Loneliness and social isolation can lead to various physical and mental health conditions. Social isolation is not just feeling lonely, its prolonged existence can pose a high risk to your mental well-being, especially if you are already struggling with depression and anxiety.
We will walk you through the understanding of loneliness and social isolation, including its impacts on your mental health, and a few effective coping strategies from a mental health center of Denver.
Social Isolation & Loneliness
Social isolation and loneliness are perceived differently by people. Social isolation is when you have just a few people to interact with regularly, while loneliness is when you feel lonely, even in gatherings.
Although most people crave solitude sometimes, social isolation is typically unhealthy, unwanted, and detrimental to your health. Socially isolated people may lack close coworkers or friends and often feel depressed.
According to a study, 43% of American adults aged 60 and above are suffering from social isolation. Therefore, there is a need to understand the concept of loneliness and social isolation and how they are linked to your mental health. If you exhibit any of the following signs of unhealthy social isolation, seek a therapist’s help to bring your social life on a normal track.
- Avoiding social gatherings that once felt enjoyable.
- Canceling plans frequently and feeling satisfied after canceling plans.
- Developing anxiety or getting panic when considering social interactions
- Feeling extreme distress during periods of loneliness.
- Spending most of the time in solitude or interacting with a few people.
It is difficult to precisely measure loneliness and social isolation, but adults ages 50 and older are the most likely victims. For instance, a study found that;
- Social isolation is one of the reasons for obesity, smoking, and physical inactivity, which significantly increases the risks of premature death from all causes.
- Socially isolated people have a 50% increased risk of dementia.
- Poor social relationships resulting from loneliness and social isolation result in 29% increased heart disease risks, and almost 32% increased stroke chances.
- Loneliness often leads to depression, anxiety, and suicide.
- Loneliness in heart patients is associated with nearly four times increased chances of death, 68% increased hospitalization risks, and 57% increased emergency visits risks.
The most prominent groups that often suffer social isolation are;
Cultural differences, language barriers, economic difficulties, and limited social ties can lead to social isolation in immigrants.
Adults are one of the most susceptible populations to the development of social isolation. Almost a quarter of American seniors aged 65 and above experience social isolation.
Marginalized groups of society, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, are also common sufferers of social isolation.
Impacts on Mental Health
Social isolation in all age groups is linked to;
- Restless sleep
- Irregular eating patterns
- Extreme stress after waking up
- Greater difficulty in focusing on tasks
- Suicidal thoughts and attempts
As the severity of social isolation differs in people, coping strategies must also be applied differently.
Socially isolated people must use self-care strategies to address the situation. For instance, you should engage in activities that relax your mind and body, such as reading, meditation, exercise, music, hoodies, and journaling would help you alleviate the stress arising from the isolation.
Moreover, follow a routine so that you get a sense of purpose. If you can’t force yourself for in-person interaction, make phone calls, emails, and texts to stay connected with people around you.
Social isolation can lead to severe health and mental implications. Therefore, seeking a therapist’s help to identify the underlying issues related to your social isolation is imperative. Moreover, he will design a treatment plan to help you control your social life. The two most common treatments for social isolation include;
Cognitive behavioral therapy
It is talk therapy that informs people about their negative thoughts that negatively influence their behavior. It shapes people’s perspectives and behavior in ways that drive them to a better social life.
In this therapy, people are exposed to the circumstances they fear, which helps them manage their anxiety by confronting fear and processing emotions.
When to Seek Professional Help?
If you or any person you know shows all or some of the signs mentioned below, seeking a mental health professional’s help is vital.
- Frequent Hallucinations or delusions
- Uncontrolled anger or fear
- Extreme swings in emotion
- Lack of ability to deal with daily problems
- Abrupt shifts in eating or sleeping patterns
- Frequent and unexplained physical ailments
- Prevalent social withdrawal
- Indulgence in substance abuse
- Prolonged depression
Social isolation is detrimental to your physical and mental well-being, therefore, it is essential to cope with them effectively. From getting on with self-care strategies to seeking the services of a therapist, there are many ways to induce normalcy in your social life.