At some point in their lives, many people may experience short episodes of loneliness. These kinds of feelings are generally short and are not considered chronic. However, when loneliness and isolation get worse and continue over the long term, there may be more serious symptoms and signs to watch out for, and steps you can take to help you manage chronic loneliness.

What is chronic loneliness?

Continual loneliness can affect even the most sociable person. Being “the life of the party” does not exclude you from falling into chronic solitude. This type of chronic or long-term loneliness can impact, over time, all areas of your life.

What are the main signs and symptoms?

The symptoms and signs of chronic loneliness may vary depending on the person and the situation. If you constantly feel some or all of these symptoms, you could be experiencing chronic loneliness:

  • You have no close friends or “best” friends. You have friends, but they are occasional or hardly known, and you feel that nobody really “understands” you.
  • A huge feeling of isolation wherever you are and who you are with. You are at a party with many people, but you feel isolated, separated, and disconnected. At work, you can feel distant and alone. The same on the bus or on the street. It is as if you are in your own unshakable bubble.
  • Negative feelings of doubt and self-esteem. Do you feel like you’re not good enough? These long-term feelings are possible symptoms of chronic loneliness.
  • When you try to connect or communicate, it is unrequited, and you are not seen or heard.
  • Tiredness and fatigue when you try to socialize. If you are chronically lonely, trying to go out and socialize with others can make you tired. These continuous feelings of exhaustion can lead you to other problems, such as insomnia, weak immune system, poor diet, among others.

Can chronic loneliness lead to health problems?

Prolonged feelings of loneliness can affect your health in several ways. For example, chronic loneliness can increase cortisol levels in the body. Cortisol is a hormone that the body creates when under stress. Over time, high levels of cortisol can cause inflammation, weight gain, insulin resistance, concentration problems, among others.

If left unchecked, these loneliness symptoms can increase your risk for more serious medical and emotional problems:

  • Depression
  • Sleep disorders
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Mental and emotional health problems
  • Substance use

There is even a possibility that chronic loneliness and the accompanying health risks could reduce life expectancy.

If you think you are suffering from prolonged loneliness, consult your doctor or therapist.