Relationship gurus recommend that you take time to be alone, to enjoy and learn from your own company, and to flourish in your loneliness. If you try it, it may be the best thing you encounter – when you find you. It may be your happiest place. But, what happens when you are so good at being alone, it affects your health? What happens when loneliness cripples your social life or when it threatens your mental health? Because, we may not admit it, but some people are too good at being along that it is unhealthy. What this means is that whether you are introvert, an ambivert or an extrovert, you should recognize being lonely is bad for you.
If you are at a point where you feel so alone, lost and you have this sadness floating over you that you cannot shake, then you should reevaluate your life. You may want to talk to someone, a professional, who will help you get out of the loneliness rut.
But, before we look at some of the dangerous conditions bred by loneliness, you should know that in being alone, you should be your best friend, and never keep bad company just because you are lonely.
The dangers of loneliness
First, a look at what happens when you are not saying “I am so lonely’. When around people that care about you, your body releases oxytocin, the neurotransmitter (brain chemical) that makes us feel all fuzzy and warm. This chemical makes you feel good and happy.
On the other hand, loneliness affects your emotional, psychological, and your physical wellbeing by creating a situation that is the reverse of what oxytocin creates. Instead of oxytocin, loneliness increases the levels of cortisol and adrenaline, the stress hormones.
Heightened levels of cortisol and adrenaline undermine the function of the circulatory system forcing the heart to work harder; subjecting your blood vessels to damage from the resultant turbulence in blood flow. This is why they say that loneliness is hurtful to the heart.
But, that is not all: when you are too alone, your quality of sleep is affected in it becomes less restorative psychologically and physically. The result is more waking hours and few sleeping hours. You will also wake up feeling confused, angry agitated, and your productivity tanks over time.
To worsen things, you may have extra weight to grapple with because of lack of sleep and the high concentrations of stress hormones. The stress hormones encourage adipose tissue formation and storage of fats. Lack of sleep will also affect your cognitive function, and you won’t make smart and healthy decisions. To top it all, lack of sleep from the stress and the stress hormones impair the efficiency of your workouts.
Loneliness also increases the risk of suicide, not to mention the fact that no one will notice if you die or get sick.
The high risk of suicides comes about from the effects of loneliness on mental health. Being alone is associated with several mental disorders like depression, social anxiety, addiction, and hoarding (OCD).
For as long as anyone can remember, loneliness and depression are almost inseparable. And studies tell that loneliness is the biggest predictor for depression and in five years of being lonely, individuals are most likely to be depressed. As such, loneliness takes precedent to depression.
After staying alone for months or years, it becomes harder to interact in social cycles, and this is why the lonely face crippling anxiety after being in physical isolation for long periods. Though there are extreme forms of social anxiety, your inability to leave that house or feeling unworthy of great relationships result in the development of anxiety and extreme fear.
The risk of becoming addicted increases when you are lonely because you use drugs and other substances to feel good or drown the feelings of loneliness. Like human relations, a lonely person is highly likely to get hooked on drugs when they are alone. Some scientists refer to these addictions as bonding rather than bonding because, in the case of addiction, the opposite of loneliness is human connections.
It would appear that loneliness results in obsessive thoughts which often result in compulsions. One of these compulsions is hoarding, which is a type of OCD. Hoarding is common when someone tries to fill to lonely gap or heartache with something else. Hoarders are often lonely, and they fill the emptiness with objects.
How do you know that you are lonely?
- Poor sleep patterns
- You are blowing things out of proportion
- You get ill too often.
- You don’t have a social life
How to get over feelings of loneliness
- Steamy hot showers and hot chocolate
- Love people rather than stuff
- Avoid other lonely people especially if they make you feel worse about yourself
- Stop dependence on social media
- Connect with good friends
- Seek professional help and take over your thoughts instead of ruminating over those feelings.
- Go for walks
- Adopt a pet
- Help others