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Long Term Loneliness Could Impact Your Mental Health: Expert

Loneliness is more harmful than you think. It can negatively affect your mental health in several ways. Read here to know from expert to understand the link.

Long Term Loneliness Could Impact Your Mental Health: Expert

Loneliness may increase the risk of mental health issues, says expert

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. Loneliness affects your mental health in more than one way
  2. Seek help from expert if you notice signs of mental health issues
  3. Talk to your loved ones to share your emotions

Loneliness is not a state of being physically isolated but a mental state of feeling disconnected. Human beings are social animals because they are biologically tuned to live with other people. Sharing and caring for others is an important motivation to survive and evolve among humans. As we grow older, we are able to create a social network which despite lack of physical proximity, gives us a sense of belongingness and a feeling of comfort.

This has been an increasingly lonely world, despite internet the cohesiveness of family and social networks is reducing. Due to job opportunities, either children have moved away or older people have had to move to newer locations with their children causing a drift from a lifelong socio cultural comfort zone. This change has required many to rework on their adaptive skills. For those who lack in good adaptive skill, the journey, especially during Covid-19 has been quite lonely.

Loneliness doesn't just make people sad. It also makes them sick. One study found that loneliness has the same effect on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Hence, it is even more dangerous to overall health than obesity, physical inactivity, and air pollution. Another study found that loneliness and social isolation lead to a 30 percent increase in the risk of premature death. Loneliness impairs health by raising levels of stress and inflammation. As a result, the risk of heart disease, arthritis, type-2 diabetes, and dementia increases. Moreover, loneliness has been shown to lower immunity and disrupt sleep. In addition, loneliness creates metabolic and hormonal imbalances.

Psychologically, feeling isolated and disconnected increases stress chemicals in brain thus leading to anxiety and mood swings. The constant anxiety can cause mood swings, behavioural issues and suicidal ideation. Deterioration in physical health with ageing also brings challenges in independent functioning and focus is drawn more towards physical illnesses and fear of eventual death. The increased risk to elderly during Covid-19 has caused many a seniors to give up their usual walks in park and group meetings and with everyone either cooped up in their rooms with online occupations or away due to locked down, fear has been the flavour for 2020 causing emergence of major mood disorders like depression, somatoform disorders, OCD and anxiety disorders which needs psychiatric intervention.

Dealing with loneliness-

As loneliness is not a physical state but a mental state, one needs to be aware that most of our fears related to isolation are exaggeration of psychological imprints of a less evolved state like early childhood or even before that of a less evolved human society. In other words, being by oneself need not be threatening if we have a good relationship with our own self. Pursuing personal goals like indulging in creative learning and experiences, living in the present to make most of available resources in current environment, attitude of positivity and gratitude go a long way in ensuring healthier and happier mental state.

(Dr Jyoti Kapoor, Senior Psychiatrist and Founder of Manasthali)


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