The Loneliness Epidemic: Where Does Loneliness Come From?
A Note from Dr. Rick
Do you ever feel lonely? It’s the kind of emotion that can physically hurt. It is not an emotion that any of us seek to experience, yet it works its way into our lives at times when we may wish it didn’t.
It has been said… Loneliness is one of the leading causes of death in our world today.
1 in 4 Americans say they have no one to confide in.
The stereotype is the lonely older person with no one to talk to. As it turns out frequently it is the younger population who feel truly isolated and lonely just as much as the older population does, if not more.
People over 50 scored best on the survey of 2000 adults by OnePoll and BetterHelp. The older adults were more secure discussing personal problems and reaching out to trusted friends.
People aged 18 to 30, however, were desperate for a compassionateear. They scored the worst on measures of finding someone to confide in.
People over 50 were better schooled in interpersonal relationships. There was no texting and no social media. We had to find and make true human connections with the people in and around our lives.
People under 30 have been consumed by technology, cell phones, I pads, computers etc. While promising to bring people closer together has actually driven people apart it creates walls around emotions. We all long for true connection but are not experiencing it. The truth is we cannot put this on the 30 year olds. We older folks have some ownership around these obsessions as well.
Have you ever noticed how everybody tries to look good on social media? No one can cry on the shoulder of a Smart Phone or be physically touched by someone who cares about them through social media. Conversation on the computer screen do not have the kind of impact that human touch or connection provides. Human connection dies in a world of texts and tweets, and Facebook.
Unfortunately, the survey reveals that 9 out of 10 people have downplayed emotions so that they don’t feel like a burden on people they care about. Even after confiding in a trusted friend, 7 in 10 still said they held back from the true weight of their despair.
People don’t want to place too many demands on those close to them, if they have anyone close to them at all. This compounds the loneliness and contributes to the sadness one is already struggling with.
One-half of those surveyed (53%) have cried alone in their car. It’s tragic to feel so isolated.
This kind of loneliness leads to high levels of stress and physical illness. Studies show that chronic loneliness increases rates of heart disease and suppresses the immune system. It also negatively impacts mental health. Chronic loneliness even increases one’s risk of an early death by 14%
On September 10, 2019 we recognized World Suicide Prevention Day. Humans need deep and meaningful relationships within which to develop their identity and to thrive. The absence of these relationships can often lead to depression and suicide. We need to take loneliness very seriously. We know that a person dies every 40 seconds by suicide. Many make an additional suicidal attempt. There are so many people who have been bereaved by suicide or have been close to someone who has made an attempt. This World Suicide Prevention Day event is about the global community: to encourage us to engage with each other and to join together to spread awareness of suicide prevention.
There are three types of loneliness Dr. Caroline Leaf writes about.
1) Situational loneliness Comes when moving to a new area, job, school or by facing a schedule change that makes it difficult to spend time with friends and family.
2) Developmental loneliness occurs when others around you are moving up and moving on, and you just feel stuck.
3) Internal loneliness strikes when, even with friends or family, you may feel isolated and outcast where one may feel alone in any and every situation.
The burden of combating loneliness is on the one experiencing it. Through feeling isolated and ignored, one must reach out to others in an effort to establish human connection and engagement.
There is a concept that “If we begin reaching out to others, being kind will bring others to you”. Compassion for those around you will make you feel better and bring people into your life. Kindness can truly be contagious. It also helps, too, to find people who share interests with you. Clubs and small groups at church or other social engagements can be great places to enter a community and feel less alone.
Finally, when it feels like people have failed and hurt you, don’t withdraw and give up. As with so many wonderful things in life, one has to open up and make some efforts to improve their situation. It may feel like a monumental task but the rewards are well worth it. If you’re lonely, reach out to someone. Switch off your phone and get outside. Do something for someone who cannot do for themselves. The rewards are waiting for you.
Even God said, “It is NOT GOOD for us to be ALONE! And He went ahead and made for him a friend out of his own flesh… He did something about it. Genesis 2:18
We can too!
Be honest. Ask for help. You’ll surely find people willing to be there for you.
Do You Have Trust Issues?
Trust comes in different levels and flavors for everyone. For example, one person may completely trust family members, while those may be the last people that another individual is willing to open up to.
It can be difficult to trust if you’ve been hurt—as a child, in a romantic relationship or in a situation that seemed “out of the blue” with a friend. Rejection, betrayal or abuse is never easy to deal with. Take the Quiz below and see how you do?
But sometimes we build such a strong wall around ourselves that we miss opportunities to develop wonderful, healthy and lasting relationships with loved ones, friends and colleagues. Answer true or false to the statements below to discover what role mistrust may be playing in your life.
1. I keep my problems to myself.
2. I don’t like to depend on others; they almost always let me down.
3. Revealing my weaknesses to a romantic partner is too risky.
4. I tend to expect the worst from people; that way, I won’t be disappointed.
5. People are basically “in it” for themselves. There’s no such thing as people doing things for others out of the goodness of their heart.
6. I don’t rely on anyone other than myself.
7. I assume my loved one will cheat on me; that’s why I have to stay observant.
8. I feel insecure in unknown situations.
9. I don’t make promises or ask for them.
10. I’ve been betrayed before; there’s no way I’m letting that happen again.
11. People and situations are never predictable, so it’s important to keep my guard up.
12. When it comes to making things happen, I’m on my own; it’s all up to me.
13. I know that I am the only one truly committed to my success in life or business.
14. Loyalty never lasts.
15. You might be able to trust people when times are good, but forget it when things become challenging.
16. When my partner isn’t around, I feel anxious, worried, even paranoid.
17. When someone becomes interested in me, I feel suspicious.
18. There’s no one with whom I feel I can completely be myself.
If you answered true to five or more of the statements, you may want to explore your concerns around trusting others. Remember: trust must be earned. But if you don’t give others a chance to earn that trust, you may be missing out on fulfilling relationships and a more supported life.