Lessons from Social Distancing: Loneliness as a Health Concern
"Flattening the curve" with social distancing is the worldwide intervention being used to reduce coronavirus infections and death, but it has also created social isolation. For millions, social isolation is a risk factor for loneliness, and loneliness is a demonstrated health concern. Are you feeling the effects of loneliness? We’re not talking about "Zoom fatigue" but symptoms like low self-esteem, depression, anger, nightmares, anxiety, and easily triggered anger at loved ones, to name a few. Humans are hard-wired to be social creatures, so when they are deprived of this innate biological need to engage with others, physical symptoms result. Symptoms of loneliness feel as if they are of mental origin, but they are physiologically driven, according to researchers. Before the coronavirus pandemic, loneliness was hot research news. Medical researchers call it the "new smoking" because of its adverse health effects. Note that loneliness is not equal to being alone. Loneliness is your body saying, "Find people with whom to socially interact!" The inability to get to your favorite gym, gather with friends at a favorite hangout, or mingle with coworkers who bring meaning to your life can have natural health consequences. Learning about loneliness is a key lesson of our collective experience with the coronavirus. Social distancing is likely to end in the future, but connecting to a mental health counselor now—even if it means one more Zoom session to do it—is worth the effort if it can help you lessen the impact of loneliness.
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Keith Stein |