What you should know about loneliness

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Dr Machinga

Mental Health

As a psychotherapist, I am seeing an increase in people who are experiencing loneliness and ultimately suffering from various mental health disorders such as depression, suicide ideation, and anxiety to mention a few.Loneliness is a serious risk to mental health.

Loneliness is an emotional state in which a person experiences a powerful feeling of emptiness, secluded or isolation. Who is vulnerable to loneliness? Everyone is vulnerable. I have come to notice that some married people are the loneliest people, which is very sad.

People should marry to have companion instead, some are married to be secluded. This article is meant to speak to this problem, its impact on our mental health and how one can overcome loneliness.

Loneliness is a natural, normal human emotion. When you feel alone or when you feel unwanted or unloved, you’re going to feel lonely. But a sustained sense of loneliness is not normal, it means you need help.

It is important to normalise feelings of loneliness and detect when the feelings become unhealthy and seek help. Almost all of us have experienced loneliness at some point in our lives, but when one feels lonely all the time, it becomes problematic, it could mean that you’re longing for something more to fill your loneliness.

Research has shown that the brain of a lonely individuals registers feelings pain and threat that are like real physical pain and danger.

When loneliness becomes chronic, it can be a serious, life-threatening health condition that warrants early intervention.

Studies has shown that loneliness increases the concentration of stress hormone cortisol levels in the body. When your stress hormone levels are heightened it can be risky. Prolonged, high cortisol levels can cause anxiety, depression, digestive problems, heart disease, sleep problems, and weight gain to mention just a few.

What causes loneliness?

There is no one answer to this problem. Bereavement – the death of someone significant to your life, facing retirement, family breakdown-divorce etc, long-term health condition or mobility limitation, trauma, low self-esteem, rejection and abandonment are key triggers that can create a situation in which loneliness is experienced. Other factors such as physical isolation, discrimination, moving to new location, school, workplace etc. may trigger a feeling of loneliness.

How to deal with the feeling of loneliness?

1.Acknowledge that you have the feeling of loneliness, so that you can be helped, keeping silent only creates more problems for yourself.

2.Determine the source of your loneliness. Ask yourself what you’re missing, where is the emptiness coming from? What do you need and what do you want, talk to someone about this.

  1. Stay connected – seek out people in your life that care about you and who would love nothing more than for you to reach out to them. It is better to stay in contact instead of withdrawing yourself. Cultivating a healthy friendship helps in alleviating your sadness and loneliness.

3.Engage in social activities  –  Hang around with positive minded people.

Regular outings for social functions, exercise, visiting friends, shopping or simply going to public places can help. It is important that you go out and get involved in social activities and engage with people.

  1. Volunteering Activities

Helping others is a great way to help yourself feel more connected and alleviate loneliness.

  1. Find something creative and productive to do to occupy your time. Nourish yourself with something that makes you feel better e.g. working in your garden, cleaning out your house, joining a choir or a social responsibility team.
  2. Engage in fulfilling positive spiritual practices.

If loneliness is continuously causing you extreme distress, you should discuss with a trusted person in your life, a mental health professional, your medical doctor or your spiritual leader. Please take control of your life and make it worthwhile by getting out of loneliness. Help is available. Remember loneliness is not being alone, it’s the feeling that no-one cares.

Dr Mazvita Machinga is a qualified psychotherapist based in Mutare, for psychotherapy and mental health care, call 0778 83 8410, 0771 754 519. Email mmazvi@yahoo.com <mailto:mmazvi@yahoo.com.