Lack of social interaction has negative implications on health – both psychological and physiological – “when it settles in long enough to create a persistent, self-reinforcing loop of negative thoughts, sensations, and behaviors” (Cacioppo & Patrick, p. 7). In fact, the experience triggers the same emotion region of the brain that responds to physical pain. People suffering from loneliness were found to have increased levels of depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, stress, and insomnia.
Aside from poor health, the experience is also linked to poor lifestyle.The lonely “subscribe to negativistic, and pessimistic views” (Rokach & Neto), “feel unsafe, …
are more likely to construe others as threatening, appraise stressors as threats rather than challenges, and cope with stressors in a passive, isolative fashion” (as cited in Cacioppo, Norris, Decety, Monteleone & Nusbaum, 2009). As well, they engage in ‘self-destructive’ behaviours such as drug/alcohol abuse, poor eating habits, and recklessness. Chronic feelings of isolation can even accelerate the aging process (Cacioppo & Patrick, p. 5) and the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (p. 12).
Social isolation also impacts development in children – as is the case with isolates. Isolates lack adequate socialization, and so – when compared to their more social peers – were found to be less well-adjusted. (Witvliet, van Lier, Cuijpers, ; Koot, 2010). ‘Disconnectedness’ from peers results in “psychological problems from infancy to adolescence” (Hay, Payne, ; Chadwick, 2004). As well, adolescents lacking close friendships “consistently have lower levels of self-esteem and more psychological symptoms of maladjustment” (Hall-Lande, Eisenberg, Christenson, ; Neumark-Sztainer).
Loneliness is viewed as a dysfunction, a weakness: “to be alone, is to be different, to be different is to be alone, and to be in the interior of this fatal circle is to be lonely. To be lonely is to have failed” (as cited in Rokach ; Neto). The shame and lowered self-esteem experienced causes the lonely to distance themselves from others, often eliciting the very result dreaded most.
“Feelings of depression and low self-esteem may contribute to additional peer relationship problems and increased feelings of social isolation” (Hall-Lande, Eisenberg, Christenson ; Neumark-Sztainer).As such, loneliness both causes and results from poor psychological health. This inescapable cycle of feeling lonely, the negative effects as a result, and the further isolation that develops “fosters concurrent and continuing feelings of loneliness” (as cited in Stoeckli, 2009). Loneliness is a certainty due to the construct of Western culture – which is progressively becoming more digital while close connection is growing ever more elusive. Though pressure is placed on individuals to develop close relationships, the very ideals in the modern world – ‘getting ahead’, independent success – seem to prevent such relationships from occurring.The high expectations placed on individuals to connect with others only causes more isolation. Loneliness causes a great deal of suffering when such a pressing need as human connection goes unfulfilled.
Lack of close relationships cause the lonely to consider themselves a failure, as loneliness is considered a social stigma. This causes adverse health effects and results in a poor lifestyle, creating a negative feedback loop. Humans are inherently social beings that crave human contact just as much as basic physiological needs.However, in a culture built around disconnection, where loneliness and social isolation are a defining factors, close relationships are difficult to establish. The snare of loneliness is so common in the modern age that it has simply become an integral part of being human.Reference ListCacioppo, J.
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