19. Loneliness, Stress, and Inflammation are All Tied Together.
What isn’t known to many people is that loneliness is very closely tied to signs and the markers of inflammation. Inflammation is a response that your body makes to protect itself from harmful elements; if you cut yourself and see the area around the cut become red and swollen, you are looking at inflammation. Some inflammation is good because it protects you, but chronic inflammation is harmful and causes long-term health problems. More specifically, it is linked to C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, and fibrinogen (present in blood plasma). Furthermore, because loneliness is a chronic condition, this will naturally lead to chronic inflammation that only worsens over time. In turn, inflammation for extended periods can harm the cardiovascular system, leading to other chronic conditions occurring prematurely.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the only system that is affected. Loneliness can also trigger the autonomic nervous system as well as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) systems. If you trigge these systems too often and for extended periods, they can exacerbate the cardiovascular system, as well as the metabolic and immune systems. In essence, untreated loneliness will head to problems snowballing together. That means the doctor can easily misdiagnose loneliness for something else entirely. If you are wondering why the feeling of loneliness makes you feel all-around lousy, the reason is that your body is reacting to your mental state. Feeling physically awful can make you less motivated to leave your house and strike up the meaningful human connections that fight loneliness.
18. Loneliness Can Cause Severe Damage to The Heart.
Many people know that stress increases blood pressure, putting them at higher risk for heart disease, stroke, and other problems associated with high blood pressure. Loneliness is a form of stress. So, it can also cause the same issues. According to a review conducted over several studies, the rate at which a person with loneliness will experience coronary heart disease is about 29%; the risk of stroke is about 32%. These are roughly the exact figures associated with anxiety and work-related stress that affect their everyday lives. This is because loneliness has been shown to increase systolic blood pressure, which is the force exerted by the heart to pump blood into the arteries. This is further exacerbated by older individuals who already have arterial stiffness.
However, even in young individuals, loneliness can cause arterial stiffness. It leads to structural changes in their arteries. In turn, it promotes collagen retention and decreases elasticity in the veins. This is to say that a young person, without genetic predispositions or poor eating habits, can experience the same coronary symptoms as a much older person with a weaker cardiovascular system. One reason why may simply be that loneliness can cause depression. That makes people less likely to want to exercise or do anything with friends. Exercise is one of the best antidotes to problems such as arterial stiffness. So, getting outside or going to the gym is an essential component of handling loneliness and overcoming it.
17. Loneliness Can Increase A Person’s Mortality Risk Factor.
Due to the effect that loneliness has on all areas of the body, it’s no wonder that a person can experience premature death. Loneliness is a persistent feeling, which puts every system in the body into overdrive. Without a break, these systems will experience fatigue more readily and are more prepared to shut down earlier than they should in a younger person. It doesn’t help that loneliness also leads to increased smoking rates, physical inactivity, and obesity, which further pile problems onto the body. In fact, the effects of loneliness are so striking that the odds of mortality are 1.5, which is the same as light smoking (which counts as up to 15 cigarettes a day). This is much higher than the risks posed by obesity alone.
Of course, loneliness alone is difficult to diagnose. It takes a long time, and a detriment to one’s health before the issue can be addressed and treated. Nevertheless, the good news is that there are things that you can do if you are experiencing loneliness. That way, you can improve both your physical and mental health. You can get an immediate boost by watching a funny movie and laughing. Laughing is a robust response that your mind and body have. It releases many of the same positive hormones — endorphins — as if you are exercising. There is a reason why laughing hard can make your sides hurt; you are giving yourself an excellent abdominal workout! Did you feel better from having a good laugh? You may feel better about calling up an old friend or going outside for a brisk walk.
16. Loneliness Can Literally Trigger Changes In Cell Pathways To Make One’s Health Worse.
As has been discussed so far, loneliness affects almost every single system of the body. It can even cause normal healthy cells and vessels to change dramatically, leading to poorer health. Not only does it affect the heart and the arteries. It also alters brain chemistry to the point that sleep is lower quality. There is no drive to engage in any physical activity. When it comes to the sympathetic nervous system, the monocytopenia in the bone marrow is affected. It causes the spleen to release more white blood cells into the body. This doesn’t sound like a bad thing, but it definitely is. The body has an immune response to something that is not happening to the body. As a result, the body will have altered blood glucose, immune disorders can develop, and a person may have allergic reactions out of nowhere.
The inflammation response of the increased number of white blood cells also leads to stress being placed on the other organs and tissues of the body, leading to hypertension, osteoporosis, and depression, just to name a few. Additionally, the stress associated with loneliness causes the stress hormone called cortisol to flood your body. Cortisol is associated with weight gain, so keeping those levels under control is vital for your general health. If you have a history of loneliness or are currently experiencing loneliness, getting some exercise is a quick way to get those cortisol levels down. You may not feel up to getting up and getting your heart rate going, but doing so will burn the cortisol out of your system and make you feel better. In return, you will be getting lots of feel-good endorphins that are certain to boost your mood.
15. Feelings of Loneliness Can Lead To You Feeling Tired All The Time.
People who experience loneliness often have sleepless nights and poor quality of sleep. They have many difficulties trying to concentrate throughout the day. This ends up becoming a vicious cycle of constantly feeling tired. Then, you are never going out to socialize because you are not getting enough sleep. Why aren’t you getting enough sleep? Because of plaguing thoughts about one’s relationships (or lack thereof). Many people sit wide awake because their ideas are racing. Poor sleep leads to poor mood and the inability to function well during the day, reinforcing those negative thoughts that may keep you awake at night. Being able to fall asleep is critical to improving your mental health if you are experiencing loneliness.
According to Psychological Medicine, individuals who experience feelings of loneliness are more likely to feel fatigued and have trouble staying focused than those who do not have these feelings. And feeling tired all the time can have an immense effect on the rest of the organs in your body, causing your health to degrade over time. Without a diagnosis or treatment, one’s health has to become quite severe before a medical doctor notices. Even then, they may not always address the loneliness aspect of the diagnosis. If you are having trouble sleeping because you feel lonely, try taking some melatonin and having a relaxing bath before bed. Getting some exercise during the day can also help because some people have trouble sleeping simply because they have not done enough to make them feel tired. Many people have had success using weighted blankets to help them fall asleep.
14. Loneliness Can Cause Your Memory To Get Worse.
Everyone has been trying to find the miracle cure for losing memory, and there are folk cures that range from eating coconut oil to eating peanut butter. It has become a foundation for much of the medical research going on today. Especially when it comes to memory disorders like Alzheimer’s, the medical community has been trying to find ways to minimize at least what is happening to a person’s brain. However, loneliness can have the same effect on the brain as Alzheimer’s. A study performed by the JAMA Network revealed that those who had high levels of cortical amyloid (which is present in Alzheimer’s patients) are 7.5 times more likely to report feeling lonely than those who do not have this marker in their brain chemistry.
That’s why it’s best to keep your mind as sharp as possible by making meaningful connections whenever possible. Keep in mind that it’s not the number of friends you make but the quality of friendships you create with other people. Take the time to cherish those around you to help minimize those feelings of loneliness you may experience, no matter how difficult it may be. Take care of your mental health as if your memory depends on it — because it does! Finding a place where you can volunteer can be a great way to stimulate your mind by using your skills, making new friends, and boosting your self-esteem by helping people in your community. Moreover, there is a reason many older adults have pets; they help stave off the loneliness that can make memory loss even worse. If you do not have significant allergies that prevent you from having a pet, you may want to consider getting one.
Have you ever experienced what is called “butterflies in your stomach” whenever you’re nervous? Stress, anxiety, and depression are actually closely related to the stomach and can have an immense effect. This is because the stressful situation can cause your “fight or flight” response to kick in, which gives your stomach instructions on what to do with its contents. That’s why you may experience cramping and the need to go to the bathroom when you’re experiencing a stressful situation. Severe, chronic stress can cause people to develop stomach ulcers, which can cause severe digestive problems. Many people with extreme stress also have inflammation in their intestines, which can cause a host of other issues if left untreated. However, the key is to treat the cause — excessive, severe stress — rather than only the symptoms.
But because loneliness is a chronic condition, that “fight or flight” response never really goes away or stops affecting the stomach. That’s why a person who experiences loneliness may also end up with chronic digestion issues that no treatment seems to help. This can lead to further problems with the stomach, such as ulcers, diarrhea, or constipation. People with loneliness so severe that it is causing digestive concerns may only eat foods that are mostly simple carbs, such as bread and rice, because they are easier to handle. The result can be poor nutrition or even malnutrition, which will make the chemical imbalances triggered by loneliness and depression even worse. What a doctor may write off as a simple stomach problem may actually end up being something more serious, so be sure to let your doctor know if you have been struggling with loneliness and depression.
12. If You Experience Loneliness, You May Also Have A Lot of Headaches And Dizziness.
Loneliness doesn’t only affect your stomach. It pokes and prods at your brain chemistry as well. Those who experience loneliness are also prone to having lots of headaches due to their depressed emotional state. These headaches, in turn, can make it difficult for a person to get through the rest of the day and make everything else much more of a challenge than it needs to be. Additionally, loneliness can also cause you to feel dizzy quite a lot. This is because loneliness is tied closely to anxiety, leading to dizziness and weakness in the body overall. This can significantly interfere with your daily life, not to mention taking a toll on the rest of your body.
Suppose you notice that you experience dizzy spells regularly every day. In that case, you must see your medical doctor as soon as possible to rule out any underlying conditions, including loneliness, that could affect your health. The good news is that there are things that you can do to improve your mental state. Talking with a therapist and taking medication can help take the pressure off your mind by improving your brain chemistry, making you feel less lonely and depressed. Exercise can have the same benefit as taking medication because of its powerful effect on your body. It burns out the cortisol levels that can build up in your body and replace them with the endorphins that make you feel good. With some of that pressure alleviated, you will feel better about getting out and connecting with people, thereby addressing one of the primary causes of loneliness.
11. Loneliness Can Actually Cause You To Experience The Flu More Often.
Loneliness, stress, depression, and overall poor mental health can make you feel downright lousy, not only emotionally but physically, as well. As stated earlier, loneliness can cause the body to trigger an immune response. This usually presents itself as fevers, headaches, and general achiness all over the body. What else feels like this? The flu. And this can be made worse during the cold months of the flu season. In fact, if you get a flu vaccine, your body becomes less responsive to it, causing you to get sick more often. Yes, being lonely can be so damaging physically that it weakens your immune system and can cause you to get the flu. Furthermore, with that compromised immune system, if you do get the flu or any other sickness, you will likely get even sicker than many other people because your body just is not able to fight it off.
You would think that isolating yourself more would actually minimize your risk of the flu, but studies have shown that the opposite is true. Loneliness can make you more susceptible to the disease by decreasing the effectiveness of your overall immune system. So make more social connections! Just exercise caution in doing so, so that you’re not increasing your risk adversely. Pick up the phone and call someone. If the thought of making a call feels overwhelming, send a text message to see if the other person might be interested in talking. Micro-interactions can also have a calming effect on your mind; micro-interactions are those short conversations you have with the cashier at the grocery store or the security guard at the entrance to a building. Make sure that you are pleasant instead of demanding because a pleasant micro-interaction can boost your mood.
10. If You Struggle To Lose Weight, Then You May Have Loneliness.
Before you start your workout, it would be best first to address your feelings of loneliness. After all, this mental condition can lead to the production and storage of cortisol in the body. Cortisol is the primary stress hormone in the body that is responsible for fear, mood, and motivation levels. When too much cortisol is released into the body, the body tries to grab onto all of the fat it can hold onto. This leads to weight gain. And the presence of this cortisol also makes it hard to lose those excess pounds. This is why the majority of people who feel loneliness also tend to border on obesity. It is a common overeating trigger as a coping strategy for the stress the person is experiencing in their life.
However, by taking care of one’s loneliness, cortisol levels drop, and those extra pounds will melt away much more easily. Just be sure to talk to your doctor beforehand to see the most effective and safest ways to help your body lose weight. Exercise can help burn the cortisol out of your body, so if you are trying to lose weight by restricting calories, you are not addressing the cause of weight gain or weight retention. Your priority needs to be lowering the cortisol levels through exercise and regular social connections. Moreover, if the thought of regular social links sounds overwhelming, keep in mind that dogs are very social creatures and are pros at alleviating loneliness and stress. You do not have to have a certified therapy dog to have a best friend who also makes a good therapist.
9. Loneliness Can Cause You To Experience Pain For Seemingly No Reason.
Body aches happen now and again, but they usually have a reason for them. It could be the onset of a cold, or maybe you did too much exercise throughout the day. But when you have body aches for no apparent reason, you should definitely start paying attention to your body and mind. This is linked to the body’s immune response and releasing too many white blood cells. This triggers body aches to occur because the white blood cells don’t know where to go; there’s no sign of an infection, so they’re swimming about in the bloodstream aimlessly. However, this isn’t the only connection. Apparently, your brain responds to feelings of loneliness in the same way that it experiences physical pain.
Have you ever felt a loss that was so intense that you felt physical pain? The emotional toll becomes so overwhelming that you begin to feel it physically. If you have experienced rejection by someone whom you thought would be with you forever, the pain from the loss can be even more severe. So the refusal of a person, real or imagined, can lead to the body reacting in the same way as if you’d been physically struck. This is why you may feel random pains at random points of the day that linger for a while. If you do, then you should go and speak to your doctor as soon as you’re able. If you are experiencing physical pain that you think may be a result of chronic loneliness, talk to your doctor as quickly as possible and be clear about what you are struggling with. Otherwise, the doctor may only treat the symptom because they are not aware that the cause may be severe loneliness.
8. Going To The Doctor’s Office More Often Can Be A Sign Of Loneliness.
Frequent trips to the doctor could be a sign that you’re experiencing loneliness. This isn’t to say that you’re seeking the friendship of your doctor. No. However, because loneliness affects your overall health, you could be making more doctor’s visits to deal with these medical issues. Many people suffering from severe loneliness take more trips to the doctor simply because they are experiencing problems. Loneliness is affecting their physical health, directly or indirectly, and it is affecting their mental health. And yes, some are almost certainly looking for some kind of human connection where they can find it. Yes, even at the doctor’s office. However, if you don’t discuss your feelings with your doctor, you will only end up going back to your doctor repeatedly without any real solution.
In fact, according to researchers from the University of Georgia, older adults who were experiencing feelings of loneliness were 12.7% more likely to visit the doctor than those adults who didn’t have these feelings. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to make a note of how many times you see your doctor in a given year so that you have evidence to consider as to whether you’re actually experiencing loneliness. Even if you’ve already been diagnosed with chronic conditions throughout your adult life, it may not hurt to consider whether you’re enduring feelings of loneliness as well. Being upfront with your doctor about what you are experiencing can help them develop the best treatment plan possible to get you feeling the best that you can, both mentally and physically.
7. Loneliness Tends To Make You Eat More Junk Food.
Just about everyone is guilty of stress eating. High-fat, high-carbohydrate foods have a way of taking the edge off after a long, hard day. That includes treats like donuts and ice cream. Not only are they “comfort foods,” but they also change your body’s chemistry. They do so in such a way that temporarily boosts your mood. Over time, though, these junk foods harm your health and cause your mood to worsen. If you notice that you start craving fried and salty foods, you may be experiencing loneliness. This goes back to the production of cortisol in the body, that stress hormone that regulates your mood and eating habits. You’ll start to crave those foods when cortisol is present as a coping mechanism for the stress your body is enduring. In turn, you end up putting on those extra pounds that you can’t take off.
It doesn’t help, either, that you’re only making meals or buying food for yourself, and there’s no one around to hold you accountable for the food you’re making. That makes it much easier to have a poorer diet, especially with meals you can throw into the microwave and don’t take much effort to make. This eventually develops into a routine of eating that becomes difficult to break. Then you’re stuck in a cycle of eating to cope and coping to eat. Consider that up until very recently. Eating has consistently been a communal activity. People eat with their families or other loved ones; only recently have people begun eating by themselves. To help stave off those extra pounds from junk food, look for a way to eat with someone a couple of times a week. If you can’t, then arrange a video call with someone while you are eating.
6. Loneliness Makes It Difficult For You To Manage Stress.
If you are chronically lonely, then you are probably aware that dealing with stress is much more difficult when you do not have enough human connection built into your everyday life. Everyone goes through stress daily. But it’s the stress level and how frequently the stress occurs, that makes the body want to shut down. Dealing with stress means taking time out of your day to unwind, do something you enjoy, hang out with friends, or just go to bed at a reasonable time to help the body heal. But without a support system to help you deal with that stress, it just piles on top of itself until there’s a giant mountain of the stuff that a person can’t deal with on their own.
In fact, studies have shown that when there is social support in place, the brain will release a neurochemical that will actually help it deal with being overwhelmed; that means that your stress will feel less intense and manageable, making it easier for you to tackle it head-on. In contrast, without social support, stress will seem more intense and unmanageable. If you are struggling to keep your head above water with all of the stress you are experiencing, you may need professional help. Furthermore, don’t worry; therapy does not mean that you are crazy. Just about anybody on this planet would benefit from going to treatment, including therapists. Tackling some of the reasons you are experiencing so much loneliness with a professional can help you develop creative solutions to alleviate your loneliness.
Depression and feelings of loneliness are closely linked together. In fact, one can cause the other and vice versa. A common mistake that people make is that you have to have no friends to experience loneliness. However, even people with closely-knit circles can experience loneliness. It can affect their health, so don’t always look at the loners when considering this condition. The same can be said for those who live with depression; they’re not the people who constantly look sad and do not interact with other people. Some depressed people can seem outgoing, wearing smiles on their faces, and acting like the life of the party.
It can be difficult to diagnose someone with depression or loneliness when there are no signs to look out for. Do you want action? That requires you to be honest and recognize your symptoms. More often than not, patients get embarrassed about these feelings. Then, they do not to share them with their doctor, thinking that their symptoms will just go away on their own because they’re “having a bad day.” Often, family and friends are the only ones with enough knowledge of the person to intervene and say that maybe their loved one needs help. If someone comes to you suggesting that perhaps you are coping with depression, take their concerns seriously. Moreover, if someone you know may be struggling, do not be afraid to reach out.
4. Tips and Tricks To Overcome And Prevent Loneliness.
Loneliness isn’t a death sentence for your major organs. It can be overcome and even conquered. Nevertheless, it requires that you notice it in the first place and do something to combat those feelings. You have to make a conscious effort to change your life and stick to it regularly to improve the quality of your life and your relationships with other people. In fact, here are a few tips you could start implementing today in your life. Lifestyle changes may be in order, but do not be afraid or feel overwhelmed. These lifestyle changes are for the better and will make you both physically and mentally healthier.
The most important step may simply be recognizing that something in your life needs to change. You may be waiting for that magical moment when your life suddenly improves. Things like meeting that special someone who will be your soul mate forever, getting that dream job, or the positive pregnancy test. But suppose you do not address the loneliness and depression in your life. In that case, even if these miracles do happen, you will end up being a lonely person with a soul mate from whom you feel disconnected, or a lonely person with a great job and great house who has trouble appreciating them. Start reaching out for human connection today, and the first point of contact for that connection maybe a therapist.
Many lonely people feel unrecognized, unnoticed, and altogether unimportant. They may have exceptional skills that their bosses do not seem interested in learning about or using. They are often very kind and caring, especially because they know the feeling of being left out. Volunteering is a great way to use your skills and time in a way that matters and helps other people. In the process, you will connect with people who benefit from your services and experience increased self-esteem from knowing that you did something that did help another person.
There are so many different options for volunteering, so start by thinking about something that you care about particularly and what skills you have that you could use. Are you especially concerned about the environment? About hunger or homelessness in your community? What about the public schools in your local area? Maybe some children need tutoring, or the school administration has some odd jobs that a volunteer could help out with. And if you are feeling particularly lonely, think about who else feels lonely: animals living in a shelter, waiting to be adopted. Spending one-on-one time with dogs and cats in a shelter helps socialize them so that when they get adopted, they are better able to bond with their new family.
Making new friends can be challenging, especially if you are struggling with loneliness and have grown to appreciate the isolation. But getting out and building new connections with other people is essential to overcoming loneliness and the negative health consequences. Finding people who have similar interests can be a great way to create new friendships. Besides, experiencing the human connection that is the essence of life. Before you can do that, you need to think about what your interests are! If you have been experiencing loneliness or depression, you may have forgotten what you enjoy or otherwise lost interest in them. Take a few minutes to make a list of the things that interest you, be they growing plants, buying organic food, reading mystery novels, going hiking, walking along the beach, whatever the case may be.
There are plenty of ways to find people who have similar interests. One is through social media, which can be an excellent resource for finding people who have the same hobbies. There are Facebook groups for people who enjoy growing plants or readings. Groups for athletes or students to connect, and so much more. Sure, connecting virtually is less ideal than in-person. However, people who are severely depressed may be more comfortable with a virtual connection. That is, until they feel more comfortable with the idea of meeting people in person. To find in-person groups, your local library can be an excellent resource. You can learn about things going on in the community, including interest groups. Also, try to look for hobby stores; for example, if you appreciate art and there is an art store nearby, go there! You can check in and see if there are any groups for people who enjoy art.
What is at the heart of loneliness? It is often the belief that no one cares. And the funny thing is that many people who are struggling with loneliness think they are the only person in the world that feels that way when the opposite is true. Before the covid pandemic began, a study found that 61% of people feel lonely; that number indeed went even higher once everyone had to go into lockdown. The reality is that the person whom you think may not be interested in connecting with you may be desperate for someone to give a call and say that they care.
Yes, loneliness can easily make you feel isolated. It may seem as if you are the only person in the world who does not belong or have meaningful connections. However, you could very well be someone else’s lifeline. So pick up the phone. Send a text or make a call. Don’t focus on saying that you are sad and want the other person to cheer you up. Instead, say that you wanted to let that person know that you were thinking of them. That you wanted to check in and see how things are going. Everyone needs to know that someone cares. When you realize that you have made a difference in someone else’s life, you will feel much less lonely.