Managing Loneliness During Recovery

Managing Loneliness During Recovery

Managing Loneliness During Recovery

Loneliness can take on many different shapes and sizes. It can come from all different types of sources, including both internal and external triggers. During your recovery, you may experience loneliness from exiting toxic relationships or drastic changes in your lifestyle. Loneliness can have short- and long-term effects on your physical and mental health. Being able to pinpoint the root of your lonely feelings can help you mitigate them.

Types of Loneliness

You may have heard people say that you can feel lonely in a crowd. Loneliness is defiant of circumstance and situation. It can be a feeling brought about by intrusive thoughts, issues from your past, or emotional dysregulation.

Social vs. Emotional Loneliness

Loneliness can be broken down in many different ways. Some people prefer to think of loneliness in two distinctive groups, social and emotional. Social loneliness is caused by a lack in the number of one’s relationships whereas emotional loneliness is caused by a lack of quality relationships. The former is caused by having a small or nonexistent social network, leaving narrow options for emotional support. On the other hand, emotional loneliness is the absence of deep, meaningful, and fulfilling emotional bonds present in your relationships.

For social fulfillment, you need both quantity and quality relationships. A quality relationship is dependable, supportive, non-judgmental, and forgiving. It is a relationship that not only serves as a source of joy but also comfort. However, having quantity relationships can build a community and make you feel a sense of belonging.

Loneliness Risk Factors

It’s normal to occasionally feel lonely. This feeling serves as a warning that your physical or mental isolation is causing psychological damage. It’s a discomfort that something is not right, that something needs to change. Some situational, developmental, and internal factors can put you at a higher risk of experiencing loneliness. These risk factors vary, some being more in your control than others.

Situational Risks

These types of risks come from your environment. For instance, settling down in a new city, starting a new job, or unexpected lifestyle changes can be situational risks for loneliness. Some of these risks may have short-term effects of loneliness that lead to positive long-term effects. Moving to a new city can make you feel alone in the short term, but in the long term, it could lead to new experiences, adventures, opportunities, and friendships.

The severity and amount of loneliness experienced will vary on the situation. If you have an intense argument with an old friend, the effect of loneliness will depend on how or if the argument can be resolved. Natural disasters or traumatic events can lead to a sense of loneliness that bears a larger burden with long-lasting effects.

Developmental Risks

These types of risks tend to be permanent. The sense of loneliness you feel from developmental risks cannot be changed. You will always have these risks, but you can manage them to reduce feeling lonely.

Developmental risks include personal inadequacies, developmental deficits, poverty, and physical and psychological disabilities. Loneliness from developmental risks can lead to a sense of alienation from society. Connecting with people from related communities can help you feel less alone.

Internal Risks

If you are struggling with low self-esteem, guilt, or mental distress, then you are at risk of feeling lonely. These risks are related to your thoughts, personality, and emotions. The only way to mitigate this type of loneliness is by learning coping strategies through cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or other types of psychotherapy.

Loneliness and Mental Health

Having a healthy social life is a large contributing factor to your overall well-being. Loneliness can lead to, cause, and be a symptom of mental health disorders. Healthy and unhealthy connections can change the way you view yourself and others. It can affect your behaviors, cognitions, and emotional regulation.


Loneliness shares symptoms with depression disorders such as melancholy, shame, helplessness, and pain. The symptoms of loneliness correlate with depression so much that some psychiatrists believe it is a subset category of depression.

Both depression and loneliness can lead to a lack of life purpose and a sense of doom. These emotions are bidirectionally correlated, meaning loneliness can cause depression and depression can cause loneliness

Substance Use

Loneliness is a contributing factor to substance use disorders (SUDs). Having a strong social network can help you regulate your emotions. In a healthy social network, loved ones will take care of you in times of emotional distress. When people do not have this social network, they are more likely to use substances to numb negative emotions.

Having a strong social network is important for developing a healthy support system during recovery. Without these social connections, a person might be more tempted to self-medicate instead of dealing with their problems head-on.

Personality Disorders

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and schizoid personality disorder are both personality disorders that are largely connected to loneliness. Destructive behaviors associated with BPD can lead to loneliness. People with this disorder often become infatuated with loved ones and then impulsively push them away, making it impossible for them to keep quality relationships. A schizoid personality disorder is characterized by being distant and cold from others making it difficult to make quality connections with people.

Loneliness can be an obstacle during your recovery, especially if your recovery involves cutting toxic relationships out of your life. Restoration Recovery Center understands the importance of forming healthy social relationships. We provide group therapy so you get the opportunity to heal yourself while making quality connections with your peers. Our mental health professionals will work closely with you to give you the tools you need to maintain and create healthier relationships in your life. We allow three hours of phone usage a day so you can connect with the positive relationships you currently have in your life. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use disorder, please call Restoration Recovery at (888) 290-0925 for help.

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