The relationship between stress and loneliness
Loneliness can lead to long-term “fight-or-flight” stress signaling, which negatively affects immune system functioning. Individuals who feel lonely have less immunity and more inflammation than those individuals who do not feel alone. It is important to note that being alone and feeling lonely are two different things. Being “alone” is a physical state where you are physically by yourself. Being “lonely” is an emotional state where you feel alone or disconnected from others, even when you are in a room full of people. Loneliness is not only a source of acute stress but also chronic stress. Many believe that loneliness can qualify as a psychosocial stressor, especially if it affects your well-being or interferes with daily living. Studies have shown that the stress associated with loneliness does have psychosocial effects on the neuroendocrine (brain hormones) and immune system. For example, loneliness has been associated with impaired cellular immunity, as reflected by lower natural killer (NK) cell activity and higher antibody titers. In addition, loneliness among middle-aged adults has been found to be associated with a smaller increase in natural killer cells in response to acute stressors.
Combating stress and loneliness
One of the best things to help prevent and fight loneliness is to get out of your comfort zone by forcing yourself to meet people. Sometimes meeting new people can seem overwhelming, but within time and if you are your authentic self, you will eventually meet others who share similar interests and mindsets. Ways to meet like-minded people include joining a gym, a class such as cooking or art, participating in church groups, or outdoor activities such as running clubs, ski clubs, or participating in races. In addition, it is essential to surround yourself with people who help you grow, as surrounding yourself with those who pull you down can be detrimental to your stress levels and mental health.
Seeking help at AKUA Mind and Body
AKUA Mind and Body is a full-service addiction and mental health treatment center with multiple locations across California. We believe in treating the individual and not just the disorder and have a team of mental health experts who have experience in treating those who have mental health disorders or substance use disorders brought on by stress. No matter your range or severity of symptoms or the type of stress you are experiencing, your thoughts and words are valid. Our team at AKUA Mind and Body wants to help you navigate through this challenging journey and seek out a healthy and successful recovery.