I'm pleased to offer an insightful guest post from psychologist and colleague Patrick Lockwood. In a discussion, he offered the intriguing suggestion that the loneliness people are feeling in quarantine and COVID-related isolation is nothing new but is exacerbated as we have exhausted the "normal" techniques we use to numb ourselves to the everyday loneliness that people constantly cope with. It was a compelling thought, and I asked him to expound on it for my readers. Patrick may be contacted through his website or on Twitter @PsychPLockwood.
Research shows a relationship between loneliness and increased risk of emotional and medical problems(2,3), and even increased mortality risk (4). For a more detailed review of the consequences of loneliness, see this other post by Dr. Ali.
To be perfectly fair, the causal link between loneliness and physical/mental health outcomes is tenuous, so take that discussion with a grain of salt. Regardless, we know that loneliness is not good for us because we’re an inherently social species and built to be connected.
Loneliness is typically a twofold problem. First, loneliness is the result of perceived unimportance (5). We need to “feel” like we matter to one another. We all know exactly what it feels like to be in a room full of people and not know anyone and feel somewhat lonely and out of place.
Many times in romantic relationships people feel lonely when their partner is avoiding sexual or emotional intimacy, even though the two live under the same roof. So, in many ways, the quality of the relationship, less so the physical proximity, matters for understanding loneliness.
Second, loneliness is the result of a lack of self-understanding, specifically understanding our unique needs for connection. Lack of self-awareness is a common condition across mental health struggles. Our needs for connection are multifaceted. We’re all built differently.
Practically speaking, there are hundreds of variables that can affect the way we process being separate from other people: personality (introversion vs. extroversion), habits/hobbies, culture, context, extant mental health issues, to name a few.
Once we understand our needs and we feel important, we tend to act on them and get our needs met.
Now that I’ve given my take on loneliness, let me offer a 3-part theory about the interaction between loneliness and our ever-changing psychosocial landscape:
4. If we are slowly/subtly focusing too much on distractions and workplaces, and too little on optimal in-person connection (the core of our psychosocial survival needs), then maybe we are running on a connection deficit, possibly worsening quarantine life for many. Fear also seems to play a role here, like we are afraid that we can’t survive being lonely. I’ve written about fear, and how unrealistic/mismanaged fear makes our society a worse place to live and easily leads to escapist coping. The bigger issue is the loneliness though.
Is social media bad? Not at all; in fact, it has a number of upsides. We can also feel connected via Zoom or a phone call even if it’s not ideal, face-to-face connection. What does this all mean? I don’t know. It’s just a theory. Some elements apply to some people, but not all. Plenty of people have healthy relationships with alcohol, video games, sex, social media, and other escapist tools.
My hopeful take is this: We can come out the other side of this epidemic in a better psychological state.
We can choose to take our loneliness and escapism issues seriously, and might even find the cure for the loneliness epidemic: real connection.
Original post https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/women-who-stray/202004/loneliness-epidemic
Based on what others are reading
Tickle.Life Editorial Team, Sep 17
Tickle.Life Editorial Team, Sep 10