We welcome Stefanie Simyone who looks into the topic of loneliness, something that we can all experience from time to time. Stefanie is a freelancer and mother of two who after experiencing a toxic relationship, worked on how to put it all behind her by helping others to become self-aware and build healthier relationships.
Some behavioral experts believe that the discomfort associated with loneliness is a “wake-up call” that warns us of social isolation. In ancient times, a person had almost no chance of survival on their own. Why do we still fear to be alone?
We are social beings. For successful survival, we need a safe and comfortable social environment, our group. When a person’s relationship with a group is disrupted, two interrelated problems can arise…
…social isolation and loneliness. Social isolation is an easy factor to measure. However, dealing with loneliness and measuring its depth is much more difficult. On the one hand, a person can have many contacts but if they do not feel an emotional connection with them, they may feel lonely. On the other hand, a person can communicate with only two old friends and feel happy.
How to Recognize Loneliness
Feelings of loneliness can be considered a special evolutionary mechanism that signals that something has gone wrong. Perhaps that is why the signs of loneliness in all people are more, or less, similar. We can divide these into three groups:
- Psychological – feelings of desolation and abandonment, sadness, longing, disappointment, shame, or even despair.
- Social loneliness – a decrease in the sense of control over one’s own life, a decrease in involvement in public life; a person ceases to be interested in their own life, work, abandons their hobby.
- Physical – decreased energy and apathy, vulnerability to stress, low stress resistance, worsening of chronic diseases.
Types of Loneliness
There are lonely people in every part of the world, but they can experience loneliness and depression in different ways. Since this is a unique experience for each person, it is tough to give it a single concise definition. The most common classification highlights three types of loneliness:
- Situational loneliness – Researchers connect it with the social and cultural environment. Moving, an accident, or a quarrel with a loved one can lead to this type of self-isolation. Turning to web communities and dating sites, for instance, datingmentor.org, can help in this matter.
- Loneliness in the process of development – It is believed that every person has two critical needs. First is an innate desire to be close to other people, which requires communication, and the second is the desire to develop one’s self. The latter requires some degree of solitude. If the balance between these two needs is disturbed, a person feels a loss of meaning in life and emptiness.
- Inner loneliness – This relates to self-awareness; for example, people suffering from low self-esteem often suffer from this. A person can seem to have many friends and acquaintances but may still suffer from chronic loneliness.
The most common three types of loneliness are situational loneliness, loneliness in the process of development and inner loneliness.
Negative Consequences of Being Lonely
Loneliness can not only poison our life but can also lead to health problems. People who live alone are more likely to get sick, die earlier, and generally feel worse than their peers who do not live alone. Lonely people smoke more often, eat poorly, and move less. All of which can lead to severe illnesses.
Want to know how loneliness affects the mind and body? Here is just a short list of health conditions that can be triggered by the feeling of social separation:
- Cardiovascular problems – Loneliness and self-isolation are as bad for the heart as smoking. In lonely people, blood pressure is significantly higher, and there are more cholesterol plaques in the vessels than in peers who communicate with others more often. These symptoms increase the risk of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease.
- Loneliness and diabetes – Single individuals have an increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. If a single person already has diabetes, the situation is likely to worsen.
- Loneliness and mental issues – The most dangerous problems associated with loneliness are an increased risk of psychosis, depression, and even suicide.
How to Overcome Loneliness
Loneliness often escalates on holidays that people traditionally spend with family, friends, or lovers. The matters get worse on Valentine’s Day. For this reason, psychologists advise singles not to despair, but to spend this holiday in an exciting place. Find a match for yourself, use fast dating sites, or ask your friends whether they have any single acquaintances who feel lonely. Communication on the internet doesn’t impose too much pressure on you. How to deal with loneliness? Pouring out your soul to a stranger can be a pretty useful method.
If a person has difficulty communicating with people, animals can come to the rescue. The benefits of cats and dogs for singles (and others under stress) have long been proven.
Many psychologists recommend getting a pet and plunging into the new exciting world of taking care of a living creature. People suffering from loneliness can train their pets, buy them toys, and even travel with them if the destination boasts some pet-friendly hotels.
The most useful tip on how to overcome loneliness and reduce stress is to find something to do. Pensioners are more often at risk — they often lose their lifelong partner and then contact with children and other relatives can stop. The authorities of many countries provide an opportunity for the elderly to engage in an exciting hobby. Retirees can enroll in various activities and programs, learn to dance, paint, or study foreign languages. The key to dealing with loneliness is to find your vocation. What methods do you use to overcome loneliness and isolation?
Bob Brotchie is a counsellor, mindset consultant and creator of Conscious Living by Design™. He writes for Anglia Counselling, is featured on various other websites and introduces us to many guest writers all covering topics related to mental health and wellbeing.
Bob provides bespoke counselling services to clients in the privacy and comfort of a truly welcoming environment at his Anglia Counselling company office, located near Newmarket in Suffolk, England. Bob also provides professional online counselling, for local, national, and international clients. The therapeutic models offered are bespoke to the client’s needs, especially those in receipt of 'childhood emotional neglect' (CEN), whilst integrating a mindful approach to psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) principles. For clients experiencing trauma and/or phobia, Bob offers EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing).