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    How many people are Tormented by Loneliness?



    Loneliness occurs when a person has fewer interpersonal relationships than desired or when these relationships are not as satisfying as desired.

    We can think about loneliness in several ways. Emotional loneliness sterns from the absence of an intimate attachment figure. For a child, this figure is typically a parents; for an adult, it is usually a spouse or partner or an intimate friend. Social loneliness results from the lack of a friendship network.

    Emotional loneliness seems to be tied to the absence of a romantic partner in both college students and senior adults. Social loneliness, however, seems to spring from different roots, depending on age.

    A second way to look at loneliness is in terms of its duration. Transient loneliness involves brief and sporadic feelings of loneliness, which many people may experience even when their social lives are reasonably adequate. Transitional loneliness occurs when people who have had satisfying social relationships in the past become lonely after experiencing a disruption in their social network (the death of a loved one, say, or divorce or moving to a new locale). Chronic loneliness is a condition that affects people who have been unable to develop a satisfactory interpersonal network over a period of years.

    How many people are tormented by loneliness?
    Telephone hotlines for troubled people report that complaints of loneliness dominate their calls. The prevalence of loneliness in specific age groups actually contradicts stereotypes. For example, although many assume that the loneliest age group is the elderly, this “distinction” actually belongs to adolescents and young adults.

    Another vulnerable group is beginning college students. One study reported that 75% of those in this group experienced loneliness in their first few weeks on campus. It is likely that frequent changes of schools, jobs, and relationships during adolescence and young adulthood all contribute to the high rates of loneliness for this age group.

    A second unexpected finding is that loneliness decreases with age at least until the much later years of adulthood when one’s friends begin to die. In line with expectations, single, divorced, and widowed adults are lonelier then their married or cohabit in counterparts although some married couple do feel lonely.

    Also, individuals whose parents have been divorced report feeling lonelier than those from intact families. Moreover, the earlier in their lives the divorce occurred, the stronger the feelings of loneliness experienced in adulthood. In keeping with gender differences in friendship patterns, college women are more opt to be lonely if they lack a close friend to confide in; college men experience more loneliness if they lack a group of friends to interact with.

    The roots of loneliness. Any event that ruptures the social fabric of a person’s life may lead to loneliness, so no one is immune.

    Early experiences. The seeds for chronic loneliness are likely shown early in life. A key problem seems to be early negative social behavior that leads to rejection by peers. Without intervention, insecurely attached children can grow into insecurely attached adults. And insecure attachment is correlated with loneliness in adulthood.

    Using the three style model of attachment, anxious ambivalent adults score the highest on loneliness, avoidant individuals score the next highest and individuals score securely attached the lowest. The high scores of the anxious ambivalent group are in line with other research showing that these individuals want more intense and close relationships than they typically find. Good social skills are related to the lower loneliness scores of the secures.

    Social Trends. Single working mothers and fathers maybe so pressed for time that they have little time to cultivate adult relationships. Because of busy schedule face-to-face interactions at home are reduced as family members eat on the run on their own or in front of the TV. People spending more time alone at computers, phones, reducing opportunities for face-to-face interactions.

    Correlates of loneliness.
    For people who are chronically lonely, painful feelings are a fact of life. Three factors that figure prominently in chronic loneliness are shyness, poor social skills, and a self-defeating attributional style. Of course, the link between these factors and loneliness could go either way. Feeling lonely might cause you to make negative attributions about others, but making negative attributions can also lead to loneliness.

    Shyness. Shyness in commonly associated with loneliness. Shyness refers to discomfort, inhibition, discomfort, and excessive caution in interpersonal relations. Specifically, Shy people tend to (1) be timid about expressing themselves, (2) be overly self-conscious about how others are reacting to them, embarrass easily and (3) experience psychological symptoms of their anxiety, such as raising pulse, blushing, or an upset stomach.

    In pioneering research on shyness, Philip Zimbardo and his associates report that 60% of shy people indicated that their shyness was situationally specific. That is, there shyness is triggered only in certain social contexts such as, asking someone for help or interacting with a large group of people.

    Poor Social Skills. People who suffer from chronic loneliness typically have casual acquaintances rather than close friends, or they date infrequently. They spend much of their time in solitary activities such as listening to music or reading. Often these individuals are adults who were unable to break out of self-defeating patterns of social behavior developed early in life. A common finding is that lonely people show lower responsiveness to their conversational partners and are more self focused. Similarly, researchers report that lonely people are relatively inhibited and unassertive, speaking less than no lonely people. They also seem to disclose less about themselves than those who are lonely. Thus (often unconscious) tendency has the effect of keeping people at an emotional distance and limits interactions to a relatively superficial level.

    Self-defeating attributional style. It’s easy to see how repeated rejections can foster negative expectations about social interactions. Thus, lonely people are prone to irrational thinking about their social skills the probability of their achieving intimacy, the likelihood of being rejected and so forth.

    Jeffery young points out that lonely people engage in negative self talk and prevents them from pursuing intimacy in an active and positive manner. In other words, lonely people tell themselves that they are lonely because they are basically unlovable individuals.

    Conquering loneliness. The personal consequences associated with chronic loneliness can be painful and sometimes overwhelming: low self-esteem, hostility, depression, alcoholism, psychosomatic illness, and possibly, suicide. Chronic loneliness is also a predictor of a number of diseases, including cardiovascular disease and cancer. Although there are no simple solutions to loneliness, there are some effective ones. One option is to use the internet to overcome loneliness, although this approach can be a two edge sword. Among lonely persons, internet use is also associated with benefits such as reduced loneliness, improved perceived social support, and formation of online friendship. Still, one study found that lonely individuals more often reported that internet use caused disturbances in their daily functioning raising concerns about internet addiction.

    A second suggestion is to avoid the temptation withdraw from social situations. A study that asked people what they did when they felt lonely found the top responses to be “read” and “listen to the music”. If used occasionally, reading and listening to the music can be constructive ways of dealing with loneliness. However as long term strategies, they do nothing to help a lonely person acquire new “real-world” friends. This situation may be a particular problem for those with an avoidant attachment style.

    A third strategy is to break out of the habit of the self-defeating attributional style (I’m lonely because I am unlovable). If a person says, “my conversational skills are weak” (unstable, internal cause), the solution would be: “I’ll try to find out how to improve them”. Or, if someone thinks, “it always takes time to meet people when you move to a new location” (unstable, external cause), this attribution suggests the solution of trying harder to develop new relationships and giving them time to work. The attribution “I’ve really searched but I just can’t find enough compatible people at my workplace” (stable, external cause), may lead to the decision, “it’s time to look for a new job”. As you can see the last three attributions lead to active modes of coping rather than the passivity fostered by a self-defeating attributional style. Finally, to thwart loneliness, you need to cultivate your social skills. Lonely people especially, should focus on reading others nonverbal signals, deepening the level of their self-disclosure, engaging in active listening improving their conversational skills, and developing an assertive communication style.

    If you feel overwhelmed at the prospect of tackling loneliness on your own, considered paying a visit to the counselor. Counselors help you improve your social skills and they use cognitive therapy to help you come out of your loneliness over a series of sessions.

    Hi, I’m Aarti, My Psychoanalytical approach towards my clients is to empower them to better their lives through improving their relationship with themselves. I believe shame and guilt is a common barrier to change. I aim to guide my clients through re authoring their narratives where shame, guilt, and other problems have less power and take up less space.

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