Chronic loneliness: what is it, why is it dangerous and how to overcome it

The diagnosis of chronic loneliness is not in the classification of mental disorders

MKB-10

, nor in the diagnostic manual for mental disorders

DSM -5

.

All people are social beings. This means that for successful survival we need a safe and comfortable

social environment,

our own group. When a person’s relationship with a group is broken,

two related problems

may arise: social isolation and loneliness.

Social exclusion is a factor that is fairly easy to measure.

If our number of social ties decreases, the number of contacts decreases and the circle of people with whom we are ready to communicate narrows, we can talk about social isolation.

Dealing with loneliness and measuring its depth is much more difficult. After all, a person can have many contacts - but if he does not feel an emotional connection with these people, then he may experience loneliness. Or vice versa: a person can only communicate with two old friends and feel happy.

There are lonely people in any part of the world, but each person experiences his loneliness differently.

Since this is a unique experience for each person, it is very difficult to give him a single, capacious definition. However, researchers have developed a classification that helps you navigate.

There are three types of loneliness:

  1. Situational loneliness. It is believed that this type of loneliness is associated with the social and cultural environment. Situational loneliness can lead, for example, to moving, an accident or a quarrel with a loved one.

  2. Loneliness in the development process . It is believed that each person has two key needs. First: an innate desire to be close with other people - this requires communication. Second: the desire to develop your own "I" - this requires a certain degree of solitude. If the balance between these needs is broken, a person has a feeling of loss of meaning in life, emptiness and loneliness.

  3. Inner loneliness . It is believed that this type of loneliness is associated with a person’s sense of self: for example, people who suffer from low self-esteem often experience inner loneliness. This happens when a person seems to have many friends and acquaintances, but he still feels lonely.

Some behavioral experts

consider

that the unpleasant sensations associated with loneliness are “disturbing” bell ", which warns us

of the risk of social exclusion

. In antiquity, a person who “strayed from a group” had almost no chance of survival.

Feeling of loneliness can be considered a special evolutionary mechanism that signals that something has gone wrong in our life. Maybe that is why the signs of loneliness in all people are more or less similar.

Symptoms of chronic loneliness:

  • Psychological: feeling of desolation and abandonment, sadness, longing, disappointment, shame, or even despair.
  • Social : a decrease in the feeling of control over one’s own life, a decrease in involvement in social life - a person ceases to be interested in politics, charity, abandons a hobby.
  • Physical: decrease in energy and apathy, vulnerability to stresses, decrease in resistance to diseases, aggravation of chronic diseases.

Loneliness can not only poison life, but also lead to health problems. There is a lot of data [

1

,

2

,

3

,

4

,

5

,

6

,

7

,

8

] that people living alone are more likely to get sick, die earlier and generally

feel worse

than their peers who do not have this problem. Lonely people

more often

smoke, eat wrong and move less. All this can lead to serious illness.

Here is just a short list of health problems that can provoke and exacerbate loneliness.

Cardiovascular problems . Loneliness and social isolation are just as harmful to the heart as smoking. In single people, blood pressure is significantly higher, and there are more cholesterol plaques in the vessels than peers who fully communicate with others. This increases the risk of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease.

Loneliness and diabetes .

In single people, the risk of developing metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes is increased. If a single person is already suffering from diabetes, the likelihood of complications increases.

Loneliness and mental problems . The most dangerous problems associated with loneliness are an increased risk of psychosis, the development of depression, and even suicide.

In many popular public places, loners are advised to “just find a group of people with close interests” or even start meeting people on the streets.

But if it were that simple, then there would be no single people. Psychologist Natalya Kiselnikova believes that advice that begins with the words "just" rarely helps anyone. "Simple tips probably do not take into account the individual situation and the characteristics of the person that lead to the problem," says Natalya. "Unfortunately, for the same reason, universal effective tips do not exist either."

If negative experience or beliefs about yourself or other people are an obstacle to making contacts, you need to work with this.

If the matter is lack of communication skills, you can try to acquire them:

  • ask questions to others;
  • talk about yourself and support small talk - that is, an easy conversation on a free topic;
  • show interest and provide emotional support to the interlocutor.

However, studies show that learning communication skills is least associated with a decrease in feelings of loneliness.

It happens that the causes of the problem lie much deeper and it is difficult for a person to find emotionally close people because he does not understand himself well enough and does not know what specific needs he wants to meet in a relationship, people with what values ​​suit him.

If a person feels that the experience of loneliness has become a problem for him, you can turn to a psychotherapist or psychologist-consultant - this is part of the range of issues with which they work.

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