Doctors are now becoming aware of the detrimental effects loneliness can have on people’s well being. The busy lives that we lead and the increase in technology that makes it easier for people to live, work and entertain themselves on their own and the decrease in the more traditional family and communities all contribute to the rise in lonely people. These people, doctors are reporting, are nearly twice as likely to die prematurely as those who do not suffer feelings of isolation.
A report written by Professor John Cacioppo called ‘Rewarding Social Connections Promote Successful Ageing’ looks into the effect of satisfying relationships on the elderly.
This report found that elderly people were more able to recover from adversity if they had the support of friendships from where they gained strength. For those who did not have connections to turn to, this loneliness had a negative effect upon their health. Their feelings of isolation contributed to raised blood pressure, lower immunity, disrupted sleep, depression and an increase in the stress hormone, cortisol. All these could be countered by keeping in touch with family and friends.
Loneliness can lead to many other painful emotions, such as vulnerability, depression, worthlessness, anger and emptiness. Often the fear of rejection, of being disliked or unwanted may give an impression of being unapproachable and thereby stops people getting close to others.
A 2010 report commissioned by The Mental Health Foundation quotes research that suggests lonely people often share certain characteristics: these include more of a history of loss or trauma and a childhood spent with negative, critical and harsh parenting.
Speaking to a trained psychotherapist or counsellor can help with understanding what psychological fears and experiences may lie behind social isolation and the consequent feelings of loneliness and thereby build a confidence to grow a supportive and satisfying social network.
The psychotherapists at The Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice have many years experience of helping people who suffer loneliness and isolation.
The Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice is found at 121 Harley Street in London.