Being around people doesn't help loneliness, at least not for people suffering from depression or an anxiety disorder. Perhaps you've noticed that sometimes getting someone to the party just isn't enough to get them out of their funk. It seems that being around people just isn't enough sometimes.
Loneliness can be a very significant issue. It is associated with depression and other mental disorders, including suicide. Many people suffer loneliness in silence, making it all the more dangerous. It should be mentioned that loneliness is not the same as solitude. Being alone does not necessarily make a person feel lonely, sometimes solitude can be a welcome break and sometimes a preferred lifestyle.
A group of researchers from the United Kingdom recently investigated the effect of social support on loneliness and had some surprising results. They asked about feelings of loneliness, their symptoms of mental illness, and finally their social participation and social support.
They found that social participation and support were helpful for getting rid of loneliness for most of the participants, just not the ones who were suffering from depression or anxiety. This finding is important because many therapists recommend participating in social events as treatment for depression and some anxiety problems.
For people who are suffering from depression and anxiety, it is more important to consider their thoughts as they mingle with others. These thoughts and anxieties may highjack the benefits of being in the group. For example, if the person is so down that they see every person in the group as rejecting them, then being with others might not be so helpful.
Fortunately, it is possible to examine and change how people think in social situations. Therapy has been shown to be helpful for overcoming negative thinking and emotion. Once the distressing thoughts are handled, social situations would once again have the benefit of dispelling feelings of loneliness.
By Dr. Syras Derksen
Meltzer, H., Bebbington, P., Dennis, M. S., Jenkins, R., McManus, S., & Brugha, T. S. (2013). Feelings of loneliness among adults with mental disorder. Social Psychiatry Psychiatric Epidemiology, 48, 5-13.