While loneliness is a transient feeling that many of us will experience at some point in our lives, longstanding loneliness can severely affect both our mental and physical health. These are the signs that you or a loved one has chronic loneliness:
1. SOCIAL ANXIETY. If you are regularly feeling lonely, a key indicator might be that social events leave you feeling burned out, emotionally drained or mentally exhausted.
In terms of mental health, lonely individuals are more prone to depression and anxiety, particularly social anxiety. It also puts individuals at greater risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
2. HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE. There is strong evidence that loneliness can also have an adverse effect on physical health too. This is probably a consequence of the stress that is experienced through loneliness which results in higher levels of natural steroids.
This can cause high blood pressure and elevated levels of cholesterol which results in higher levels of cardiovascular disease. It has been estimated that living with loneliness is equivalent to the effect of smoking a packet of cigarettes each day and that it puts people at a 50% increased risk of death.
3. DIFFICULTY SLEEPING.
Insomnia, disrupted sleep or other sleep-related issues may all be physical symptoms of loneliness. Another sign is sleeping too much; often when people are feeling sad, or in this case lonely, many turn to sleep as a way to block out how they feel.
Loneliness can wreck the chances of getting a restful night's sleep. What we found was that loneliness does not appear to change the total amount of sleep in individuals, but awakens them more times during the night. When you feel lonely, you show more micro-awakenings.
4. LOSS OF CONFIDENCE. Loneliness is an emotional response to an unwanted situation. Over time, loneliness can affect confidence and self-esteem and make people withdraw from others and end up avoiding situations that may help reduce feelings of loneliness.
5. LOSS OF APPETITE AND EXERCISING.
Some signs of loneliness also include a loss of appetite and not finding the motivation to exercise. Lifestyle related, i.e. people may take less care over eating well/healthily, may not exercise as much as they should, more likely to smoke and we know these have a negative effect on our health.
6. FEELING IN A CONSTANT UNPLEASANT STATE. While many of us will suffer bouts of sadness, those with chronic loneliness will feel like they are constantly in an unpleasant state, unable to find any hope.
If we think about loneliness as this adaptive response kind of like hunger and thirst, it's this unpleasant state that motivates us to seek out social connections just like hunger motivates us to seek out food.
7. INCREASED DESIRE TO BINGE-WATCH. Previous research conducted by the University of Texas found that the more lonely a person is, the more likely they are to binge-watch TV or films. While this is something many of us do occasionally, the study found that, sadly, lonely people do this as a distraction.
What to do if you are feeling lonely
If you have been feeling lonely for a while, a first step is to notice and identify this, even just to yourself. Everyone will have a different experience of loneliness and different reasons for why they are feeling this way.
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