Solitude: unsuspected physical symptoms

If you’re not jumping from website to website on a computer all day, then you’re probably browsing social media with your phone glued to you.

These unlimited technology channels allow you to be connected to whoever you want, practically whenever you want. Yet the feeling of loneliness, or even the loneliness experienced has never been stronger than in our times of hyper-connectivity. And if you have any idea of ​​the depressing effects of loneliness on your mental health, do you know what happens to your body when you’re alone for too long? If you’re one of the aforementioned people who struggle with the emotional side of loneliness, you may be unaware of the physical symptoms.

But before you can accurately identify the physical signs of loneliness, you must first understand what loneliness is and the different types of loneliness you may experience. Loneliness is essentially “the distress, or emotional pain, that a person experiences due to a lack of connection with others which often occurs when others are not as available as we would like, or because the quality of interactions with them is not emotionally satisfying.

From episodic loneliness to chronic loneliness

It is normal to experience periods of what is called episodic loneliness, when, for example, you move to a new city or change jobs. But if there are times when you feel lonely more often, or when you’re more prone to isolating yourself from others in your daily life, that’s when episodic loneliness becomes chronic loneliness.

Chronic loneliness can be linked to, and exacerbate, a number of conditions that people may not notice, including headaches, high blood pressure, worsening diabetes, stomach aches, body aches and an overactive immune system. Symptoms may be subtle, but that doesn’t mean they should be ignored. Overall loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Also, you don’t have to be physically alone to feel lonely. You may be surrounded by people, co-workers in the office, roommates or a spouse at home, but it is the subjective feeling that your need for connection is not being met that triggers these emotions and, therefore, feelings. physical reactions.

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So what is the real effect of loneliness on your body and your physical well-being? These are the most common physical symptoms that can result from a constant feeling of loneliness.

The ability to handle stress is diminished

Your body is made up of a system of hormones. Cortisol, a steroid hormone, is produced in high levels when your body is stressed to help it cope with stressful situations. When you’re able to socialize, vent your frustrations, and fully enjoy human relationships, your cortisol levels are usually low. But, if you were to go through very stressful situations at a time when you don’t feel socially connected to others, your body might not react well negatively to excess cortisol.

Sleep difficulties and lack of energy.

People who struggle with loneliness often also suffer from a lack of energy. This lack can be the direct consequence of a lack of sleep, a fixation on loneliness which ends up exhausting them, or general sleep problems. There are a few key reasons why lonely people tend to have poor sleep. The first is that people who regularly engage in social activities tend to sleep better, if only because they have been stimulated emotionally, physically, or a combination of both, throughout the day. Therefore, when they go to bed, they are actually tired. Conversely, single people may have less structured lives, lack stimulation, and end up going to bed without feeling tired.

The second reason lonely people may have trouble sleeping has to do with these concerning cortisol levels. In stressful situations, lonely people can indeed experience a significant spike in cortisol, making it harder for the body to properly relax, fall asleep (and stay) asleep.

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Various aches and pains

Emotional pain can make physical pain worse. So, for people who are naturally prone to headaches and/or other forms of physical pain, chances are the emotional distress of loneliness will make any physical pain they experience on a regular basis worse. The same rules apply to people with stomach and digestive issues, as feeling lonely can have a direct effect on the human microbiome (i.e. your gut). Stomach and digestive disorders can be hastened or aggravated by the hormones released when we are upset, anxious or worried. As a result, your digestion and gut biome can be affected, and a chemical imbalance can occur, compromising the proper functioning of your digestive system.

Eating disorders and hunger pangs

According to a 2015 study published in the journal Hormones and Behavior, single women feel hungrier after meals than women who are socially connected. Feelings of loneliness actually cause women to feel physically hungry, even though all of their caloric needs have been met. The need for social connection is fundamental to human nature, the researchers conclude in this study. Therefore, people may feel hungrier when they feel socially disconnected.

How to face a feeling of loneliness and overcome it?

Chronic loneliness doesn’t just affect your mental health, it also impacts your physical well-being. If you or someone close to you is feeling lonely and experiencing any of these physical symptoms, it is important to seek help from a friend, family member and/or professional. That said, there are a few habits you can put into practice to help lessen the effects when feelings of loneliness start to set in.

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Along with talking with a doctor, therapist, or other healthcare professional, engaging with other people in a positive and healthy way can have a significant impact on your well-being. While texting is a start, better to choose phone calls, volunteering, joining clubs, attending a workout class, etc. to help boost your self-esteem.

The common theme here is getting out of the house and interacting with others, but another way to feel less alone is to get out and get in the sun. Exercising and getting out in the sun can help increase endorphins and serotonin. These “brain hormones” can boost mood, help improve sleep, and make you happier.

Finally, people who suffer from chronic loneliness may benefit from joining a support group, particularly if the illness is a side effect of another issue you may be dealing with, such as substance abuse, bereavement of a loved one, a divorce or a breakup, etc. Receiving support and encouragement from others in similar situations can help alleviate the symptoms of chronic loneliness.


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