Recently, Bollywood actor Sidharth Malhotra spoke at length about how living alone in a big city, like Mumbai, and away from one’s family, can be quite challenging. “It genuinely helps if you have a home in Bollywood; things become easier. I am happy living a bachelor’s life, but sometimes, I want other people in my house,” Sidharth had said, in an interview to HT Café. He added, “The [film] industry has made me mature faster than I would have liked. I miss the energy that I used to have back home; I miss being childlike.”
Sidharth is not the only one. Several people who move out of their family homes and go to big cities for work or studies often deal with the nagging feeling of loneliness, in spite of living busy lives and having large social circles.
City-based psychiatrist Dr Kersi Chavda explains, “Everyone feels lonely occasionally, especially when people change their jobs, place of residence, school, or college. But this is different from being chronically lonely, which can become a personality trait [if not treated in time]. The problem arises when a person’s occasional loneliness turns into chronic loneliness, especially if there is no awareness about the situation.”
Over the years, this can lead to major consequences. “The short term effects of loneliness are detachment and indifference. In the long run, loneliness can lead to serious mood swings, irritable behaviour, negative self-image and even depression. In extreme cases, this leads to suicidal tendencies,” says Namrata Dagia, clinical psychologist. Loneliness also increases the risk of heart disease and blood pressure.
Dr Chavda cites the following as the most common reasons for feeling lonely:
Rejection: If the feelings or behaviour of a person are not accepted by a social group on more than one occasion, the person may feel left out, and rejected
Social anxiety or phobia: This is a common condition that makes people feel nervous and tongue-tied in the presence of strangers, leading to social withdrawal
Workaholism: Getting extremely involved in work, and leaving no time for other activities, can, over a period of time, make one feel isolated and un-cared for.
Internet addiction: Spending too much time on social media can result in a detachment from real relationships.
According to psychiatrist Dr Ashish Gambre, the one thing that a majority of lonely people become susceptible to is bad company. “In a bid to beat loneliness, it is easy to get carried away with the wrong influences. So, it is important to choose the people you socialise with wisely. People might take advantage of a lonely person financially, physically and emotionally,” he says.
Here are a few tips to draw the line: Monitor your activities, and write down how you spend your time. Reading what you have done can help you understand how your time has been spent Set your own rules that keep you grounded and at peace, and follow them. Don’t depend on external factors for your happiness. Indulge in activities that make you happy
Avoid excessive drinking or taking drugs. They will not help you cope with your loneliness.
— With inputs from Dr Swapna Patker, psychologist and Dr Behram Pardiwalla, consultant in internal medicine.