More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Solitude vs. Loneliness
By Hara Estroff Marano
Psychology Today Magazine, Jul/Aug 2003

Loneliness is marked by a sense of isolation. Solitude, on the other hand, is a state of being alone without being lonely and can lead to self-awareness.

As the world spins faster and faster?or maybe it just seems that way when an email can travel around the world in fractions of a second?we mortals need a variety of ways to cope with the resulting pressures. We need to maintain some semblance of balance and some sense that we are steering the ship of our life.

Otherwise we feel overloaded, overreact to minor annoyances and feel like we can never catch up. As far as I'm concerned, one of the best ways is by seeking, and enjoying, solitude.

That said, there is an important distinction to be established right off the bat. There is a world of difference between solitude and loneliness, though the two terms are often used interchangeably.

From the outside, solitude and loneliness look a lot alike. Both are characterized by solitariness. But all resemblance ends at the surface.

Loneliness is a negative state, marked by a sense of isolation. One feels that something is missing. It is possible to be with people and still feel lonely?perhaps the most bitter form of loneliness.

Solitude is the state of being alone without being lonely. It is a positive and constructive state of engagement with oneself. Solitude is desirable, a state of being alone where you provide yourself wonderful and sufficient company.

Solitude is a time that can be used for reflection, inner searching or growth or enjoyment of some kind. Deep reading requires solitude, so does experiencing the beauty of nature. Thinking and creativity usually do too.

Solitude suggests peacefulness stemming from a state of inner richness. It is a means of enjoying the quiet and whatever it brings that is satisfying and from which we draw sustenance. It is something we cultivate. Solitude is refreshing; an opportunity to renew ourselves. In other words, it replenishes us.

Loneliness is harsh, punishment, a deficiency state, a state of discontent marked by a sense of estrangement, an awareness of excess aloneness.

Solitude is something you choose. Loneliness is imposed on you by others.

We all need periods of solitude, although temperamentally we probably differ in the amount of solitude we need. Some solitude is essential; It gives us time to explore and know ourselves. It is the necessary counterpoint to intimacy, what allows us to have a self worthy of sharing. Solitude gives us a chance to regain perspective. It renews us for the challenges of life. It allows us to get (back) into the position of driving our own lives, rather than having them run by schedules and demands from without.

Solitude restores body and mind. Lonelinesss depletes them.


I enjoy my solitude...I like being by myself to do the things I enjoy without being bothered..I get tired however,of people saying to me "wow I dont get to see you alot,are you depressed"? I find that these are the people that cannot be alone with themselves,for various reasons and always need to be on the go

When I am by myself during the day and all the chores are done,I get to choose what I want to,nap,watch tv..and I feel more relaxed and refreshed with the family gets home.


I don't only enjoy my own company, I actively seek and or plan my times of solitude. I simply can't function without it. Even if everything is going well, I still need time out for myself, with myself, to process and integrate it all. It's strange because I'm quite extroverted...or maybe I'm so extroverted because of my indulgence in introversion during my solitude. :)

The only time I avoid being alone with myself is when I'm in bad shape. That's when I usually need to be among people otherwise I slip into a painful depressive state. I suppose introversion can be a double edged sword.
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