5 Factors that Put You at Greater Risk for Loneliness

By Dr. Nicole Cain ND, MA

Have you ever felt lonely even WHEN you are with other people?

Today you’re going to learn about 5 HUGE risk factors for loneliness and you’re going to walk away with strategies to COMBAT loneliness that actually gets to the root of your experience.

In this blog, you’re not going to get a pep talk that says “call your friends,” and “get out more!”

We’re actually going to talk about how to beat loneliness by understanding what’s happening psychologically and what you can do to write a new story.

Did you know that we also have a podcast about loneliness??

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Here’s my question for you: Have you ever felt lonely even WHEN you are with other people? Have you ever been at a family gathering and felt totally unimportant or alone? What about with your friends?

Today I’m not going to tell you that socializing is the best antidote to loneliness, because that completely neglects the root of what loneliness is.

Today you’re going to learn about 5 HUGE risk factors for loneliness and you’re going to walk away with strategies to COMBAT loneliness that actually gets to the root of your experience. You’re not going to get a pep talk that says to call your friends and get out more. We’re actually going to talk about how to beat loneliness by understanding what’s happening psychologically, and what you can do about it. You’re not going to want to miss this.

The other night, my husband was at work, the house was quiet and I found myself wandering from room to room feeling restless and a bit lonely. I wanted company. But it was late, there’s a pandemic so I can’t go anywhere to be around people. So, I turned to my favorite youtuber Jamie French who is reviewing a hilariously bad movie and teaching viewers how to do their makeup.

Here’s the thing about loneliness: Loneliness is not a circumstance. It is an experience of a circumstance.

That’s why some people feel lonely when in the company of their best friends, while others feel completely fulfilled living in the country with their dog as their only companion.

So this begs the question: Why was I so lonely? If you find yourself asking this very same question, you’re in the right place.

There are 5 things that put you at a greater risk of experiencing loneliness, despite your circumstances. They are:

  1. Vulnerability to perceived isolation
  2. Attachment trauma or attachment wounds
  3. Struggles with self-regulation
  4. Self-esteem
  5. Social expectations

Let’s get into these in a little more detail and then we’ll talk about what you can do about it.

1.Vulnerability to perceived isolation

Everyone has a different threshold for when social detachment turns into a sense of loneliness and isolation.

Social detachment is where a person has a lack of social relationships or social participation.

Perceived isolation is defined as loneliness in conjunction with a perceived lack of social support, regardless of how much time is spent socializing (Cornwell EY, Waite LJ., 2009).

Interestingly, perceived isolation appears to be due to genetics, early childhood attachment patterns, and in combination with cognitive ideologies (Lakey, B., and Bennett, C.P., 1990).

Okay so what do we do with this?

Ask yourself:

Am I socially detached?

If so, does connecting socially help me feel less lonely? If connecting socially combats your loneliness, then the answer is to be intentional in connecting with your inner circle. If connecting socially does not fill the loneliness void, then we need to look deeper.

2. Attachment trauma or attachment wounds

If you’ve been in a relationship where you’ve felt betrayed, violated, abused, felt fearful, or if your caregivers were emotionally unavailable, you likely have attachment wounds. Attachment wounds impact our ability to connect with others, and are important risk factors for later feelings of loneliness.

Ask yourself:

If you struggled even at one period in your life as a child or adult, doing some healing on that attachment trauma will be game-changing for you. Attachment patterns change the way we understand and perceive our life and events.

3. Struggles with self-regulation

As social creatures, growing and developing based on our early childhood experiences, we learn self-regulation by watching our caretakers self-regulate themselves. So if you reflect back through your life:

If we learn self-regulation by watching unregulated people, we may not learn how to regulate. But the good news is that I have a solution for this.

The ACT Method begins with a focus on Module 1: which is ALL ABOUT looking at our attachment, our experience and how we exist in the world. In this first module, you will learn about something called Affective Tolerance and I promise you it will change your life for the better. Affective tolerance simply refers to one’s ability to tolerate an emotion. The more self-regulated you become, the more you will be able to tolerate the feelings of loneliness, and the more equipped you will feel in making changes.

4. Self-esteem

Being overly critical of oneself can compound feelings of loneliness and loneliness behaviors. Oftentimes, lonely individuals find it difficult to put themselves out in the world because they feel they do not have anything valuable to offer. They may withdraw, hold back, or social distance, and as a result, feel more socially isolated. Healing work that involves a more honest assessment of your gifts and positive traits will get you on the right track of writing a new chapter in your story.

5. Social expectations

Oftentimes, social discord comes from a misfire in what we expected to happen, and what actually did happen. This can play out in several ways. Maybe you expect everyone to abandon you, and so you withdraw before they have the chance. Or maybe your expectation is the opposite, and you believe that they will show up for you in a way that they never intended. Regardless of the scenario, a key step in conquering loneliness is to get clear about two things:

What are your expectations? And what are the expectations of your social connections.

This all sounds like a lot, right? I actually walk you through this ENTIRE process in the Anxiety Breakthrough Course. You can check that out here!

We all need relationships and sometimes finding the right people is the hardest part. I get that, and I want you to know you’re not alone. I’ve gone through seasons in my life where I felt really isolated, and creating an intentional community was a life-saver.

While IN PERSON relationships boost oxytocin, reduce cortisol, and increase your life expectancy, an INTENTIONAL community, even online, can be profoundly helpful. Especially during difficult times when we simply CAN NOT go out and be social in person.

Did you know we have a FREE and PRIVATE community group? I created it with the heart of giving us all a place where we can be authentic, meet amazing warriors from around the world, and have a place to share life and support others. One of the things that sets this group apart is that as a member, you will have complimentary access to dedicated content founded in my training as a clinical counselor and naturopathic doctor.

Join the Anxiety Freedom Facebook Group TODAY! The Anxiety Freedom 1 Week Challenge is a welcome gift that has 14 tips for anxiety freedom, including daily videos and a beautiful booklet.

I can’t wait to meet you and learn how I can support you better.

Read Part 1 of this blog here!

This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Whenever considering changing your protocol whether it includes a change of medications, supplements, diet or lifestyle, always speak with your primary care physician first. Dr. Nicole Cain consults with clients via telehealth and in person. Dr. Nicole Cain ND MA has helped countless people take back control of their lives, and she can help you. Learn more here: https://drnicolecain.com/getting-started and submit an application, to become a new client when you are ready.

Dr. Nicole Cain is an advocate for empowering people around the world to help themselves via her educational free resources, online courses, and membership group. You can receive the tools you need to find the root cause of your symptoms and feel healthy again.