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    Lack of Trust Exacerbates Loneliness Spiral



    Summary: Study reveals lonely people showed reduced activity in the anterior insular cortex, an area of the brain associated with trust formation. The anterior insular cortex was less prominently connected to other brain regions in those who expressed feelings of loneliness.

    Source: Wiley Online Library.

    Loneliness is a painful feeling. If it stays for long, it can lead to mental health issues such as depression or anxiety disorders. In a recent study researchers have now discovered how loneliness is associated with reduced trust. This is indicated by changes in the activity and interaction of various brain structures, especially the insular cortex.

    Everyone knows what loneliness feels like. Behind this feeling is the perceived variation of the need for social relationships not being met to the desired degree. As with hunger that wants to be satisfied, feelings of loneliness can also provide the desire to connect with other people.

    The researchers studied the relationship between trust and loneliness in a detailed manner. A total of 3678 people filled up an online questionnaire, the researchers sorted out 42 people who were affected by severe loneliness but did not suffer from a mental illness or were receiving psychotherapy. The control group involved 40 people who did not suffer from persistent loneliness.

    The subjects first completed tasks in the brain scanner. Then among other things, they played a trust game.

    After the trust game, the experimenters also organised a standardized conversation situation with the respective participant, which dealt with emotionally positive content: What would you do with a lottery win? What are your hobbies? Afterwards, the team enquired the participants about their mood.

    The researchers also collected blood and saliva samples to test, among other things, an increase in the level of bonding hormone oxytocin in response to the conversation and also measured the distance in centimeters that the participants maintained from the experimenter.

    It was found that those affected by severe loneliness were in a lesser positive mood after small talk than the control group. Levels of the bonding hormone oxytocin also did not change much. Moreover, people who suffered loneliness maintained a spatial distance from the experimenter that was about ten centimeters greater than that of those hardly affected by loneliness.

    Published: Wiley Online Library.

    Contact: Jana Lieberz, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Hospital Bonn, Germany.

    Details: Image source IStock


    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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