Loneliness is a problem that can be serious. In fact, it is known to go hand in hand with many other problems, such as the weakening of support networks provided by society, and the adoption of unhealthy lifestyles.

In this article we’ll look at the main types of loneliness , and how they manifest themselves.

The main types of loneliness

This is a brief summary about the types of loneliness we may encounter throughout our lives. However, these are not mutually exclusive categories, so some may overlap.

1. Contextual solitude

Loneliness does not always extend to all areas of life; sometimes it is limited to a single context .

For example, someone who has no friends or acquaintances at the college he attends or at work may experience loneliness there, even though he feels the closeness of many loved ones elsewhere.

2. Transient solitude

It is important to consider the time factor when analyzing the types of loneliness people experience. In the case of transience, this appears in specific situations and does not last much longer than one day .

For example, when a conflict arises in a love or friendship relationship, there may be a feeling that there is a barrier that separates us from the other, or that he has revealed a facet of his personality that makes us rethink whether we know it.

3. Chronic loneliness

This type of solitude does not depend on a specific context or situation, but is perpetuated over time, and is maintained in different areas of a person’s life . This does not mean, however, that it will never disappear or that we cannot do anything to make it disappear; given the right conditions, it can weaken until it disappears, but this costs more than in other more circumstantial kinds of solitude.

On the other hand, it should be noted that the difference between chronic and transitory loneliness is only a matter of degree, and there is no clear separation between them .

That is why, for example, we can find cases in which a person is subjected to an extremely monotonous life consisting of only one type of environment, and feels alone: in this case, it would not be very clear whether it is chronic or transitory, since we can understand that he has been stuck in a moment of his life that repeats itself over and over again day after day.

4. Self-imposed solitude

There are cases in which loneliness is the consequence of an isolation that one has decided to use as a defining element of one’s life. For example, people who are afraid of feeling let down by friends or loved ones , and who develop misanthropic attitudes or, in general, distrust of others.

In some cases, this form of solitude may also appear for religious reasons, such as the desire to devote oneself to a life of dedication to one or more gods, without embracing feelings of hostility towards other people.

5. Imposed solitude

The imposed solitude is a consequence of a series of material deprivations to which the person is subjected, against his or her will. The inability to have normal and sustained relationships causes the sensation of isolation to appear, a sensation that corresponds to objective facts, such as the lack of free time or the fact of living in a very reduced place and barely leaving it.

On the other hand, the fact that loneliness is imposed by others does not mean that the existence of this emotion is the objective of the measures imposed on those who suffer it. For example, it can be caused by very demanding working hours, where the important thing is to make money.

6. Existential solitude

Existential solitude is very different from the other types of solitude, because it is influenced relatively little by the quality and quantity of the interactions we have with other people. It is rather a state in which the emotion of solitude is mixed with the existential doubt of what we live for and what exactly connects us to others.

If self-awareness is a subjective, private experience that cannot be shared, our existence can be perceived as something radically separated from our environment and those who inhabit it .

On the other hand, the absence of a meaning to one’s life can contribute to our feeling disconnected from the rest of the cosmos.
That is to say, it is an experience that normally generates discomfort or restlessness, and that cannot be faced by trying to make more friends or meeting more people .

Bibliographic references:

  • Cacioppo, J.; Hawkley, L. (2010). “Loneliness Matters: A Theorectical and Empirical Review of Consequences and Mechanisms”. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 40 (2): 218–227.
  • Duck, S. (1992). Human relations. London: Sage Publications.
  • Jaremka, L.M., Andridge, R.R., Fagundes, C.P., Alfano, C.M., Povoski, S.P., Lipari, A.M., Agnese, D.M., Arnold, M.W, Farrar, W.B., Yee, L.D. Carson III, W.E., Bekaii-Saab, T., Martin Jr, E.W., Schmidt, C.R., & Kiecolt-Glaser, J.K. (2014). Pain, depression, and fatigue: Loneliness as a longitudinal risk factor. Health Psychology, 38, 1310-1317.
  • Zhou, Xinyue; Sedikides, Constantine; Wildschut, Tim; Gao, Ding-Guo (2008). “Counteracting Loneliness: On the Restorative Function of Nostalgia”. Psychological Science. 19 (10): 1023–9.