8 Habits of Lonely People that are Ruining Your Mental Health

The 8 Habits of Lonely People

Feeling lonely? With lockdowns and social isolation, it’s no wonder so many of us are feeling alone. But people who are profoundly lonely can feel alone when they’re in a room full of people. Even superstar Justin Bieber, who performs in front of hundreds of thousands of adoring fans, sings about feeling isolated in his song, “Lonely.”

What if you had it all
But nobody to call?
Maybe then, you’d know me
‘Cause I’ve had everything
But no one’s listening
And that’s just f—n’ lonely
I’m so lonely
Lonely

Another pop idol, Donny Osmond, tweeted similar feelings after hearing the song:

@justinbieber’s new song #Lonely really hit home for me. Despite crowds of screaming fans and endless attention, I still feel debilitating loneliness. I relate to what Justin’s been through, & I admire the way he’s changed his life.

As these pop icons show, loneliness isn’t due to a lack of acquaintances or social contacts, it’s caused by a lack of feeling connected to others. A wealth of scientific evidence reveals that loneliness can take a devastating toll on your mental health and cognitive function. According to a recent review in Psychiatry Research that analyzed 114 studies, loneliness has a medium to large effect on a person’s well-being with the biggest impact on mental health, especially on depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Other research shows that loneliness negatively impacts brain function.

Loneliness isn’t a lack of acquaintances or social contacts, it’s a lack of feeling connected to others. Click To Tweet

Are you lonely? Are feelings of solitude affecting your psychological health? It could be linked to some of your daily habits. Scientists have identified common habits that are signs of loneliness. Changing these habits may help you overcome feelings of loneliness and strengthen your mental well-being.

The 8 Habits of Lonely People

1. You’re always busy.

Rushing around all day every day to get through your to-do list is one of the signs of lonely people. Filling your day with activities that prevent you from connecting with others is a way lonely people fill the void they feel inside.

Connection Tip: Make bonding with others a priority and add social appointments to your to-do list. With “text Jenny,” “call Mom,” or “invite Jason for Zoom get-together” on your list, you’re more likely to maintain connections.

2. You shop a LOT.

Scientific findings in the Journal of Consumer Research show that some people get emotionally attached to their purchases out of loneliness. Referred to as “material possession love” among scientists, this relationship with inanimate objects replaces a lack of close ties with others.

Connection Tip: The next time you’re about to hit the “Buy” button on a shopping site, take a break and reach out to someone you care about first. Just a simple text, voice mail, or email saying, “Hi, checking in to see how you’re doing” is enough. Then return to the shopping site to see if you still “have to have” that item.

3. You’re judgmental.

Having an “us vs. them” mentality in which you criticize others separates you from them and can make you feel alone. Being overly critical or consistently seeing what’s “wrong” with other people can also be a sign of increased activity in an area of the brain called the anterior cingulate gyrus (ACG). The ACG is involved in error detection, and when it’s overactive, you can get stuck on critical or negative thoughts.

Connection Tip: Rather than focusing on your differences, look for things you have in common. To calm overactivity in the ACG, boost serotonin by consuming healthy carbs (such as sweet potatoes and hummus), salmon, turkey, eggs, nuts, and seeds; and taking supplements like 5-HTP and saffron.

4. You don’t share your vulnerability.

People who are afraid to open up to others out of fear of being criticized or judged are often lonely. These individuals frequently stick to superficial relationships where they don’t have to let anyone else see them for who they really are. This is common in people who have too much activity in the basal ganglia, which is associated with anxiety.

Connection Tip: Learning to open up with others can take time, especially for anxious people who feel a need to appear perfect. Choose one person you think will be supportive and share some of your worries, flaws, or vulnerabilities. In addition, you can soothe the brain’s anxiety centers by avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and sugary sweets, and by supplementing your diet with GABA, magnesium, and B6.

5. You’re a rigid thinker.

When you’re inflexible, it’s hard to fit others into your daily routines. You may automatically say no when others invite you to a Zoom party, ask you to play golf or suggest going for a hike even though you might really enjoy it. People who are rigid thinkers often have overactivity in the ACG.

Connection Tip: Try saying yes more often to opportunities to socialize. See solutions to calm an overactive ACG above.

6. You prefer to connect online.

Are you one of those people who have thousands of followers on social media, but you don’t have any friends or family you can call to share good news or to get support when you’re feeling low? Results from a 2018 survey show that using social media as a replacement for real connections worsens feelings of loneliness. And a 2017 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that young adults who are heavy users of social media are twice as likely to experience social anxiety.

Connection Tip: Socializing online has become more prevalent since the pandemic, but bonding in more personal ways while maintaining physical distancing is more important than ever.

7. You’re surrounded by lonesome people.

According to a 10-year study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, loneliness is contagious. The researchers found that people who spent time with someone who was lonely were 52% more likely to become lonely as well.

Connection Tip: Choose your social circle wisely. Find the healthiest, happiest people you can stand and spend time with them.

8. You have a quick temper.

People who habitually fly off the handle tend to alienate others, which can lead to loneliness. Anger issues are commonly seen in people with depression, ADD/ADHD, or substance abuse and may be associated with abnormal activity in the temporal lobes. Problems in this region of the brain are often due to head injuries, toxic exposure, or chronic infections like Lyme disease.

Connection Tip: Psychotherapy and anger management classes can be very beneficial for some people with a short fuse. However, if you have underlying damage or dysfunction in the brain due to traumatic brain injuries, exposure to toxins, or infections, this needs to be addressed. Taking supplements—such as GABA, magnesium, theanine, and taurine—and eating a higher-protein, lower-carbohydrate diet may be helpful.  

Depression, anxiety, loneliness, and other mental health issues can’t wait. During these uncertain times, your mental well-being is more important than ever and waiting until life gets back to “normal” is likely to make your symptoms worsen over time.

At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

19 Comments

  1. I can relate, I’m struggling with depression bad.

    Comment by Susan Lafave — December 16, 2020 @ 3:25 AM

  2. I am interested in getting a brain scan for chronic headaches and ACG rigidity- Can you let me know which clinic may have the first openings in January? I have attended the clinic before in Atlanta with my son and in Baltimore for myself. Thank you, Sheila Zepernick

    Comment by Sheila Zepernick — December 16, 2020 @ 12:45 PM

  3. Read Dr. Amen’s book . Change your brain change your life. It has made a world of difference for me. Change your diet.

    Comment by John — December 18, 2020 @ 3:38 AM

  4. I relate to #s 1, 2, and 3 for sure! Sometimes #8. I was struck by how my shopping behavior fits. Also, the pandemic-related lockdowns are really intensifying this for many people.

    Comment by Mary — December 18, 2020 @ 7:10 AM

  5. Dr. Amen, I watch you on YouTube, n read all the emails you send. I take a lot of vitamins n supplements, including some herbal. I was looking for mushroom root. I’m on a fixed income n can’t afford to buy any extras. You are an extremely intelligent person n I love to hear your wisdom. God Bless you for all you do‼ Merry Christmas, n have a very Happy n Healthy New Year‼❤😷🙏🙏🏿👼🏻😇😉😊😘

    Comment by Nancy Ruth Krauch — December 18, 2020 @ 8:31 AM

  6. I have 4 or 5 of these traits for lonely people. Had no idea!

    Comment by JOAN DICOSTANZO — December 18, 2020 @ 8:52 AM

  7. What can be done I have 3 4 5 and 8!!! It has taken over my life!!!!

    Comment by kathleen — December 18, 2020 @ 8:56 AM

  8. According to the assessment, I’m lonely. I’m OK with it.

    Comment by Wren — December 18, 2020 @ 11:36 AM

  9. When I go out in public wearing my mask (of course) and encounter anyone I look right at the person and say ‘hi’ like I KNOW them (maybe I do but likely I dont) -and the person will reply the same (or with ‘good to see you’ or Merry Christmas’etc)-and we both go on our way feeling good, feeling connected, feeling NOTICED! Try it! It’s pretty wonderful

    Comment by Wilma Mclaughlin — December 19, 2020 @ 7:51 AM

  10. I realize I do 1, 2 and 3 These were itially because I was lonely and all my other “techniques” to increase my social circle weren’t workin.
    I don’t have a temper; I don’t see myself as a judgemental person, I’m online every day because my work has changed due to the pandemic, and I’m no surrounded by lonely people….I’m not surrounded at all. Help! I need help!

    Comment by Deborah Merriman — December 19, 2020 @ 10:11 AM

  11. I knew I was lonely. Tried to connect with others but they did not reciprocate. I’m ok with it now. I m learning to enjoy my own company and I actually quite like it.
    The very best to you all!

    Comment by Sylvie — December 19, 2020 @ 10:18 AM

  12. Excellent recap of the risks of loneliness with a practical assessment list and tips for change. An important observation that the outer public image is not necessarily the person’s inner experience. You can be surrounded by people and apparently loved and popular and still feel disconnected and lonely.

    Comment by Daniel Pitts Winegarden — December 19, 2020 @ 11:16 AM

  13. Add to all of the above article major hearing loss (add an MS connection to 65% loss) and out of control tinnitus that started in February… I can’t “Zoom,” listen to my tv (use close captioning) or music anymore… I have hearing aids but most of the time, too much… 🙁

    Comment by Maryb — December 19, 2020 @ 12:14 PM

  14. If feeling sad or depressed, don’t overlook exercise. If you can safely exercise vigorously for thirty or forty minutes a day, you will feel better over time, and it will be easier to reach out to others. Exercise can be boring, but try doing a mix of different exercises, and the time will pass faster. And it’s totally worth it.

    Comment by Barbara — December 19, 2020 @ 3:12 PM

  15. I just retired this year at 70 and insurance is not good and am struggling to make ends meet. I am in need of your services but do not have the means

    Comment by Gina Michel — December 19, 2020 @ 6:41 PM

  16. I have autistic spectrum disorder so it’s hard to connect with other people. Thanks for sharing these tips.

    Comment by Elisia — December 20, 2020 @ 5:57 AM

  17. I’m lonely because I’m 78 and younger people won’t play golf or ride bike with me because I’m old and slow. Old people won’t ride because they are afraid to ride on the road or ride over 10miles.
    Young folk won’t play golf with me because I’m not good: old people won’t play because “seniors” are 55.

    Comment by millicent hughes — December 20, 2020 @ 11:53 AM

  18. Hello Sheila, thank you for reaching out. Our Care Coordinators will reach out to you directly with information. We look forward to speaking with you.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — December 21, 2020 @ 7:27 PM

  19. Thank you for posting. Go to article Justin Bieber perform that song on Saturday night live a while ago I believe.

    Comment by Timothy Lee — December 23, 2020 @ 7:40 AM

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