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Karen's Blogs

Blogs are brief, to-the-point, conversational, and packed with information, strategies, and tips to turn troubled eaters into “normal” eaters and to help you enjoy a happier, healthier life. Sign up by clicking "Subscribe" below and they’ll arrive in your inbox. 

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How Loneliness Hurts Us


Elvis Presley famously sang “Are You Lonesome Tonight?,” but what if loneliness is a chronic condition for you, one that is harming your physical and mental health? How Loneliness Reshapes the Brain offers some surprising scientific truths about the origins of chronic loneliness and how to manage it.

“Neuroscience suggests that loneliness doesn’t necessarily result from a lack of opportunity to meet others or a fear of social interactions. Instead, circuits in our brain and changes in our behavior can trap us in a Catch-22 situation: While we desire connection with others, we view them as unreliable, judgmental and unfriendly. Consequently, we keep our distance, consciously or unconsciously spurning potential opportunities for connections.” 

“The problem with loneliness seems to be that it biases our thinking. In behavioral studies, lonely people picked up on negative social signals, such as images of rejection, within 120 milliseconds —twice as quickly as people with satisfying relationships and in less than half the time it takes to blink. Lonely people also preferred to stand farther away from strangers, trusted others less and disliked physical touch.”

“Loneliness doesn’t merely feel bad: It takes a toll on our health. It can lead to high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease . . . double the risk of Type 2 diabetes and raise the likelihood of dementia by 40%. As a consequence, chronically lonely people tend to have an 83% higher mortality risk than those who feel less isolated.”

The article notes that “although lonely people may find encounters with others uncomfortable and unrewarding, they still seem to crave connection” and that loneliness should not be confused with social isolation—“a related condition that is different, an objective measure of how few relationships a person has.” Most surprising to me, they maintain that “The core features of social anxiety were not evident in loneliness.”

What rings most true as a clinician is how lonely people perceive interactions with others more negatively than clients who aren’t lonely and how they take others’ actions more personally. Every time someone doesn’t call back, follow-up on an overture to get together or declines an invitation from you is not a personal rejection of you. Sometimes people forget, get too busy to respond, or have their own moods and problems which make them want to stay close to home and even incommunicado. 

If you have ongoing problems with loneliness, I encourage you to talk with a therapist.  







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