Loneliness and Depression
Is feeling lonely on holidays the same as being depressed? “The pain of loneliness mimics severe depression,” says Anderson. “Loneliness can include the sadness, self-loathing and lack of motivation that typify severe depression. But loneliness is temporary and circumstantial in that it can instantly lift when companionship becomes available.”
Rodino agrees: “When a person feels lonely, it is based on the actuality of being alone or feeling different than those around [him or her]. This, for example, may be a person alone in a new city for a new job. There is a reality to the loneliness. If the person is feeling down and lonely, yet they have easy access to family and friends, this sounds more like depression.”
Crucial to coping with holiday loneliness is being aware of any unrealistic expectations you may have about what to do and how to feel. “Sometimes a moderate amount of good times may be seen as ‘not enough’ compared to the expectations,” says Rodino. Anderson offers a similar view: “The media hype and your own conception of holidays raise your expectation for joy and togetherness, setting you up for heightened sorrow about being alone. You ‘should’ on yourself for not having the life you ‘expected’ to have.”
Both Rodino and Anderson point out that holiday loneliness can trigger feelings of abandonment, unworthiness and self-doubt, and raises the question “What’s wrong with me?”
Up next: Ways to take control of your feelings.