People who are lonely but don’t realize it often display these 8 traits

The dictionary defines loneliness as “sadness because one has no friends or company.”

However, you don’t have to be friendless (or even alone) to be lonely. 

Like any emotion, it’s complicated. And despite all the stereotypes, loneliness isn’t always easy to recognize. 

But just because you can’t see it, that doesn’t make it any less real or damaging to someone’s mental health.

And with almost half of us affected by loneliness, officials have likened it to a “disease,” “epidemic,” or even a “hidden killer.”

Something that’s “more dangerous than smoking 15 cigarettes a day,” according to the U.S. Surgeon General.

So how do you recognize the signs before you or someone you know becomes another statistic?

Well, here are eight (not so obvious) traits to look out for. 

1) They are a workaholic

Are they constantly at the office? 

I’m talking late nights, grinding over the weekend, and regularly checking their work email “just in case.” 

And if we’re being honest here, even when they’re not at work, they’re secretly thinking about it. 

It’s like they’re unable to relax and disconnect, even for a second.

Of course, they justify it by claiming that they want to climb up the ladder and advance their career. 

But if they carry on like this, the only fast track they’ll be on is a direct path to burnout

Here’s the thing. 

When people are lonely, they often use distractions (e.g. careers, television, or hobbies) to avoid confronting the truth by keeping busy. 

It’s a coping mechanism.

A way to detach and replace feelings of emptiness with something that gives their life purpose. All while giving others (and themselves) a convenient excuse for why they are alone. 

2) They are overly materialistic

A new watch, the latest sneakers, and enough gadgets to open their own shop…

It’s as though their lust for stuff is seemingly never-ending. 

But while they may appear consumed by consumerism, there’s a reason why they’re splashing the cash like there’s no tomorrow. 

The hard truth is, they’re lonely. 

And all those material possessions (new and old) are simply a form of “material medicine” or “mirth,” according to a study by the University of Chicago.

The same goes for holding onto (hoarding) sentimental items. It’s another way of regaining control or feeling connected to something in the absence of meaningful relationships. 

In other words, fill the void with keepsakes, mementos, and trinkets. 

3) They take ages in the bathroom

For some people showers are a necessity – a means to get clean. For others, it’s a place to think without distraction. 

But for those who are (secretly) lonely, it can be a cry for help

They just don’t know it. 

Let me explain.

According to a recent study, there’s a link between feeling emotionally (or socially) cold and physically cold. 

As a result, lonely people may try to substitute a lack of warmth by replacing it with something physical. 

For example, taking long, warm baths or showers. 

Only, “without explicit awareness of doing so.” It’s unconscious. 

Think about it. 

What’s more comforting than a steamy hot shower? It’s kind of like getting a wet (but warm) hug. 

4) They talk too much

We all have that one friend. You’re genuinely excited to see them, but once they open their mouth, you just can’t get a word in edgeways. 

What’s more, they’re talking at a million miles a minute. Honestly, it’s more of a monologue (about them), than a fluid conversation. 

But this talkative behavior has a story behind it. Simply put, they’re overcompensating. 

And that’s because they’re lonely (even in a crowd) and desperate to make a connection with anyone who’ll listen. 

Unfortunately, this can have the opposite effect. Instead, pushing people further away. 

It’s a vicious cycle.

5) They are constantly glued to their phones

people with the most introverted personality type share these dark traits People who are lonely but don’t realize it often display these 8 traits

Nowadays we’re all guilty of it…

Endlessly gazing down at our phones when we should be interacting with our surroundings. 

Whether it’s doomscrolling, meticulously curating our profiles, or clicking like on a cute cat pic, we can’t get enough of our Internet-enabled devices. 

And can you blame us, when anything we want is available at the click of a button?

It’s a necessary evil (for work and play). 

But while some people know when it’s time to put down the phone. For others, it can become an obsession. 

But that’s not all. 

Research shows Internet (or social media) addiction can actually be a sign of loneliness. 

6) They keep getting sick

Are they always calling in sick at work? Perhaps they frequently cancel plans due to illness. 

If you know someone who’s always under the weather, they’re not just lacking a healthy dose of vitamin C. 

More than likely, they’re suffering from loneliness

That’s right. 

The reason for your friend or work colleague’s poor health could be due to social isolation. 

And intentional or not, it’s messing with their body’s natural defenses.

In fact, experts have found that loneliness can increase white blood cell production and physically “warp” our immune system, making it less responsive. 

Additionally, another study discovered that lonely people are more susceptible to viral infections. 

Not forgetting the many other health issues associated with being lonely, such as heart disease, dementia, diabetes, cognitive decline, and high blood pressure, to name a few. 

7) They overeat (and keep putting on weight)

We’ve all heard the term “comfort food” and apparently, there’s a reason we seek it when we’re feeling down.

It’s all in our physiological makeup.

Let me explain.

When we’re lonely we crave foods such as bread, pizza, cake, or popcorn (in other words carbs and sugar).

That’s because they’re filling. 

As a result, people may use this “comfort food” to circumvent their feelings of loneliness by literally filling that emptiness. 

In short, overeating (or emotional eating). 

What’s more, eating carbohydrates can also boost your serotonin production (the feel-good hormone). 

But as we know, the problem with eating your feelings is that it can result in weight gain

This kind of behavior may also manifest into other unhealthy habits such as substance abuse or addiction. 

8) They are always tired

Late nights, busy days, sickness… 

We all get tired from time to time. But when it happens more often than not, there could be something more serious at play. 

And according to a study on sleep fragmentation, it could be a sign of loneliness. 

In the study, researchers discovered a link between poor sleep and individuals who feel disconnected (lonely). 

In fact, they found that “loneliness was a significant predictor of sleep fragmentation.” 

Apparently, it’s all about survival. 

Think about it.

We’re at our most vulnerable when we’re asleep. 

So, if we’re alone, it’s natural to feel less safe and secure. Therefore, it’s difficult for us to relax, let our guard down, and enter full REM sleep. 

It may even cause insomnia

After all, we humans are social creatures. It’s in our genes and it’s only natural for us to want to spend time with others. 

When we don’t, it can impact us more than we realize – including displaying these eight traits. 

Leila El-Dean

Leila El-Dean

Leila is a passionate writer with a background in photography and art. She has over ten years of experience in branding, marketing, and building websites. She loves travelling and has lived in several countries, including Thailand, Malaysia, Spain, and Malta. When she’s not writing (or ogling cats), Leila loves trying new food and drinking copious amounts of Earl Grey tea.

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