I feel so lonely - can counselling help me?

Expressing feelings of loneliness can be challenging for many of us. It's a universal experience, yet admitting to it can trigger feelings of unworthiness and shame.


The three dimensions of loneliness

Loneliness encompasses three main psychological dimensions:

  • social loneliness
  • emotional loneliness
  • existential loneliness

Social loneliness

This is when a network to connect with is lacking and we don’t feel part of a community. This can arise through being part of a marginalised group, finding exclusion from mainstream life through a disability or having mental health conditions that make it more challenging to engage and connect. Undergoing life transitions can also alter the landscape of our lives physically and/or emotionally e.g. moving house/job, divorce, bereavement.

Emotional loneliness

Most of us have known that feeling of being surrounded by many but somehow still experiencing isolation and disconnection. It is the quality of the connection that is lacking here rather than a missing community. We might struggle to be ourselves fully with the people we love the most. We may fear displeasing them somehow, setting ourselves up for a lifetime of living cautiously. When we don’t bring our true selves we can easily feel misunderstood and ultimately lonely.

Existential loneliness

This stems from a deeper sense of disconnection and meaninglessness in life. It involves questioning purpose, identity, and existence, often leading to feelings of existential despair and isolation.

Loneliness is not a reflection of your worth, but it can have serious implications for mental and physical well-being. It may exacerbate existing mental health issues like depression and anxiety, impact cognitive functioning, and deteriorate physical health.

You may have resorted to maladaptive coping strategies such as substance abuse, compulsive behaviours or unhealthy relationships to manage your distress and found yourself locked in dysfunctional cycles leading to even more isolation and loneliness.

How you can address loneliness

  • Cultivate social support networks with others who hold similar values and interests in your community. For example, a favourite sport or volunteer work can connect you more closely to like-minded people.
  • Nurture your existing relationships by being authentic, appreciative and open. Online forums and support groups can provide empathy and understanding if you are geographically isolated.
  • Practice self-care by prioritising your physical and emotional needs and challenging negative thoughts and beliefs that contribute to loneliness.
  • Consider seeking support from a professional counsellor.

How your therapist can help

Validation and empathy

Counsellors offer a non-judgmental and empathetic space where you can express your feelings of loneliness without fear of criticism or rejection, helping you feel understood and validated.

Exploration of underlying factors

Counsellors work collaboratively with you to explore the root causes of your loneliness, which may include past experiences, relationship patterns, mental health issues, or life transitions, allowing you to address them more effectively.

Development of coping strategies

Counsellors can help you develop coping strategies to manage feelings of loneliness and reduce their impact on your daily life. This may involve learning techniques to improve social skills, building self-esteem, challenging negative thought patterns, and engaging in self-care activities.

Identification of maladaptive patterns

Counsellors assist you in identifying maladaptive patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that contribute to your loneliness. By recognising and challenging these patterns, you can develop more adaptive and effective ways of relating to others.


Counsellors teach practical skills for enhancing social connections and building meaningful relationships. This may include communication skills, assertiveness training, boundary-setting, and conflict-resolution techniques.

Exploration of attachment styles

Counsellors explore attachment styles and how they impact relationships and feelings of loneliness.

Exploration of interpersonal dynamics

Counsellors assist in exploring your interpersonal dynamics and relationship patterns, including issues such as fear of rejection, difficulty trusting others, and avoidance of intimacy, in order to develop more fulfilling and satisfying relationships.

Remember, loneliness can present an opportunity for personal growth. With time, effort, and patience, you can move towards more meaningful connections, and counselling can offer you the support needed to navigate this journey.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Twickenham TW2 & Richmond TW10
Written by Dr Anjum Siddique, BA (Hons) Integrative Relational Counselling MBACP
Twickenham TW2 & Richmond TW10

As a warm and empathetic BACP registered therapist, I've seen the deep impact of physical and existential loneliness on mental well-being. My passion lies in guiding individuals to cultivate meaningful connections in their relationships. I'm committed to supporting, empowering, and guiding them towards resilience, growth and healing.

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