If we experienced significant childhood trauma it is quite possible that it has affected our ability to develop and maintain positive relationships with others now that we are adults. This is especially true if our experience of early life trauma led to us suffering from a psychological condition such as borderline personality disorder (BPD) or complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD). If this is the case, we are likely to experience loneliness in our adult lives. Loneliness, in turn, can worsen any psychological condition we may be suffering from, thus leading to the development of a vicious circle. Indeed, studies indicate that loneliness:
– which makes us more susceptible to the adverse effects of stress
– can contribute to the development of depression and anxiety
– can exacerbate pre-existing depression and anxiety
– is linked to insomnia
HOW POOR MENTAL HEALTH CAN CONTRIBUTE TO LONELINESS: – we may have low self-esteem because of our condition; this reduces our confidence about interacting socially with others – we may believe others don’t understand us and won’t be able to relate to us – we may believe our mental health condition will cause others to judge us as ‘odd’ which in turn can make us feel very self-conscious, thus making it harder for us to interact socially – we may become reclusive and self-isolating – we may have a psychological condition directly related to preventing us from interacting with others such as social. anxiety
PREJUDICE: Unfortunately, even during these more enlightened times, some people are still prejudiced against the mentally ill and, therefore, may avoid us. Friends may desert us or else offer no support making us question the value of their friendship. As a result of such prejudice, we may lose our faith in people and find it hard to trust others which is likely to yet further increase our sense of loneliness.
OUR OWN BEHAVIOUR: Mental illness can adversely affect our behaviour in such a way that we ALIENATE others. For example, we may become AGGRESSIVE towards others at times, perhaps unpredictably (eg if we are suffering from PTSD) Or we may develop PARANOIA, perhaps accusing friends of things they have not done ( some forms of depression can lead to paranoid thinking, especially depressions which involve psychotic episodes – click here to read my article on psychotic depression). We may become very UNKEMPT (eg stop washing or changing our clothes) I am sad, but not ashamed, to report that all three of the above have applied to me during my own illness.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ‘BEING ALONE’ AND ‘BEING LONELY’: Being alone and being lonely are not synonymous. Some people ‘prefer their own company’, enjoy solitary activities (such as reading) and are content to live alone, rarely interacting with others. On the other hand, a person may be part of, and live with, a family as well as having plenty of social contacts outside of the home, but still feel a profound and pervasive sense of internal loneliness and of being psychologically and emotionally ‘cut off’ from others, unable to ‘connect’ with them. Such feelings often stem from us feeling unloved as a child, leading us to INTERNALIZE a belief that we will always continue to be unlovable, not just to our parents, but to everyone else too. Or we may, on an unconscious level, be driven to alienate others by sabotaging our incipient relationships through the means of unreasonable behaviour. By not becoming emotionally involved with others, we protect ourselves from the risk of being hurt by them rejecting us. If we feel alone for the reasons given in the above two paragraphs, we may benefit from therapy (eg cognitive behavioural therapy).