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Reducing the stigma of loneliness

Hours after getting home from work which is usually a long day, you search through the TV stations for something interesting, you want to relax and get entertained but you just feel distanced from yourself and the rest of the world, you feel isolated. You could be surrounded by family or loved ones and still feel isolated, lonely and unwanted.

Research has shown that loneliness is prevalent throughout society, including people in marriages, relationships, families, veterans, and those with successful careers not just exclusive to the singles.

The Loneliness Awareness Week want to change the perception around loneliness and help people to understand that feeling lonely is completely normal.

Loneliness is a complex and usually unpleasant emotional response to isolation. It is an anxious feelings about a lack of connection or communication with other beings. Loneliness can be felt even when in the company of other people and one who feels lonely, is lonely. The causes of loneliness are varied and include social, mental, emotional, and physical factors.

As social creatures, we need to attend to our loneliness just as we would eat if we’re hungry. Social connections are fundamental to our daily existence and help give meaning and purpose in our lives, everyone will be affected by loneliness at some point in their lives.  For many, it is a transitory feeling but for others, it can become chronic and have a serious impact on a person’s health and wellbeing.

Loneliness Awareness Week 2019 themed reducing the stigma of loneliness isn’t just for the singles but for everyone, it is recognized openly as something likely to affect us all.

  • Around 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month.
  • Up to 85% of young disabled adults 18-34 year olds feel lonely

Curbing Loneliness sometimes starts with a ‘hello’, it’s not just parents. Children and young people across the country also experience loneliness. Many are growing up in care, are disabled, are a parent themselves or are supporting their mums and dads with health issues, all which can have a huge part to play in loneliness. Our services provide support to help children, young people and parents overcome loneliness and isolation in their lives.

Children sometimes don’t speak at all, not trusting anyone to understand them. Disabled children can lack friends despite their families’ best efforts. Parents can struggle to adapt to a new routine and feel isolated and alone. The feeling of loneliness can be a painful but normal reaction to an uncomfortable situation. However, when it occurs often or lasts for a considerable time, it can become a chronic state. This can then have significant long-term impacts on a person’s mental and physical health. Its effects are as detrimental to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Chronic loneliness can begin in childhood, when the need for a close and intimate relationship is rooted in early parent-child attachment.

Through a person’s life, long term loneliness can lead to stress, anxiety, paranoia, depression, coronary heart disease, substance misuse, eating issues, sleep disturbance, and cognitive deterioration. In young people, there are clear correlations between loneliness and poor mental and physical health, and between loneliness and lower academic attainment. Loneliness also affects a child’s emotions, the way they understand and respond to others, and how well they cope with events which are beyond their control.

The sudden change of routine, reduced resources and loss of time to socialize can mean that many parents feel isolated. In Action for Children’s recent poll of over 2000 parents, more than half had experienced a problem with loneliness, with a fifth feeling lonely in the last week. Parents with a child under one, those not in full time work, single parents and those with a disability or caring for someone with a disability were more likely to have a problem with loneliness. The changes that come with parenthood also impact on relationships within the family.

Surprisingly, younger adults (those aged 16 to 24) were found to experience loneliness more often than those in older age groups; while women, widows, single people, renters and those with poor health were also identified as more susceptible.

Loneliness can be life-altering for those who experience it. It can also be a minefield for those who want to help, but don’t know where to start. So whether your friend has told you they’re lonely, you suspect your neighbor might be, or you just want to help, “Strike up a conversation and discover the shared interests that are often the key to friendship,” If you suspect a neighbor is lonely, stop by for a chat or invite them over, likewise if there’s always someone on their own in your local pub, or even on holiday, take some time out to talk to them.

There is a clear distinction between feeling lonely and being socially isolated (for example, a loner). In particular, one way of thinking about loneliness is as a discrepancy between one’s necessary and achieved levels of social interaction, while solitude is simply the lack of contact with people. Loneliness is therefore a subjective experience; if a person thinks they are lonely, then they are lonely. People can be lonely while in solitude, or in the middle of a crowd. What makes a person lonely is the fact that they need more social interaction or a certain type of social interaction that is not currently available. A person can be in the middle of a party and feel lonely due to not talking to enough people. Conversely, one can be alone and not feel lonely; even though there is no one around that person is not lonely because there is no desire for social interaction. There have also been suggestions that each person has their own optimal level of social interaction. If a person gets too little or too much social interaction, this could lead to feelings of loneliness or over-stimulation.

Don’t let no one shame you for been lonely, loneliness affects people of all ages.

There are many different ways used to treat loneliness, social isolation, and clinical depression. The first step that most doctors recommend to patients is therapy. This is a common and effective way of treating loneliness and is often successful. During therapy, emphasis is put on understanding the cause of the problem, reversing the negative thoughts, feelings, and attitudes resulting from the problem, and exploring ways to help the patient feel connected.

Some doctors also recommend group therapy as a means to connect with other sufferers and establish a support system.

Doctors also frequently prescribe anti-depressants to patients as a stand-alone treatment,

Alternative approaches to treating depression are suggested by many doctors. These treatments include exercise, dieting, hypnosis, electro-shock therapy, acupuncture, and herbs, amongst others. Many patients find that participating in these activities fully or partially alleviates symptoms related to depression.

For some, pets aren’t just their best friends but their sole companions. Pets work miracles in transforming the lives of those who feel alone, companions such as dogs, cats, rabbits, and guinea pigs can ease feelings of depression and loneliness among some sufferers.

Making connection a priority builds communities that are less burdened by loneliness and are generally more resilient.

Do yourself a favor and call a friend today.

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