What is Chronic Loneliness : Why Do People Feel Lonely?

Quick facts about Chronic Loneliness

  • Loneliness doesn’t have any resemblance with the number of family members you live with or friends you have
  • Chronic loneliness is the emotional or social feeling of being disconnected from the people you are surrounded by
  • From the total number of people suffering from loneliness, 60% of them are married as many of them avoid sharing their thoughts, feelings, experiences, etc. with their partners or any other
  • Simply asking people about recalling the times they felt alone or lonely is sufficient to make them feel devalued regarding their relationships
  • Loneliness is infectious regarding social networks, hence, if you are suffering from loneliness, there are high chances your friends would also be accompanying you with the same feeling
  • Merely by recalling the time when you felt lonely can make you feel cold
  • Loneliness comes with an instant reaction on the body like an increase in blood pressure levels, boosts cholesterol levels, activates psychological and physical stress, etc.
  • The people suffering from chronic loneliness are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular diseases as their bodies are constantly under high-stress levels
  • Loneliness reduces the functioning of the immune system of the individual resulting in various health risks and seasonal flu is quite common
  • Loneliness can have equal health risks as smoking cigarette may have on the human body
  • Chronic loneliness can increase the risk of early death by around 14%

Chronic Loneliness: A Silently Increasing Epidemic Health Issue

Loneliness does not come from having no people around you, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to you.” – Carl Jung

Have you ever seen a child struggling to make friends in school or neighborhood? Or any old woman visiting the clinic complaining about pain or aches? Both of these are examples of chronic loneliness. There are many of us looking for friends or someone to talk on social sites like Facebook but fail in connecting with anyone or share their feelings. This is also a part of chronic loneliness.

Loneliness is something that is even worse compared to obesity or smoking. Chronic loneliness can be described as loneliness one suffers when fails to share his/her feelings or emotions with any friend or family member. It is a negative feeling when one fails to meet social requirements or connections. It is among the mental health condition in which one feels socially isolated and uncomfortable for a long time. The health issue is deeply connected with feelings like poor self-confidence, insufficiency, self-loathing, etc.

The people suffering from chronic loneliness are liable to feel alone, unwanted, and empty. They desire for human contact, but their thoughts and mental state make it difficult for them to build up connections with others, especially strangers.

Here is all you need to know about this chronic health condition and unpleasant experience including how it affects your body, the possible complications, and different ways to deal with it.

Why Do People Feel Lonely?

Chronic loneliness can be felt due to various reasons. Some of the common reasons why people are suffering from loneliness include:

  • Joining a new job or school
  • Working from home
  • Moving to a new city frequently
  • End of any important relationship
  • Living alone or far from family for the very first time in life

When any of the above situations take place, people find it difficult to adjust to the new environment and feel alone or unwanted. While some of them may get contented with changes in their life, some feel it difficult and continue to feel alone.

Sometimes it also happens that an individual is surrounded by many people, friends, family members, or even colleagues, yet they feel it difficult to reach out to them and feel lonelier. This is due to a lack of meaningful connections and closeness to anyone. For the singles out there, loneliness can also be suffered as they find it difficult to spend time with families or as couples as they are happy being single. On the other hand, the married couples are at high risk of suffering from chronic loneliness as after some years of marriage, they don’t share their feelings, emotions, etc. with each other or anyone else.

Lastly, if one is suffering from any physical or mental health issue, the chances of him suffering from chronic loneliness increases. There are many health conditions that make it difficult for the sufferer to explain their feelings, hence end up with loneliness.

What are the symptoms of suffering from Chronic Loneliness?

Chronic loneliness is a mental health issue, the symptoms, and signs of which vary from one person to another, as well as the situation of the individual. Here are some of the common symptoms and signs one is suffering from chronic loneliness.

  • The individual fails to connect with other people either deeply or an intimate level
  • Having many friends and family members around, but fails in communicating with them
  • Having no best friend or close friend to share your feelings or emotions with
  • Devastating the feelings and emotions instead of sharing without thinking about the place and surrounding people
  • Feeling isolated or disengaged even when surrounded by a huge crowd like during parties, festivals, at work, and other occasions
  • Feeling lonely even while traveling on a train, bus, flight, or even while walking on the streets with many people around you
  • Feeling negative regarding self-confidence and self-doubt in longer terms
  • Feeling unheard or communal when trying to talk with others or connect with others
  • Feeling burned out or exhausted when trying to get connected socially
  • Continuously suffering from health issues like having a weak immune system, sleeping issues, lack of proper diet, etc.

What are the effects of Chronic Loneliness on your health?

When an individual suffers from chronic loneliness for the long-term, it is surely going to affect his mental as well as physical health. Loneliness comes with an impact on the cortisol levels of the body which is a hormone produced due to increased stress levels. When the cortisol levels in the body increase, it can result in inflammation, insulin resistance, a sudden increase in weight, concentrating issues, etc.

Here are other ways of how chronic loneliness affects the overall health of the sufferer.

1. Chronic illness

Loneliness and social segregation have been linked with various other health issues like cardiovascular diseases, chronic illness, emotional distress, increased cholesterol levels, depression, diabetes, etc. Loneliness also increases the chances of early death. Loneliness can worsen the mental health of the individual to a great extent.

2. Changes in sleeping patterns

According to a study, chronic loneliness comes with a deep impact on the sleeping quality of the sufferer. The people suffering from loneliness are found to have poor sleep, insomnia, or poor quality of sleep. This can lead to violence and worsen the mental condition to a great extent. This can also lead to difficulty in day-to-day functions during the daytime.

3. Depression and Stress

Stress and depression go hand in hand with chronic loneliness. The patients going through chronic loneliness avoid talking with others, limit their feelings and emotions with themselves only and hence, lack the care and support from friends and family members. This loneliness can increase the stress levels and lead to depression which also increases the risk of having a cognitive decline. Hence, if one is going through depression or stress, chronic loneliness is surely going to appear on a long-term basis.

Apart from all these, chronic loneliness can also lead to other health issues like diabetes type-2, increased blood pressure levels, heart diseases, addiction to alcohol or drugs, antisocial behavior, strokes, suicidal attempts, sexual orientation issues, emotional and mental problems, and other health issues that can result to death in early age on long-term. Hence, if you feel loneliness is disturbing your physical health, it is the right time you need to talk with a doctor or therapist as soon as possible.

Does Chronic Loneliness have an impact on your brain health?

As chronic loneliness is a mental health issue, it comes with a noteworthy impact on your brain health too. According to the results of particular studies, chronic loneliness is also connected with the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease, autism, and dementia. Long-term social isolation and loneliness have a negative impact on cognitive skills which can result in issues like difficulty in focusing, inability in solving even minor problems, failure in making effective decisions, negative changes in self-belief, depression, suicidal attacks, bipolar disorder, etc. Hence, along with physical health issues, chronic loneliness comes with a deep impact on mental health or says brain health too.

What is the treatment of Chronic Loneliness?

No doubt, chronic loneliness is an issue that is not easy to diagnose, yet there are possible ways to deal with this feeling. And the best treatment for chronic loneliness is to learn its root cause for getting to the right solution. Some possible and common situations that lead to loneliness include:

  • Trouble in learning about the people around you, that is, learning whether they are simply new friends or romantic partners
  • Missing old friends, neighbors, or family members after moving to a new place or city
  • Having many casual relationships but none of the relationships are meaningful
  • One might have felt like low self-esteem, self-doubt, social anxiety, etc., that performs the role of hurdles in building strong connections with friends and family members

No matter whatever the condition or situation is, it is ideal to meet a professional expert or therapist for helping you out. If any of the friend or family member is suffering from chronic loneliness, make sure you try and talk with them or help them by taking them to therapists. The therapists would get to the root cause and plan a proper therapy or treatment to help the patient get out of the condition slowly yet effectively.

What are the lifestyle tips to deal with chronic loneliness?

When suffering from chronic loneliness, there are particular lifestyle changes that can help you out in dealing with mental or relationship issues. Here are some tips that can make you feel additionally engaged with other people.

  • Be it through social sites or physically, make sure you are in touch with the friends and family members either daily or once in a week
  • Look for applications like Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, Skype, etc. and communicate through chats or video calls
  • Try to participate in social gatherings or community events like attending the sale of library books, helping with trash cleanup, working at food banks, donating to any local animal shelter, school or college gatherings, etc.
  • Don’t limit your interests or hobbies. Avoid hesitating for any new hobby like dancing, singing, woodworking, guitar, art, and craft, etc.
  • Visit the community events on social apps like Meetup and Facebook and interact with people with similar interests
  • Be it having a cup of coffee, dinners, or even shopping for vegetables or other accessories, step out of your house and visit restaurants, coffee shops, local markets, theaters, etc. While walking out, make sure you greet and talk to someone. Even starting with a small hello or beautiful smile is enough
  • Pets have proved to be better friends or companions. They are much helpful in developing connections with people around you. So, look for having a pet in the house like a cat, dog, tortoise, etc. that would help in increasing the chances of interacting with others
  • Try to be a little comfortable with being alone. Spending time with yourself sometimes is not harmful but the hours should be limited and one should end up being positive for the same
  • Look for activities that are rewarding and comfortable for you to beat loneliness. Be it sitting comfortably in front of the TV, humorous activities, music, reading books, etc., practice all such activities that add positivity to your loneliness
  • Take out time and get involved in some exercises, yoga, or other wellness activities that come with a positive impact on loneliness
  • Don’t limit yourself indoors. Go out and enjoy outdoor activities to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, etc. and deal with loneliness

Summary

Living alone for some time is surely helpful for everyone as it helps in making the right decision, or get out of any unwanted mood. But when this happens for long-term, and it starts becoming a part of your life, you surely need to think seriously about it. Some people suffer from loneliness for some days, but there are many people who are finding it difficult to deal with loneliness for months or years with no ray of improvement.

Chronic loneliness is surely a mental health condition, but there is no particular treatment recommended for the same which makes it difficult to deal with the issue. Incapacitating loneliness is surely challenging for anyone, at any stage, especially for the people who are introverted or shy. This may take time but it is truly essential to look for new relationships or improve existing ones to reduce its impact.

 

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