Harmful effects of Chronic Loneliness: Its Symptoms and Risks Involved

Harmful effects of Chronic Loneliness: Its Symptoms and Risks Involved

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. cellphones. 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.

Loneliness isn’t Always Physical but Mental :

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. While many neurologists, physiologists and psychologists have shown that chronic loneliness has overwhelming health risks, leading to dementia, early death and paradoxically anti-social behaviour.

Harmful effects of untreated Chronic loneliness on your health:

  • About 15-30% of the general population is dealing with chronic loneliness which can also be defined as long-term loneliness. If left unattended chronic loneliness can lead to severe health issues. It can also accelerate morbidity, morality and cardiovascular health risk in young adulthood.
  • Loneliness has also been related to severe personality disorders & psychoses, suicide, impaired cognitive performance & cognitive decline over time, increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, diminished executive control and increase in depressive symptoms.
  • Many people who are lonely often say that they have chosen not to waste their time in meaningless chatter or in socializing with worn out people. Sometimes loneliness is persistent and no matter how much you try to keep yourself busy, it doesn’t wash off and stays with you like a shadow does. This, in turn, can lead to depression and alcoholism.

How Brutal Chronic Loneliness can be for Adults and Elderly People: 

In adults and elderly people especially those in their 70’s and 80’s who have experienced loneliness after the loss of their significant other know how sickening it can be. 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’s more heartbreaking 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 with chronic loneliness at a deeper level. The loss of someone who endured the wrath of time with you can have a lasting impression on your life. Their habits, thoughts and their 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.

What causes Long-term Loneliness?

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 have to juggle between work and keeping in touch with their loved ones.

Many distance themselves 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 their desire to reach out others for having a meaningful conversation. This usually makes them dull, devoid of having a heartfelt connection with people.

Symptoms and Signs that might suggest you are dealing with chronic loneliness:

Chronic Loneliness Symptoms
Symptoms of Chronic Loneliness
  • You have started taking a lot of long, hot showers and baths:

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 a 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.

  • You are getting sick often:

Loneliness has been linked with 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.

  • Having sleepless nights often:

Since you are socially deprived, you don’t channelize your energy to the fullest and end up sleeping during the day without even realizing it and stay awake at night. It has been found that people who aren’t happy with their social life don’t hit the deep stages of sleep, they need to feel fully rejuvenated.

Dr. Lentz says,

“In the morning, they don’t feel as refreshed, so the loneliness and worry feed into the next night”.

  • Feeling isolated, alone and down in the dumps: 

Those battling with long-term loneliness often isolate themselves, which leads to anxiety and mood disorders. Lack of social bonding makes them feel hopeless, less engaged and less functional. Inner emptiness takes a toll on their life, they start developing feelings of separation/isolation from the world.

  • Unable to kick out your anxiety:

As a result of stress, lonely people have elevated cortisol level 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”.

  • Your diabetes is unmanageable:

Cortisol, the primary stress hormone not only worsens your anxiety but it also makes it harder to control your blood sugar levels which explains why loneliness is linked with high blood sugar. Since you are socially inactive, you’ll stay more indoors and will move around less resulting in uncontrollable blood sugar levels.

  • Unstable Blood Pressure:

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.

  • Your memory is fading away:

Being all by yourself means you are not conversing 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.

  • You don’t know how long you have felt this way:

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 and share about your problem to someone, whom you think really cares about your mental health.

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