18 Signs You Grew Up Chronically Lonely
Growing up, most of us aren’t taught about our feelings and mental health. So if you are a kid struggling with the uncomfortable feeling of loneliness, it’s easy to think there’s just something wrong with you.
What might look like “being shy” or being an “imaginative” kid on the outside can sometimes be indicative of a deeper struggle. It’s important to remember young people do experience loneliness — and we need to know the signs. To find out how people knew (in hindsight) that they struggled with loneliness as a kid, we asked our mental health community to share signs they experienced chronic loneliness growing up.
Here’s what they had to say:
- “Chasing people who don’t want you for affection they aren’t going to give you. It’s so easy for someone to lead you on and it causes such bad downward spiral. I’ve never felt more alone than when you realize you have been used and discarded.” — Callum C.
- “I made up lots of stories and things about myself, to make myself seem ‘tough’ and ‘hardcore’ for attention, and because I felt no one would be around long enough to figure out I was lying.” — Amanda Z.
- “Over-talking whenever there’s someone to talk to, because having no one for long periods makes it just pour out even if you’re aware it’s incredibly socially awkward.” — Violet F.
- “I grew up isolated. For a while, I hoarded pets because I was so alone in the world. No one understood or cared about my existence. My animals were my only friendships, my companions, my only reason for living. I rescued as many as I could to find worthy purpose in a lonely reality.” — Nicole E.
- “Never having one best friend, a person. I always volunteered to work events because it kept me busy and the work gave me satisfaction. Aside from my husband and son, I end up going weeks without talking to anyone. When I was young, I read for companionship; now I have Netflix.” — Lynn L.
- “I read a lot and before I could read I had a vivid imagination. When no one wants to play with you or you have no one to go out with as an adult at night, reading books is your best friend. That and my animals.” — Jennifer D.
- “I always felt lonely and found it very disturbing. Daydreamed a lot, literally every second. I searched for people’s attention, tried to make everybody happy to fill that hole in my heart. I completely forgot myself over helping others and making others happy, no matter the cost. It drained me so much that I had extreme suicidal thoughts. Kept on going like this for years.” — Saraya V.
- “I cling emotionally to others who I’ve grown close to and reach out for support from my closest friends because my own parents don’t interact with me as much. I don’t always start conversations much because I feel awkward around strangers. I want to fit in and be around people, but that constant feeling of becoming a burden stops me in my tracks and keeps me in my head when I head out of my house. I’m in college, so the friends I make leave anyway.” — Vanessa B.
- “Assuming that I was the ‘disposable’ person in the group, and that I wasn’t there because anyone was really friends with me, but just because they didn’t want to look rude. I had a firm conviction that I would always be lonely, which I struggle with to this day. I never thought of myself as anyone’s true friend, just someone they allowed in their group, and who they might leave behind at a moment’s notice.” — Jacinta M.
- “I used to go in the bathroom and spends hours in the bathtub full of water. I always needed to lie down after doing simple everyday task. I would be extremely exhausted some days.” — Nica C.
- “I talk to myself and I would stare obsessively at pictures of musicians or actors and talk with them. I would live in my head and make up friendships with them.” — Stephanie H.
- “Chasing people, being used by people and discarded like rubbish, wanting friends and a possible relationship, but [being] terrified at the same time. Anxiety around people, isolating myself and pushing people away.” — Justin L.
- “I get obsessive towards a person who wants to be friends or talks to me. Any interaction, I obsess…” — Sarah S.
- “I was attention-deprived as a kid, so I developed attention-seeking behaviors. I took baths and played with rubber toys, making up pretend worlds with pretend friends until I was about 12.” — Lizzy M.
- “Excessive helpfulness/having to make everyone food anytime they come over. If I keep helping them, they’ll hang out longer.” — Cheyenne L.
- “I never learned how to make and keep friendships. At church I’m very outgoing, but at home, I can always just stay alone and be fine. I have only had one BFF.” — Steve H.
- “I don’t feel like I belong anywhere. Socializing is wanted, but exhausting. I feel like I can’t connect with anyone. No best friend, never been in a relationship.” — Tepp V.
- “Super active imagination. I had tons of imaginary friends and used to imagine living far, far away.” — Shelley A.
If you grew up chronically lonely, you’re not alone. We are so grateful you’re here and in our community. If you’re struggling, we encourage you to post a Thought or Question about it on the site to get support from other people in our community who get it.
Unsplash photo via Aleyna Rentz