Loneliness is as damaging as smoking and as chronic as obesity. One of the major impacts of loneliness is the way it impinges on the mental well-being of an individual. Studies have shown that loneliness is responsible for a host of psychiatric disorders, such as depression and anxiety. In fact, loneliness has been linked to a variety of autoimmune disorders, apart from various physiological problems, especially those related to the heart.
One of the key factors responsible for an increased risk for such ailments in lonely people is their tendency to undergo biological changes owing to social isolation. It has been found that the white blood cells of lonely people undergo drastic changes, and more often than not, fear is the predominant marker. The genetic code of people habituated to living in social isolation shows exaggerated inflammatory tendencies, which is a precursor to many neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Understanding physiology of loneliness
An individual is a product of the society, and therefore, his or her entire life revolves around it, requiring harmonized activities between the two. Social interactions are a part and parcel of everyday life and are, often, extremely important for the individual’s social and psychological needs.
When an individual tries to establish a social bond with his or her peers, hormones are secreted that act as stress busters. Even babies, as young as a year old, understand the importance of social interaction. They are cranky and irritable when lonely, but perk up on seeing someone nearby.
Loneliness is, apparently, a chronic problem in America, impacting people of all ages. Even millennials (those born in the 1980s or 1990s), who are highly involved in the social media, have also been impacted by the ill-effects of loneliness. Millennials, because of the lack of coherent social interaction, are just as likely to face the problems of loneliness as the aged, who are without friends and family members and often have to fend on their own.
Studies have shown that senior citizens who have a stronger friend circle post-retirement are more likely to live longer and have healthier lives. According to a 2015 study, published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), both loneliness and social isolation are contributory factors to mortality and are believed to increase the risks of mortality by 26 percent.
Poor social relationships lead to mental disorders
In his assessment of loneliness and its impact on the physical and psychological health, psychologist John Cacioppo from the University of Chicago said that the pathophysiological processes that are set into motion as a result of loneliness culminate into the body wearing down.
Some of the detrimental effects of loneliness are:
- Increase in suicidal tendencies
- Higher levels of stress in lonely people even while they are relaxing, as opposed to those who have a good social circle
- Damage to the circulatory system due to an increase in the levels of stress hormones.
- Poor quality sleep and sleep disorders resulting in a vicious cycle of depression and anxiety.
Road to recovery
Excessive social isolation and loneliness could lead to serious mental health conditions. It could aggravate suicidal tendencies and lead to other serious mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety disorder, which could adversely affect the physical health.
If you or someone you know is experiencing high stress levels, seek professional help immediately You can get in touch with the California Mental Health Helpline to find the best mental health centers in California. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-559-3923 or chat online with our experts to get details about the best options for mental health treatment in California