated to try. When loneliness becomes severe or long-lasting, the means people go through in order to fulfill this emptiness are often very unhealthy or even life-threatening. Loneliness is a serious issue that is often judged by others and carries a stigma. Therefore, the empty feeling caused by loneliness can become dangerously expansive because people are afraid to admit they are lonely or do not know how to healthily address their loneliness.
While people experiencing loneliness are driven to make the feeling go away, people who are depressed are more ambivalent and uncaring. A depressed person has given up and feels there is no more hope. Depression is a mental condition we understand better than loneliness, and it is much easier to find resources for help with depression, as well. Furthermore, a depressed person usually has abnormal sleep and eating habits and doesn’t care about engaging in activities for which they once felt passion.
It is entirely possible that loneliness can lead to depression. There is a lonely person who has hoped over and over again for meaningful connection, only to fail each time. This person may have tried to compensate by turning to unhealthy, “feel good” alternatives, which have only resulted in making him or her feel worse. Now, this person feels as if he or she has simply endured too much. There is no more hope, and that knowledge is severely crippling. There is no more trying. There is now only the existing in this state. There is now full-blown depression.
Depression can be caused by other factors, such as low self-esteem or a traumatic experience. Yet, it has been shown that a significant number of people experiencing depression had recently suffered from loneliness. (Phillips).
Do depressed people feel lonely? In short, the answer is yes. When loneliness causes depression, the pain of loneliness is still powerfully present, but the person has just given up on attempting to fix it. Loneliness is now a permanent fixture in their lives, the hopelessness of their depression allowing loneliness a firmer hold.
Now if depression is a result of other factors besides loneliness, loneliness can come into play. A depressed person becomes disconnected from other people. He or she becomes disconnected from the joys of life and disconnected from pursuing possibility. People with depression may not know how to get help or believe there is nothing that can be done. Other people don’t understand why they are so depressed and expect that they can just snap out of it.
As depression becomes more severe, there is often a following of the loss of interpersonal relationships, creating a sense of loneliness that only exacerbates the state of depression.
Finally, while loneliness does not always result in depression, loneliness is still a serious issue that causes a variety of physical, emotional, and mental issues. Depression can be one of the effects of severe loneliness. Persons who are depressed either feel hopelessly lonely or develop a sense of loneliness as a result of their depression. Overcoming loneliness and depression isn’t a simple matter due to the stigmas applied to them and the severity of the afflicted person’s feelings.
How to beat loneliness and depression? Understand them. Know the differences and the way either is causing the other. Coping with loneliness and depression isn’t easy, but with your self-awareness of the causes, you can begin to address the issues. Fight off what is causing loneliness. Seek help for pulling out of your depression. Although you are either lonely or both depressed and lonely, you don’t want to let the problem escalate.