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How the fear of loneliness arises, and what to do

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The fear of loneliness is a relatively frequent type of discomfort among people who go to psychotherapy, as well as among many others that do not consider that this problem can be treated with help professional.

It is a phenomenon in which emotions and ideas about what may happen in the future combine to form a vicious cycle of fears and feelings of helplessness.

In this article we will see a summary about how the fear of loneliness arises, and what we can do to overcome it.

  • Related article: "The 8 types of emotions (classification and description)"

How does the fear of loneliness appear?

The first thing to be clear about is that, whenever in Psychology we talk about the causes of certain emotional or behavioral problem, we are necessarily simplifying a very complex.

Of course, simplifying, in an abstract sense, is not always bad; after all, practically all branches of science must simplify what they study, for example, decomposing it into variables. The key is to know how to detect the most relevant aspects that allow us to explain a large part of what we try to understand.

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What are the most relevant elements when it comes to understanding how the fear of loneliness arises? Let's see.

1. Anxiety

First of all, it should be noted the importance of anxiety as a phenomenon involved in the fear of being alone. Anxiety is a psychological and at the same time physiological state that leads us to put ourselves in "alarm mode", that is, to react quickly to any sign of danger or risk of losing something.

Unlike simple fear, in anxiety our mind works actively leading us to imagine bad things that could happen. Namely: who is anxious, has his attention focus oriented towards the future, from a pessimistic bias, to try to react as soon as possible to the first sign that one of these problems begins to appear.

Thus, faced with the fear of loneliness, anxiety leads us to foresee all kinds of disastrous scenarios for our future: total lack of friends, absence of those who could protect us, etc.

  • You may be interested in: "The 7 types of anxiety (characteristics, causes and symptoms)"

2. Isolational or antisocial habits

At the same time that we feel that fear of being alone, with the passage of time we also see that this state of anxiety does not serve to solve the problem. Therefore, faced with the fear of loneliness, although it seems paradoxical, many people adopt habits that generate an effect of "self-fulfilling prophecy": the expectations that something happens make it more likely to happen.

This can happen in a number of different ways. On the one hand, some people believe they are predestined not to have relevant emotional or loving relationships, and that feeling of helplessness leads to adopting a very lonely lifestyle, in which they try to find ways of gratification in a life characterized by isolation Social.

On the other, some people adopt a mindset in which others become instruments for one purpose: not to be left alone. In the long run, if therapeutic support is not available, this usually creates problems, so the relationships that they can establish are usually not healthy or stable.

3. Biological predispositions

In practically any psychological phenomenon there are influences from biology. However, these do not determine anything, but rather interact with psychological and contextual elements. For example, people whose genes predispose them to more anxiety have greater possibilities of feeling fear of loneliness, but this does not imply that they are condemned to suffer for That always.

Distinguishing fear of loneliness from phobias

In most cases, the fear of loneliness does not constitute a mental disorder that can be considered a disorder. However, it is important to differentiate between two phenomena that fit into the term “fear of loneliness”, and that despite this are very different. On the one hand, there is the fear of being left alone, which is diffuse in nature and manifests itself in very varied even in the same person, and on the other, the phobia of loneliness, which is a type of anxiety.

The phobia of loneliness, or eremophobia, causes those who develop it to suffer crises in which their level anxiety rises rapidly, to the point of having difficulty controlling one's own acts. Its symptoms are those of most types of phobias: tremors, sweating, dizziness or even nausea, etc. In other words, it is expressed above all in specific situations for several minutes at a time.

In contrast, the diffuse and non-phobic fear of loneliness does not have this component of sudden elevation of anxiety to a very extreme point. Of course, there is something that both types of psychological problems share: catastrophic thoughts about what will happen in the future because of that loneliness that is feared.

To do?

Here are some tips for dealing with the fear of loneliness that is not phobic.

1. Don't focus on people, but on contexts

It would be a mistake to set the goal of winning friendships with specific people to avoid the fear of loneliness; this would only lead to that instrumentalist mentality that causes problems. It is much more advisable to set as objectives the fact of exposing ourselves to contexts in which we are able to develop a rich social life, in which it is easier to get to connect with the the rest.

2. Be aware of the balance between the controllable and the uncontrollable

By definition, we cannot totally control what happens in our social life, since many people participate in it. However, in all cases we have a certain margin of decision. Always keep in mind that even in the most adverse circumstances we can do things to improve our quality of life.

3. Keep going

Don't give in to crippling helplessness; establish a routine of social life. You do not have to consider being a very charismatic person or who always knows what to say and what to do in front of others, having good friends and healthy social relationships does not mean having to do everything that.

4. Look beyond

It is not essential to feel understood and loved by those who are usually in our social environment. You can look further: for example, in groups of people with interests similar to yours.

5. Help the others

Helping others is especially beneficial in cases of fear of loneliness, because it is one of the most important forms of socialization that exist, and they help to strengthen ties.

6. take care of yourself

Do not close yourself in: remember that your relationship with your own body is as or more important than the interaction with others. If you don't take care of yourself, you will have neither the desire nor the energy to socialize.

7. If you need it, go to psychotherapy

Psychologists are trained to offer support to forms of discomfort such as the fear of loneliness. If you think you need it, count on us.

Bibliographic references:

  • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fifth edition. DSM-V. Masson, Barcelona.
  • Bados, A. (2005). Specific phobias. University of Barcelona. Faculty of Psychology. Departament de Personality, Avaluació i Tractament Psicològics.
  • Coplan, R. J., Bowker, J. C. (2013). A Handbook of Solitude: Psychological Perspectives on Social Isolation. Wiley Blackwel.
  • Sylvers, P.; Lilienfeld, S.O.; LaPrairie, J.L. (2011). Differences between trait fear and trait anxiety: implications for psychopathology. Clinical Psychology Review. 31 (1): pp. 122 - 137.
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