If you feel lonely most of the time, does that mean you are really alone?
Dr. Mohamed Farouk, Assistant Lecturer of Psychiatry at Kasr Alainy, Cairo University, as well as a Specialist Psychiatrist with O7 Therapy was interviewed by EgyptianStreets for an article written on loneliness titled: Shedding the Shame: Egyptian Youth Fight Loneliness in a City of 20 Million.
Here are the outtakes:
Do you think loneliness is considered taboo to express in comparison to say, sadness or anger? If so, why?
I don’t think loneliness is a 'taboo' emotion per se; I do however think it’s a very difficult emotion/thought to open up about as it can be very painful to acknowledge. Loneliness is a deep or existential fear that we all have innately, we might not be in touch with it at all, or have been regularly distracting ourselves from it. And because it’s a deeper thought, it’s less openly expressed than sadness or anger.
Can loneliness be affected by age or gender?
Yes and no. For starters anyone can feel lonely at any point in their lives; it depends on the overall mental wellbeing of that person and the quality of distress they’re experiencing. People can even feel lonely without a clear cause or reason, as I mentioned before it’s one of our innate deep fears. That being said, Age is an important factor that we can’t ignore. For example most older adults (seniors) will feel lonely at some point in time. Imagine being old, retired, not getting enough visits from family, as they’re busy with modern life demands, it’s easier to feel lonely then. Experiencing your spouse’s death can exacerbate that difficult feeling as well. Regarding gender, it’s tricky.
There are studies out there that report males are more prone to feeling lonely than females, other studies say there is no difference. Men can be less social and less active in asking for help which can be the cause. At the end of the day, I believe loneliness varies according to you as an individual; your personality, childhood, lifestyle, mental health, social capabilities, etc...
Does loneliness have to do with the number of people around a person?
Absolutely not! I mean it helps to have people around as human beings are social animals. But I’ve seen clients feeling lonely when they’re surrounded by a lot of people, and I’ve seen people not feeling lonely when they are literally... alone. It depends on your state of mind at any given point, feeling of belonging to the people around you and being present in the moment. In short, aloneness and loneliness are not one in the same.
What about loneliness in quarantine, especially the feeling of being lonely in a city of 20 Million like Cairo?
Quarantine was/and still is for some people, such a tough time. The disruption of the daily routine for people, lack of work, or financial worries were poignant to say the least. With distress and depression, our minds begin to tap into deeper thoughts and emotions, one of which is loneliness. Being in a big city as Cairo doesn’t really help, it’s a big city and to see it empty during Quarantine hours was daunting, although walking in the empty streets without the noise or the pollution was admittedly huge fun. But yes, people can feel more lonely, estranged and detached in bigger cities.
What ways can we navigate loneliness? Can you suggest coping strategies for when we may feel lonely?
A lot can be done. Let’s start from the basics, and it’s ok to be generic and cheesy here, first of all check your lifestyle! Are you burnt out, overworked, extra stressed, do you need time off? Do you take care of yourself as much as you should? Do you get enough sleep? Have a healthy diet and exercise? Remember, you need to be self-compassionate as it’s your right to take care of yourself.
Next step is considering your friends and family--having people around can definitely help. Reaching out is an obstacle you need to overcome of course, pride and whatnot, but after that it can be worthwhile to be comforted by your loved ones.
If you ticked most of the above, and you’re still feeling lonely then you might want to consider professional help. Depression is one illness that can disguise as loneliness and prove difficult to shake off without proper help. It’s so much easier nowadays to get help from professionals; you can even do it online from the comfort of your home via trusted platforms such as O7 Therapy. Being mentally well shouldn’t be a luxury, it is your right. You deserve to feel mentally well, and as a result feel less lonely.