Australia is in a loneliness epidemic.
Relationships Australia’s Relationship Indicators 2022 survey revealed we’re lonelier than ever, showing almost a quarter (23.9%) of Australians are lonely.
Almost half (45.9%) of young people aged 18-24 reported feeling emotionally lonely.
Emotional loneliness is different to social loneliness. Social loneliness refers to the lack of a social network, while emotional loneliness is the lack of close emotional connection.
You don’t have to be alone to feel lonely. Anyone can experience loneliness, even if you have regular social interactions.
Maybe you feel drained after big events, or perhaps you don’t feel like you’ve found people who truly ‘get’ you yet. Either way, you might be wondering why you’re feeling alone in the world when you have people around you.
We explore some of the reasons why you might feel lonely even when you have friends.
Your connections are shallow
Spending time with surface-level friends can leave you feeling lonelier than if you’d just stayed at home by yourself.
Experts have found that too many shallow interactions can cause us to feel lonely and misunderstood.
Social Scientist Kasley Killam explains:
“Loneliness can arise from not feeling seen, understood, or validated. It can come from spending time with people who don’t share your values or interests. It can also come from too many superficial interactions and not enough deeper connections.”
It doesn’t matter how many friends you have – if you don’t connect on a deeper level, they can leave you feeling unsatisfied and emotionally lonely.
It can take years – even decades – to truly find your people. This doesn’t need to be a group of people. It could be just one close friend who really gets you, shares your values and interests, and makes you feel truly understood and validated.
We explore ways to make deeper connections based on your values and interests in this blog post.
You’ve outgrown your friends
Not all friendships are made to last.
Many of us find those childhood friends or high school social groups might fizzle out as we mature and discover who we really are.
You might not share much in common anymore, and you may even find disagreements starting to arise as your values and beliefs take shape.
Outgrowing friendships is a normal part of life. It’s OK to stop reaching out to friends who no longer align with your values and don’t feel like a fulfilling or comfortable fit anymore.
We explore when to stop reaching out to a friend in this blog post.
You’re socialising wrong
There’s no right or wrong way to socialise. But if you feel drained and overwhelmed after hanging out in a big group of people, it might be a sign to change the way you spend time with the people you care about.
Whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or somewhere in between, the way we socialise can have a significant impact on our energy levels and how connected we feel to the people we spend time with.
You might find it more fulfilling to catch up with friends one at a time in a quiet setting where you can have more intimate conversations and build closeness.
You’re not being yourself
It’s hard to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance when you don’t know who you are – or you’re changing parts of your personality to appease the people you’re with.
If you find you have to hide or change things about yourself, or you’re walking on eggshells around people, it might be worth considering how healthy and genuine those friendships really are.
For example, if you’re a parent but none of your friends have an interest in children, you might not feel comfortable sharing that (massive) part of your life. Avoiding that topic may feel inauthentic and isolating for you.
Some friendships can do more harm than good for our self-esteem and wellbeing. If you’re not being yourself and staying true to your identity and values, you’ll likely feel a disconnect.
You’re struggling mentally
If you’re feeling lonely or detached from the people you care about, it could be a sign that something else is going on for you.
Maybe you’re going through a tough time mentally right now, you’re feeling burnt out from school, work, or parenting, or you’re just generally overwhelmed by the responsibilities of life. And that’s OK.
We can’t always be our most sociable and energetic selves. But if you’re finding yourself withdrawing from friends and family or struggling with feelings of loneliness, chances are there could be something deeper beneath the surface.
Speaking to a professional counsellor can help you sort through these feelings in a safe, judgement-free space, and find healthy ways to cope.
Call 1300 364 277 to make an appointment or to learn more about our counselling services.
We explore some of the potential causes of disconnection and signs of social withdrawal, and offer advice to nurture fulfilling connections here.