Loneliness can be broadly classified in two ways – state loneliness and trait loneliness. State loneliness is temporary and lasts for a short period of time. It largely depends on the situation that the person is in. Trait loneliness is stable and enduring. It does not have anything to do with the situation. It occurs irrespective of the kind of situation that the person is in.

State loneliness usually occurs when a person moves to a new place, like the person might move to a new city to work or to study. The individual does not know anybody in the new place and finds the whole place to be quite unfamiliar. This situation makes the person feel lonely. But, as the person spends time over there, he/she gradually becomes accustomed to the place, meets different people, and makes new friends. In this way, the person, after some time, overcomes his/her loneliness.

However, this is not the case with trait loneliness. In trait loneliness, the inherent traits of the person make him/her feel lonely. The traits of the person become the cause of his/her loneliness. For a person who has trait loneliness, the situation does not really matter. The person feels lonely even if he/she is in a familiar place. Familiarity of people and place has no or little affect on such individual’s loneliness and thus, their loneliness remains stable and lasts for a much longer period of time.

Trait loneliness is a cause of concern. It leads to many other psychological problems, such as depression, and if remained unchecked, it becomes difficult to control its severity, which can prove to be extremely fatal. State loneliness, on the other hand, is quite a common phenomenon. But, despite the fact that it is common and lasts for a short period of time, it is still troublesome for the little time that it lasts.

There are times when a person with trait loneliness comes into a situation that is not familiar to him/her. For instance, a person with trait loneliness moves out to a new place. Loneliness in any form is painful, though it might differ according to the kind of loneliness. So, when trait loneliness interacts with state loneliness then it becomes highly problematic for the individual.

When both trait and state loneliness come together, they mutually affect each other. They both get intertwined in such a way that one becomes the cause of the other and one enhances the severity of the other. This whole condition gives rise to a new highly complicated condition, which means more and more trouble for the individual. This new condition can be termed as state-trait loneliness.

Usually state loneliness gets over after a person gets well accustomed in a new place. But, for a person who has trait loneliness, adjusting to a new place does not come easily. A person with trait loneliness has a number of social skills problems that obstruct him/her to familiarize himself/herself in a new place. For instance, the individual is shy and has social anxiety. This causes the person to face adjustment problems. Such a person feels left out in familiar situations, so one can imagine what the person goes through if he/she is in an unfamiliar situation.

In a way, it can be said that trait loneliness prolongs the time period of state loneliness. The same state loneliness that gets over within a few days or weeks for others is prolonged almost indefinitely for a person with trait loneliness.

Since state loneliness is prolonged, it increases the troubles for the individual. This further has a negative affect on trait loneliness. The characteristics related to trait loneliness, like melancholy, shyness, being socially anxious, depression, etc. get intensified. Trait loneliness becomes more and more exacerbated.

This whole condition causes the person to lose complete interest in all activities, both personally as well as socially. The individual begins to suffer from state anhedonia. Anhedonia is the total loss of interest in activities and an inability to experience pleasure, even from normal pleasurable activities. It makes the person face a great level of boredom. State anhedonia is the same, the difference being that it is only a temporary condition. But, nobody knows for how long that temporary condition will last. It may last for a couple of months or even longer.

The characteristics that always caused trouble for a person with trait loneliness get intensified and are coupled with state anhedonia. In all, the person with state-trait loneliness is in a completely miserable condition. It becomes very difficult for the person to come out from such a situation.

The only solution for such a person, apart from professional help, is that the person should get involved in such activities that have certain fixed schedules. In such activities the person will have to follow certain norms that will automatically require him/her to stick to those schedules. It will obviously be difficult initially, but a fixed schedule will be quite helpful.

Following a fixed schedule will make the person be actively involved in something or the other. If this happens for a long time then it may help the person in overcoming from state anhedonia. Overcoming from state anhedonia will further help in decreasing the severity of state loneliness. This will at least help the individual to try to come out from the condition of state-trait loneliness.

After a while when the person finally overcomes state loneliness, gets accustomed in the new environment, and gradually begins to like his/her surroundings, it may even help in decreasing the severity of trait loneliness to some extent, if not completely overcoming it.

Of course all this is not that simple. Nothing much can be said about how long the whole process will take.

Trait and state loneliness are, both, troublesome in their own way. Both have there own kind of problems. When trait and state loneliness come together, these problems are intensified and both enhance the severity of each other, which leads to a highly complicated and problematic condition. Coming out of this condition seems to be extremely difficult.

PS: To read more about loneliness and related issues, refer to my articles,
Loneliness: A Harbinger To Aloneness, Loneliness: The Role That It Plays On A Student's Academic Performance, and Why Do People Feel Lonely?

Saif Farooqi

A PhD in Psychology (from the University of Delhi). I have been blogging about psychological issues for more than ten years. I am extremely passionate about teaching psychology. I'm a writer, podcaster, and TEDx speaker. I also conduct workshops and awareness programs in schools and colleges. Currently, I'm also working as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India


CRD said...

boy! interesting piece man.

Your last post was about introverts, and this one about loneliness. Jus curious, are these your traits? :P

Dun worry, im an introvert too :P


Saif Farooqi said...

haha ... well, I'm definitely an introvert and I have been through a long phase of loneliness during my adolescence and that's why I can very well relate to it. This is my third article on loneliness, did you read the other two? I have put the link of the other two articles at the end of this post.

TF said...

Very nicely written. Your posts are more "professional" now.

Whats weird with me is that even though I am "alone" right now (no real friends in this new place that I've moved to) I don't "feel" lonely, and its probably because of a busy fixed schedule as you mentioned. Or maybe its also because of technology... you still remain connected with old friends who might not be physically there with you, but it still feels like they're around (internet/phone).

Rakesh Vanamali said...

Very well written, and highly informative, as always!

Saif Farooqi said...

@ Tipu Bhai
Thanks! Yes, it could be one of the reasons that you mentioned. Another thing could be that maybe you are in the positive state of aloneness, that I mentioned in my article about "loneliness and aloneness."

@ Rakesh
Nice to know that you liked it and feel that way.

Shalini said...

your posts are well thought over and then written,telling the stories of most of us. I am glad that you choose to write on topics which most of us feel that you are telling our own story and that kind of writing will definitely make you popular.
All the Best for your next post.
Hope majority will like that.

Esther said...

So much to learn!! :)
I'm glad to have stopped by your blog!!!!! :) :)

Saif Farooqi said...

@ Shalini
I'm really glad that you feel that way about my writing. I don't know about me becoming popular, but I hope it helps people who relate with all this, in some way or the other. This is one of the reasons for me to write about such issues.

@ Esther
Thanks! I'm glad that you gave a visit to my blog :)

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Mahesh Sindbandge said...

Hi Saif,

First time here and tell you what, its kinda relieving after reading this post.

I think i am going through state loneliness right now and i am taking advantage of it by making my friends suffer on this(not intentional at all).

My friends make fun of me most of the times and 9/10 times i get hurt.
I don make fun of them much and i end up in a fight which i always want to avoid but that doesnt happen.

So instead, i had decided to be in myself for sometime( which is diff for an extrovert like me) but doing it purposely and thats bothering many of my friends and i think i ll do this till i get a feeling that i have done enough.

Thanks for the post :) it was very informative :)

See you around :)