Is loneliness damaging your health?
- Difficulty sleeping – You are more likely to have disturbed sleep and/or struggle with insomnia when experiencing loneliness.
- High blood pressure – That’s right, physical impacts too and this isn’t the only one. When you experience loneliness your cortisol levels go up and this can increase your risk of vascular problems and heart disease.
- Headaches – Migraines, and headaches are linked to depression and loneliness, the two often experienced hand in hand. They are often caused by tight muscles in the neck and scalp. Muscle tension (from subconscious tensing) is another symptom.
- Digestive issues – The digestive system is incredibly sensitive to emotions, symptoms such as nausea, diarrhoea, and constipation are common.
- Depression – Depression is a complex developed from a combination of factors however a dissatisfaction with personal relationships and isolation can most definitely contribute.
- Lethargy – This isn’t tiredness, it can’t be cured with sleep. It is a fatigue that can leave you feeling exhausted from the minute that you wake up.
- Difficulty managing stress – To help your body cope better with stress it produces higher levels of cortisol. Our cortisol levels are usually low when we have human connection and the ability to express and vent however without this and thus excess cortisol your ability to handle stress can become impaired.
- Low sex drive – Naturally the low mood and stress that accompanies loneliness lead to a loss of libido.
- Changes in appetite – Either the loss of appetite or an increase.
- Weaker immune system – With loneliness being associated with stress it can lead to long-term stress signalling that can impair the immune system.
- Social anxiety – I hear you, surely if you are lonely you want social interaction. Well, actually it can be a bit of a vicious cycle. Loneliness exacerbates low self-esteem and anxiety and gives a person a lot of time with their own thoughts leaving them incredibly anxious about interacting with others. People who struggle with social anxiety tend to struggle with loneliness due to the sheer exhaustion and anxiety that they feel in social situations. I would like to point out here that experiencing social anxiety and being anti-social are two different things.
- Unhealthy attachment to possessions/obsession with hobbies – Personally, I found myself cycling between one hobby and another in the hopes that it would fill a void. I found myself shopping endlessly, purchasing holidays etc all in the hopes that it would satisfy the emptiness that I felt.
In the last blog I wrote, I spoke of my own experiences of loneliness. It’s funny because it wasn’t until writing this that I came to the realisation that I had experienced each but one of these symptoms and signs over the years. Visiting doctors and walking away frustrated that they were unable to locate the problem. Losing my faith in them and self-diagnosing all types of illness.
It was loneliness and yet we don’t believe that a feeling could create such an impact.
See, I was convinced that I had a hereditary illness, my physical symptoms have all been the same as my family members.
My family members who all struggled to express themselves, who all held back from communicating authentically. Who were all afraid to be their true and genuine selves for fear of judgement. Most an entire lifetime.
Could it be that we were all just incredibly lonely and isolated and it had become chronic?
Do you have people that you can count on for help and support?
Do your relationships satisfy you?
Do you have close intimate relationships?
What emotions arise for you when you feel lonely?
Have you developed any habits to distract yourself from the feeling of loneliness?
Have you ever felt lonely in the presence of another?