Isolation & Loneliness

Updated: July 23, 2022

Even though technologically, we are more connected than ever before, we seem to have become increasingly isolated. Loneliness is something we’ll all experience at some point because it can affect anyone, no matter what age, or background. Indeed, the loneliest age group in the UK is 16–24-year-olds.

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What Are Isolation & Loneliness?

We begin life in relation, connected to our mothers.  We rely on our earliest caregivers for sustenance and survival.  But survival is not just predicted by physical needs; to survive we also require psychological connection and emotional care.  We need to feel bonded to one another.

Psychologist John Bowlby emphasised the critical time during the formative years, and how our earliest relationships have far reaching consequences, for later years.  This highlights the importance of social connection.  It also indicates that deprivation of warmth, love, and social contact and connection have serious consequences.


Some people suffer because for one reason or another, they have become isolated.  Others might have lots of people around them, or be in contact with many, but still feel lonely.  No matter the situation, when one is unable to have their social needs met, they will experience a sense of aloneness, that is loneliness.  In fact, social connection is so crucial that the lack of it can lead to other mental health problems, and even premature death.

What Are The Symptoms?

Behavioural Impact

Isolation can lead to loneliness, but it can also be caused by it.  That is, when people experience loneliness, they may start to experience low mood, and a sense of overwhelm.  This can lead to a wish to withdraw from others, and this further impacts mood and physical health.

Mental, Emotional, & Psychological Health Impact

Loneliness and social isolation can make people feel low, sad, and lead to depression. They can also cause cognitive decline.  For example, people’s risk of developing dementia (like Alzheimer’s) doubles when compared with those who are not lonely.  Loneliness can also impact stress and anxiety levels when individuals worry about being alone forever.  All of this can also create the feeling of overwhelm.

Physical Health Impact

Loneliness is one of the biggest threats to our physical health.  It is thought to be the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day in terms of how damaging it is.  In fact, loneliness can lead to early death because of the impact on sleep, stress, and the increased risk of heart disease, and stroke.

What Causes Isolation & Loneliness?

  • People can experience emotional loneliness when someone they feel close to is no longer around
  • Social loneliness occurs when you feel the lack of a wider social network, for example, not having many friends, or feeling isolated around colleagues/peers, or in your neighbourhood
  • Some people’s loneliness occurs at particular times, this is known as situational loneliness and happens on certain days of the week or year (e.g., on Saturdays, or during Christmas)
  • Some people experience a type of loneliness called transient loneliness, this kind of loneliness comes and goes
  • Then there is chronic loneliness.  This is when an individual feels lonely almost all the time
  • There are also particular times in life when people may be more vulnerable to isolation and loneliness. For example, when moving away from home and friends/family
  • Or when starting at a new school, or place of employ
  • Being in a situation that feels isolating; this may be the case for new parents for example
  • Some jobs can be lonely, especially home-working roles
  • A relationship break-up or a series of failed relationships can lead to loneliness
  • When losing a person or a pet to death
  • A change in role, for example, if the children have left home, or if one retires
  • One’s social situation can mean there is little opportunity for socialising
  • Sometimes isolation and loneliness are by-products of other mental health problems like social anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem
  • Overuse of social media as a way of socialising can also lead to isolation and loneliness because the quality of social connection can feel hollow and fall short of one’s need for connectedness

How Phinity Therapy Can Help

At Phinity, our therapists can help you to understand how your isolation and loneliness developed, and explore how they impact you in other ways (for example, causing low mood, or low self-esteem).  This enables self-understanding but also ways in which you might work towards changing things in your life.


Isolation and loneliness can be worked with in various ways, depending on the reasons they exist for you.  Our therapists might recommend using the psycho-dynamic approach, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), or a mixture (integrative), depending on your identified needs.


Therapy can help you achieve the goals set out by identifying what your barriers might be. This can facilitate learning of how to meet the needs you currently have and minimise loneliness and isolation.  This in turn can help you with the other issues that might be at work, for example, low mood, anxiety, or low self-esteem.


Your therapist can also help you to learn to self-care because it’s also essential to focus on your emotional needs, including how you relate to yourself.

What Causes Isolation & Loneliness?How Phinity Therapy Can Help


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