The 7 Types Of Loneliness (And Why It Matters)

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lonely woman

One major challenge within happiness is loneliness. The more I’ve learned about happiness, the more I’ve come to believe that loneliness is a common and important obstacle to consider.

To be happy, we need intimate bonds; we need to be able to confide, we need to feel like we belong, we need to be able to get and give support. In fact, strong relationships are key to a happy life.

Of course, being alone and being lonely isn’t the same. Feeling lonely feels draining, distracting, and upsetting; desired solitude feels peaceful, creative, restorative.

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There are multiple types of loneliness. Of course, not everyone experiences it in the situations described. For instance, not everyone wants a romantic partner. But for some people, the lack of certain kinds of relationships brings loneliness.

Once we’ve pinpointed the particular kind of loneliness we’re experiencing, it may be easier to find solutions for how to deal with loneliness. 

1. "New situation" loneliness

You’ve moved to a new city where you don’t know anyone, or you’ve started a new job, or you’ve started at a school full of unfamiliar faces. You’re lonely.

2. "I’m different" loneliness

You’re in a place that’s not unfamiliar, but you feel different from other people in an important way that makes you feel isolated. Maybe your faith is really important to you, and the people around you don’t share that, or vice versa. Maybe everyone loves doing outdoor activities, but you don’t, or vice versa.

It feels hard to connect with others about the things you find important. Or maybe you’re just hit with the loneliness that hits all of us sometimes — the loneliness that’s part of the human condition.

3. "No sweetheart" loneliness

Even if you have lots of family and friends, you feel lonely because you don’t have the intimate attachment of a romantic partner. Or maybe you have a partner, but you don’t feel a deep connection to that person.

4. "No animal" loneliness

Many people have a deep need to connect with animals. If this describes you, you’re sustained by these relationships in a way that human relationships don’t replace.

While I love my dog Barnaby, I don’t feel this myself, but many people feel like something important is missing if they don’t have a dog or cat (or less conveniently, a horse) in their lives.

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5. "No time for me" loneliness

Sometimes you’re surrounded by people who seem friendly enough, but they don’t want to make the jump from friendly to friends. Maybe they’re too busy with their own lives, or they have lots of friends already, so while you’d like a deeper connection, they don’t seem interested.

Or maybe your existing friends have entered a new phase that means they no longer have time for the things you all used to do — everyone has started working very long hours, has started a family, so your social scene has changed.

6. "Untrustworthy friends" loneliness

Sometimes, you get in a situation where you begin to doubt whether your friends are truly well-intentioned, kind, and helpful. You’re “friends” with people but don’t quite trust them.

An important element of friendship is the ability to confide and trust, so if that’s missing, you may feel lonely even if you have fun with your friends.

7. "Quiet presence" loneliness

Sometimes, you may feel lonely because you miss having someone else’s quiet presence.

You may have an active social circle at work, or have plenty of friends and family, but you miss having someone to hang out with at home — whether that would mean living with a roommate, a family member, or a sweetheart. Just someone who’s fixing a cup of coffee in the next room, or reading on the sofa.

It’s important to realize why we feel lonely, because only then can we see how we might address it.

If you’re no time for "me" lonely, for instance, maybe a solution would be to work with people on a project, where you’d be doing an endeavor together, on something you’ve all made time for. It’s easier to make friends when you’re working on a project together.

Loneliness is a major factor in unhappiness, so it’s an important area to tackle if you’re working on making yourself happier. If you want to read more deeply on the subject of loneliness, I highly recommend two books:

  • John Cacioppo and William Patrick, Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection
  • Emily White, Lonely, a memoir about the author’s own experiences and research into loneliness

One of the keys to happiness is strong connections to other people. The lack of these bonds, even temporarily, is a major happiness stumbling block.

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Gretchen Rubin is the author of several books, including blockbuster New York Times bestsellers: Better Than Before, The Happiness Project, and Happier at Home. For more information, visit her website.

This article was originally published at Psych Central. Reprinted with permission from the author.