Loneliness is one of the leading causes of mental health conditions. While it is not a mental health condition in itself, it is a contributing factor to psychological issues. For instance, having a mental health condition can contribute to loneliness, and vice versa.
When someone experiences loneliness, they may isolate themselves from others and society. Without social interaction, contact, or relationships with others, we may struggle to feel understood or cared for, which can lead to withdrawal, lack of self-confidence, and issues such as anxiety.
So, what are some of the signs of loneliness, and how does loneliness occur? Let’s find out the root of the issue and some of the symptoms.
Signs and Causes of Loneliness
Some of the common signs of loneliness are:
- Overwhelming feelings of isolation, even when others are around
- Negative feelings about yourself
- Feeling misunderstood
- Feeling drained or exhausted
- Difficulty engaging with others or in social interactions
- No friends or “best friend” friendships are casual acquaintances
- Inability to connect with others-keeping conversation at a surface level
Childhood trauma caused by trusted adults like parents, teachers, coaches, or peers is very damaging to a person’s self-esteem, self-image, and ability to form strong bonds with people as adults. Individuals who have experienced childhood relational trauma can fear intimacy, have problems trusting others, and feel insecure about engaging in meaningful relationships.“Childhood shapes most of how we behave as adults. If a child has no positive reference for healthy relationships and has been abused or neglected by the people closest to them, they will not know how to create their own relationships as adults.
Are Loneliness and Trauma Linked?
One of the other main causes of loneliness in adults is childhood trauma. Childhood trauma can lead to lifelong repercussions. The severity of this depends on the duration of the trauma, whether it was an isolated event, the age of the child when it occurred, or something like the absence of a caregiver.
Childhood trauma can leave lasting emotional wounds and behavioral issues that can put you at risk of developing an attachment disorder. Studies have shown that childhood trauma is very closely related to many disorders later in life, including social phobias, depression, PTSD, anxiety, and some personality disorders. These studies also show an impaired ability to effectively socialize, which in turn increases the risk of isolation and loneliness.
A recent study showed that those who experienced childhood trauma or adulthood trauma showed higher levels of loneliness-related distress than those who had not suffered trauma. This is because trauma affects the brain and how it processes things, such as threats. Those with trauma tend to be warier than others, and reluctant to get close to others.
Due to how the brain responds to threats and is unable to decipher whether a threat from past trauma is a current threat, it can lead to self-destructive behaviors. For example, you may avoid connecting with others, spending time in public, or socializing, which can lead to chronic loneliness, isolation, depression, and anxiety.
In addition, children with traumatic upbringings such as absentee or avoidant parents or caregivers may also struggle to form bonds and relationships with others. Also, children who have suffered early trauma tend to neglect their own needs in order to put others first. This leads to negative thoughts that people only want them around if they can do something for them and low self-esteem as a result.
As you can see, trauma and loneliness go hand in hand, as traumatic experiences or childhood trauma can alter the brain’s function and ability to process information. This can trigger a response that may be avoidant, or make the individual want to withdraw from society, and isolate themselves, as it feels safer. But this leads to loneliness and the risk of mental health disorders as a result.
If you are concerned about loneliness, or you have struggled with childhood trauma, and fear this may be affecting you as an adult, then it is a good idea to speak to a licensed therapist or counselor for guidance. Please reach out for support and help in how you can make positive changes and move forward past the trauma.