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Dealing With Loneliness

People have never had so many ways to connect, yet more and more of us feel disconnected,” says Markham Heid, author of “The Loneliness Epidemic” for TIME Magazine. This can be especially the case for those who are dealing with mental illnesses or addictions which drive them to isolate. Continue reading to learn more about loneliness.

The Root of Loneliness Matters

Loneliness, according to Kerstin Gerst Emerson, a clinical assistant professor in the College of Public Health at the University of Georgia, says that “is just as much or more important [than smoking, obesity, a bad diet, and too little exercise] when it comes to mortality.” Besides the uptick in mortality rates, loneliness also impacts many other health conditions, such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, which all increase when someone reports being lonely.

Loneliness can also cause higher levels of inflammation, says Kimberley Smith, a lecturer in health psychology at the University of Surrey. She calls this loneliness “imperiling.” Jeppe Henriksen, a medical researcher for Aarhus University Hospital, says that “Inflammation tears the body down.” When someone is “deprived” of regular, consistent contact with other humans, they may “live in a constant state of mild stress,” says Henriksen.

Furthermore, “loneliness-triggered stress chemicals could alter the function of immune cells and signaling pathways, promoting illness,” says Robert Waldinger, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Mental and cognitive disorders are also more likely to occur in people who report loneliness.

Although the impacts of loneliness may not be shown right away, says Timothy Matthews, a professor at King’s College London, “lonelier young adults are more likely to smoke daily and be less physically active” which contributes to overall physical health. Matthews and his colleagues have also found that loneliness is linked to “higher rates of depression, anxiety, and self-harm among young adults.”

How We Can Combat Loneliness?

Loneliness, says Heid, has increased in recent times with less people regularly attending group gatherings for more solitary entertainments. “Prioritizing get-togethers and time spent with friends or family members is a great way to reverse this trend,” he says. “Joining a book club, a study group, or some kind of sports team can also help. Even ‘weak’ social ties— a casual chat with a barista or neighbor—seems to promote well-being and belonging.” This sense of loneliness cannot just be solved by joining a club, however.

Matthews explains that “Putting a lonely individual in a room full of people is not necessarily going to be enough. People can feel lonely even in the company of others.” Quality—not quantity—is what matters. Try to spend quality time with people you enjoy, rather than focusing on getting as much interaction in as possible.

Villa Tranquil Recovery is here to help you build quality relationships and stop loneliness. Call us today for help in your recovery at 214-799-3080. We can’t wait to hear from you!