Researchers have discovered that low levels of loneliness are associated with marriage, higher incomes and higher educational status, so this means that loneliness does not care about your tati billion in akant, BellaNaija-esq wedding, or cacophony of degrees (channeling my able Patrick Obahiagbon).
Last week, we defined loneliness from the dictionary, clinical and personal perspectives and as always, I was taken aback at the positive reviews, from the comments on the blog to people personally telling me how the post resonated with them. See, I have days where I am certain what I have written does not make any sense but these comments reassure me much more than you can imagine, so thank you again for your kind words and trusting me enough to share your struggles.
We’re looking at the types of loneliness and their effects. I know what you’re thinking “loneliness has types?” Well, I thought so too but for a word largely used every day by many people, it’s not far off to imagine it having types. The effects it also has on us as individuals need to be addressed with an aim of better understanding ourselves and others.
So here are the types of loneliness I was able to find, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t other types of loneliness(discussed or researched), I just like talking about something most people can resonate with.
Psychological loneliness: This is usually caused by a traumatic experience. Someone who suffers from this type of loneliness tends to disconnect from people in their lives i.e friends, family, partner because it is hard sometimes to be understood, especially when people think they should have overcome the trauma of the experience.
Interpersonal loneliness: This is considered as the most common type of loneliness, it is brought on by the loss of intimacy, friendship etc. If you have ever cohabited, been married, had flatmates, lived at home with family etc. you can definitely identify with this as the loss of this familiar environment can be intense. I always wonder how people whose partners die survive; spending all that time together and then poof they are gone forever. Thinking about it sef makes my heart ache badly (please accept my condolences if you fall into this category).
Intellectual loneliness: This is where a person feels intellectually, or educationally, out of sync with their peers, family or their social group. Also, a lot of creative people will tell you that the creative process can be a lonely one and just because they choose to be secluded doesn’t erase a feeling of isolation. This type of loneliness may not be seen as a Nigerian thing but the fact that we are automatically thrust with intellectual greatness from childhood is enough to argue that this type of loneliness is a thing.
Cosmic or Existential loneliness: This is an isolating loneliness experienced by a person who is facing death. It is understandable that this knowledge will cause the person to feel profound loneliness, facing the certainty of your own death is very depressing and it gets even lonelier as the person may find it difficult to talk to someone about dying as people are sometimes unwilling to accept the person’s imminent death.
So how does loneliness affect you?
It was ironic looking into the effects of loneliness while being depressed as loneliness can lead to depression, talk about a double whammy! The good news is, you already know you are depressed and are actively looking at methods to navigate this, so don’t lose hope, we will overcome! Some of the effects of loneliness include;
Cardiovascular disease and stroke: Well, people can become so lonely that their heart decides it is too much to handle and gives up or tries to give up on them, I’m not just saying this, there are scientific facts to prove this. Studies have shown that over time, people who are chronically lonely have a much higher incidence of cardiovascular disease as their bodies are constantly under stress. Another study showed that that chronic loneliness can increase an individual’s risk of an early death by 14%.
Anxiety/panic disorder: Now as someone who suffers from this, I can tell you this is not child’s play, one minute you are feeling this intense loneliness, the next minute you’re breathing in through your nose and out your mouth to calm yourself down. The anxiety one feels when lonely can also be likened to a mini heart attack, in my experience, it literally feels like I am about to die; I’m gasping for air and there’s this flight response that kicks in (studies have shown that loneliness can activate our psychological stress responses), I have this intense urge to leave wherever I am and just walk for ages.
Heightened stress levels and high/low blood pressure: Loneliness can increase your stress levels which in turn can drastically increase or reduce your blood pressure. Again, victim here! For a long time, I never thought my blood pressure levels were as a result of the stress brought on by loneliness but this series has had me digging deeper than I’d actually like, but this is what I do for you 🙂 I’m actually thankful for that, as I have been able to discover certain things about myself in the course of writing the Depression and Dating series.
Drug/Food/Alcohol abuse: When one feels alone, neglected or not listened to, there is a tendency to indulge in things one feels “numbs” or “takes away” the pain. For some people, it’s overeating, under-eating, binge drinking and use of hard drugs to dull their senses enough to mask the loneliness. Again, member of this effect gang again, I recently experienced a bout of loneliness so strong that I did not eat for about 3 days, I didn’t see a need to it, I wasn’t hungry and food was the last thing on my mind. Now, this was new to me as I am usually the opposite, I would stuff my face until I felt “fulfilled” enough to face the world.
Relationship breakdown: Loneliness warps our perceptions of our relationships with people. Loneliness has the ability to cause a devaluing of your relationship, you feel your partner does not understand you and sometimes can go as far as interpreting their actions or inactions as an act of abandonment. This perception further causes you to withdraw from your partner and sink into deeper depths of loneliness which can alienate your partner, friends etc. and make them hesitant in connecting with you.
Yay, you made it to the end!!! As we can see, the effects of loneliness cover a large part of one’s physical and psychological well-being and should not be ignored. The great and positive part after all these scary effects is that there are ways to handle loneliness. We will discuss these methods in the next post until then, don’t forget to write your thoughts in the comment section. What effect has loneliness had on you physically and mentally?