Loneliness is an unpleasant emotional response such as fear, sadness, feeling of unwanted and emptiness which results due to impaired social relationship. Loneliness or social isolation can be caused by many factors which are explained below:
Causes of loneliness
Relocation to new place: Transferring to a new place or country for the purpose of job, better education can result in loneliness. Since in the new place, there is no familiar face around, language spoken are different, food-culture is different from home country or usual surroundings. For all of these, one may make himself/herself socially isolated from others.
Surrounded by wrong group of people: Every human needs a safe and secure environment to survive. Dissatisfying social relationship can lead to severe loneliness. The reason for social isolation is not always quantity but quality of social interactions. Moreover, someone may communicate well in any surroundings but not being understood properly can be the crucial reason for loneliness.
Loneliness is different from solitude. Solitude is when someone enjoys being alone, but loneliness is a subjective term which may cause distressing experience that makes oneself feel all alone and triggers negative emotional response. There are also physical health consequences of loneliness. The psychiatric and physical health disorders of loneliness is outlined below:
Psychiatric health Disorders
Depression: Not being able to be part of safe and secure surroundings can give rise to depression which is ultimately lowers the confidence and result in poor problem-solving skills. Furthermore, loneliness with depression can cause difficulty in maintaining relationship with others.
Decreased memory and learning: Wrong social support and increased feeling of isolation can affect concentration. Perceived feeling of loneliness can increase the risk of dementia (about 64%). Moreover, having a sense of being isolated from others may be the reason for poor judgmental skills and poor decision-making skills. Overall, all these hamper the learning capability of oneself.
Alcoholism: Absence of appropriate social support and distinct perception of community pressure can lead to addiction. Someone may become more vulnerable to drugs and alcohol abuse because of improper social relationship.
Stress and immunity: Acute and chronic stress can be originated from loneliness which may give rise to other significant physical health hazard.
Physical Health Disorders
Loneliness related chronic stress may alter the tendency of cells in the immune system to promote inflammation which is important to enable our bodies to recuperate from injury. These altogether increases the risk of heart disease, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, dementia and many more.
To conclude, being socially isolated can give rise to core feelings like sadness, emptiness, vulnerability, and pessimism that can affect the quality of sleep, can cause daytime fatigue, premature aging. In severe cases it may even give rise to suicidal attempts. Staying in touch with loved ones, volunteer or participate in satisfying community service, making some true or real friends, working on passion, being involved in social activity can prevent loneliness. Finally, if one is diagnosed with severe form of loneliness, professional help such as the help from psychologist or therapist must be taken to prevent loneliness.
Sources: New York Times, Very Well Mind, Cigna Insurance etc.
Written by: Rahima Binta Bashar