With the rise in technology, the barriers between communication have been filled by the social media apps that have secured a warm place on our mini-me’s i.e. cell phones. Now making a call to your cousin who lives down the lane or the one who lives overseas is just a swipe away.
This, in turn, has made it easier for us to keep in touch with our long lost friends and people are now hooked on each other like paper and pin. Now to even think about getting bored or lonely would be an excuse for being lazy. But it has more to do than that as sometimes you are not physically lonely but are stranded alone in a room full of people.
Even socializing cannot keep you away from feeling lonely because it’s the intimacy that you are lacking. And if you have felt like this for a longer period of time, where loneliness doesn’t seem to leave your hand then you might be suffering from chronic loneliness.
Not enough emphasis has been given to chronic loneliness and many still consider it as a light affliction or a minor inconvenience. Many neurologists, physiologists and psychologists have claimed that chronic loneliness has overwhelming health risks. Some even lead to dementia, early death and paradoxically anti-social behaviour.
Elderly people especially those in their 70’s and 80’s know how sickening loneliness can be after the loss of their significant other. No matter how hard you try, you just cannot fill the void and people can only offer words of sympathy instead of giving you a warm company. What makes it more brutal is that unlike depression, there are no medications or therapy sessions that could cure chronic loneliness.
The latter can only be cured by a needed company and investment of time. Longtime married couples who have lost their partners have battled chronic loneliness at a deeper level. The loss of someone who has endured the wrath of time with you can have a lasting impression on your life. Their habits, thoughts and absence can affect you so much that you won’t find comfort in anything you do. You’ll search for them in every new person that you meet, but this will only lead to disappointment.
The lack of social connection or bonding can be considered as one of the reasons why loneliness has become debatable. Now more and more families are becoming nuclear and children have to move out of town in search of work. Many youngsters who end up in the corporate field find it difficult to balance between work and maintaining relationships.
Many distance them from their near and dear ones. As they feel they no longer are a part of their life and they shouldn’t bother them. The tedious 9-6 schedule, the endless office gossips and backbiting sap out the energy and desire to have a meaningful conversation. This usually makes them dull, devoid of having a heartfelt connection with people.
The reason being that we associate bonding with warmth. Therefore, lonely people often crave long hot showers as they relate company with ‘physical warmth’ and having long hot shower gives them relief. To find a correlation between this, a survey was conducted in 2013. Wherein, people going through a long-term phase of loneliness usually took long, hot showers and baths. This can be linked to actual physical “warmth” being shared between people, having hot shower would imitate the early social bonding phase.
Loneliness has been linked to several health problems but one of the most striking is having a weaker immune system than a socially satisfied person. According to the stats presented by the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). The immune system shift focus in lonelier people, focusing on bacteria rather than viruses. Therefore, lonely people are more prone to viral threats.
It has been found that people who aren’t happy with their social life don’t hit the deep stages of sleep. As they are socially deprived they don’t channelize their energy to the fullest. Such people doze off during the day and stay awake at night.
Dr Lentz says, “In the morning, they don’t feel as refreshed, so the loneliness and worry feed into the next night”.
Those battling with long-term loneliness often isolate themselves, which leads to anxiety and mood disorders. Lack of social bonding makes them less engaged and functional. Loneliness and inner emptiness start taking a toll on their life. Therefore, they develop feelings of separation/isolation from the world.
As a result of stress, lonely people have elevated cortisol levels which turns into daily anxiety if you are alone. Therefore, lonely people often complain about anxiousness than depression. According to Dr Lentz, “Lonely people feel isolated, anxious and are afraid that something bad will happen when they’ll be left alone and nobody will ever know”.
Cortisol, the primary stress hormone not only worsens your anxiety but it also makes it tough to control your blood sugar levels. This explains why loneliness is linked with high blood sugar. Since you are socially inactive, you’ll stay more indoors. Therefore, little or less movement will result in uncontrollable blood sugar levels.
Similarly, your blood pressure fluctuates when you are stressed out. “Blood pressure can be lower when you’re inactive, but stress can cause the heart rate to increase and cause blood pressure to be less stable”, says Dr Lentz. Having chronically high blood pressure can cause heart diseases and even heart attack.
Being all by yourself means you are not interacting much, meeting new people, faces and remembering the minute details like somebody’s name, address, phone number etc. Having little or no social interaction means you are talking less and the receptors in your brain are not receiving any signals, as it isn’t working. Therefore, it can lead to the risk of dementia.
If you don’t remember when was the last time you went outside and enjoyed socializing, then you might be suffering from chronic loneliness. In such case, you need to seek help from a therapist. Do share your problem with someone who really cares about your mental well-being.
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