Being Alone VS Being Lonely: Know the Difference

One thing that confuses a lot of people I know is being able to tell the difference between being alone and being lonely. Although these two terms seem like they hold similar meanings, in essence, however, they are very different from each other.

Being alone doesn’t necessarily mean that a person is unhappy. A person may have all the support they need from their friends and family and still feel lonely. 

The famous Ellen Burstyn once said, ‘‘What a lovely surprise to finally discover how ‘un-lonely’ being alone can be.’’

Before understanding the difference between the two words, it is perhaps better to try to look into both of the terms individually.

Being Lonely

The word ‘lonely’ has different interpretations for different people. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry I know have their very own versions of loneliness that they have experienced.

People who are lonely usually crave emotional/physical connection from others. They are mostly sad because of the lack of emotional intimacy with other people.

According to researchers, people who are lonely usually have poor socializing skills and often suffer from depression. They do not enjoy the feeling of being isolated from others.

What Causes Loneliness?

There are many causes that might trigger a person’s feeling of loneliness. One such event could be the sudden demise of someone close or moving to a new city all alone. Fallouts with friends or going through a breakup may also cause a person to be lonely.

Other events may include depression. Depressed people often tend to isolate themselves from the rest of the world and the sudden feeling of isolation may cause them to feel lonely. This may also work the other way round where loneliness causes a person to be depressed.

People with very low self-esteem generally feel like they do not deserve attention from others, or that people disregard them easily. Their lack of confidence makes them believe the worst things about themselves which often leads to seclusion and therefore loneliness.

Another major cause of loneliness can be a person’s overall personality. If he/she is an introvert, chances are that their lack of social skills drives them to loneliness.

Disadvantages of Being Lonely

Loneliness has its own set of disadvantages that are especially related to a person’s mental and physical health. Some of them include the following:

  • Addiction
  • Antisocial behaviour
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Issues with Memory
  • Poor decisions making

Being Alone

Being alone on the other hand means being in solitude. These people genuinely enjoy and thrive in their own company. It is not like they do not enjoy the company of other people. They just prefer to be alone for the sake of their happiness.

What Causes a Person to Be Alone?

Sometimes people just prefer to be alone because they want to get to know themselves a little better. For, you can only find true growth when you are fighting your battles alone.

Others probably just love their me-time a bit more than spending time with friends, family or strangers. Maybe, it is the only time of the day where they get to unwind and just be by themselves without being bothered by anyone.

Not to mention, it may also allow them to reflect upon their life. This is why switching off your phone and staying away from social media for a while can be a much-needed break for people who are addicted to screen time.

A lot of people would rather sit at home with a good book or spend their time learning new crafts at home. So this really gives you a chance to go all out and be creative from the comfort of your home.

Far away from all the chaos, in your alone time, you can actually be more focused and get those creative juices flowing.

Another key factor here is that being alone can actually give you the time to think things through. Therefore, if you are having a fight with someone, it is perhaps better to take some time off and focus on yourself until you are ready to be in each other’s company again.

Being alone really has its own set of advantages. The first being that it makes people more independent and confident. One can be more independent by not only living alone at home but also by going out for solo outings.

This will also enable them to boost their confidence if they already struggle from being extra anxious in public. You may think of it as a form of exposure therapy!

People also stay alone when they want to master a new hobby or learn the art of cooking. Imagine making yourself grand dishes every day. Who wouldn’t want a life like that?

Ultimately, the choice of being alone mostly comes down to a person’s preference.

So What’s The Difference Between The Two?

Although people often end up defining loneliness as being in solitude, it is in fact not the case. Some people feel lonely even when they are in the midst of a bunch of people at a get-together.

Solitude on the other hand is a voluntary decision of an individual. These people will definitely be present at parties or gatherings but will balance it out with their need of being alone.

Here are some of the points to take note of in case you’re still confused about the terms:

  • Being alone doesn’t mean you are unhappy.
  • Some people find happiness in being alone.
  • A lot of acts are more enjoyable when they are done alone. E.g., reading.
  • Being alone allows you have the space to try something new every day.
  • It is actually exciting to go out and do things alone.


To conclude, wanting to be alone is one’s own personal preference. So, the next time you see someone prioritizing their option of wanting to be alone, do not immediately jump to a conclusion thinking that since they are lonely and sad.

I know it is hard to believe but some people just tend to thrive solo!

Photo by Austin Mabe on Unsplash

25 thoughts on “Being Alone VS Being Lonely: Know the Difference

  1. I recently had a life journey experience that not only caused a severe trauma in my life but has allowed me to experience being alone. In working through the avenues of grief and pain, I find myself wanting to be alone. Working through the feelings instead of suppressing them and placing them in mental boxes to be dealt when I can or want to. My past patterns of suppression do NOT work in this experience. I am not forced but allowing the feelings as they come up. It has now been 3 months since the traumatic experience and what was once a boiling pot of emotions, causing lack sleep to heighten anxiety is now feelings something different, to the point of reading this article I wasnt able to place a name to where I was on this journey. I realize that I am just alone, and not lonely. This is finally the name I can put to where I am. To those who feel connected to these words, I would like to offer some food for your thoughts, life happens and sometimes the things that happen make you hurt to the point of having no words to explain the flurry of emotions or the pain. Consider sitting with the idea that your growth may depend on how you put into perspective this experience. Resilience is something I have heard over and over again, such a powerful realization happens when one doesnt ask “why” rather “why not”? So much more thought on this but I will stop here. Allow your journey to continue because you can be resilient without loss your own life meaning. Namaste.

  2. thats a great way of explaining it. Now I know what to say when I want to be alone. ” Please can you leave now as I need some me time.”

  3. They are different but, I believe to a certain extent, that being alone too much can eventually damage our social skills with others if we aren’t careful which intern can Segway into loneliness because you’ve separated yourself from others for so long that you’ve damaged any relationships you may have had with others because others tend to go on with their lives while leaving you alone out of respect and as we know, attaining, building and maintaining relationships take time and effort. So, I think that while being alone periodically is very important & necessary for mind, body and soul, we must be careful not to let it turn into isolation because loneliness is the big brother of alone.

  4. I found that until you can enjoy your own company…you can not really enjoy somebody else so LOVE AND ENJOY

  5. Thank you me myself and I always enjoy this opportunity to make better decisions and focus more during the days thank you again for your kind words and inspiration

  6. Usually I say “I am an introvert. I need to be alone to recharge my energy for
    my work.” Going to say after readingl “I enjoy the benefits I get from times of
    solitude’…will sound less apologetic and “justifying” when I really do not have
    to justify my actions or position statement to anyone.

  7. Sorry, for me there is no difference. I just do not like being on my own, I dont feel inadequate, I dont lack self esteem, I would never view myself as a follower, but visitng an art gallery alone, going to the cinema. a concert , a walk, going to bed, communting to work or even reading a book feel like rainbows in black and white without someone to share it with. I like the company of people, I dont value personal privacy. I would rather do nothing than do anything alone

  8. Most of the time people told me that I’m sad coz i want to be alone most of the i know that im not.
    Thanks for the very good explanation.
    It gives me peace when I’m alone.

  9. Being alone is difficult when you loose your partner in death. Company is so important. You know I do stay up late on my own but the difference is even when he goes to bed early I know he is there but he is not anymore. The hardest part is when you close your doors at night you are at your loneliest moment. That is when I feel it.


  10. I so agree with Tessa …I lost my husband after being happily married for 30 years …then suddenly alone …on my own ..but after 14 years of silly romances and finally understanding ME…I am on my own but I choose to be on my own …I’m not lonely I enjoy new ventures and my me time is my choice .

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