Are You Lonely Tonight?

Do you feel alone?  Do you feel like you are the only one that feels this way?  Well 
don’t feel like that any longer.

Statistics show we are a nation full of folks suffering from loneliness. When the 
National Science Foundation did a study on this topic, 1 in 4 people stated they 
were feeling lonely. When they were asked to rule out family, the numbers went 
up to 1 out of every 2.

The effects of loneliness can be devastating on our society. It causes depression. Depression can easily lead to mental illness. Depending on the severity of mental illness, other issues follow.   Potential issues are anxiety disorders, panic attacks, and impaired immune functioning.

Furthermore, there have been studies showing impaired immune functioning can lead to increased risk of arthritis, diabetes, and overeating. In general, the studies bear out that this decrease in immune functioning directly correlates to decrease longevity of life.  Also, at the top of the list of probability when encountering loneliness is suicide. Professor John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago found in his study in 2014 that loneliness was twice as bad for older people’s health as obesity and almost as great a cause of death as poverty.   

Loneliness is not reserved as an issue for simply elderly aged adults. Actually it has become a major issue with young adults these days.   The Mental Health Foundation 
found out through studies that it is a greater concern among adults aged 18-34 years 
old.  This age was much more likely, when questioned, to state they were feeling 
lonely and often.  They also worried about feeling all alone and feeling depressed 
because of being alone much more so than those over the age of 55.

There is such a close link between loneliness and mental health as stated before  that 
it bears repeating the incidence of increased stress levels go up when someone feels loneliness.  Thus these young people become more depressed increasing the  likelihood 
of paranoia, anxiety, addiction, with a cognitive decline.  These all are factors that 
can lead to suicide.    

Thus we have a society with a great deal of adults functioning, to some extent with a silent secret.  The secret they have is impeding their happiness and their ability to experience life fully and enjoyably.  And they need help but have no one,or so they 
feel, to help them. How did this happen over the last twenty years?

First, we have become a technological savvy society. Everything we do, we do through automated systems, through the internet. We talk to our office mates through instant messaging, we talk to family through emails or Facebook and we talk to friends through texting.  We make friends through Facebook or Twitter and Instagram.  Gone are face 
to face chats where verbal and non-verbal skills are used. No longer are we getting the direct feedback that gives one a sense of well-being, a general sense of acceptance, 
for those that need that.  This can create a world where some folks feel that they are unworthy of others’ time anymore.

Yes, you can have an online presence but is that really you? Having an online presence 
is not the same as having a real relationship. That persona people put up on their pages, their profiles, you have no idea if it is true, even that they look like the picture you are
staring at or if it is some stock photo they bought.  And let’s face it, no one is as good 
as they project online. No one is always happy, always faithful, that incredibly wise, 
so incredibly witty, comes up with the best answer for everything, and is never down-trodden!   

Thus, many people do not feel comfortable putting their loneliness out there on the internet, a so perfect world, to get the help they need.  They do not want to risk the criticism or rejection from the phony society they are a part of.    So even though 
there are helpful sites out there for those lonely souls seeking help , there is not 
clear evidence to show which sites are legit from which ones are facades. 
The job market is very demanding and seldom is a work week 40 hours. Many have few hours left to seek outside intervention, slash counseling.  Some still see counseling as a weakness, a strike against them.  They believe the old wives’ tale that no one else needs to know what goes on in your house or in your head even if it means it will clear up the cobwebs and straighten up your thinking to a clearer path.  So they will just work their butts off and keep their loneliness to themselves letting it eat away at them in the stillness of the night.

Family breakdowns more and more these days have caused deterioration in the family network. Thus no longer do we have families connected where they support each other through thick and thin. Some families don’t even speak anymore to each other.  New families can be a network of friends or non-existent thus making someone feel totally isolated until a new network is established creating a placebo family.   Until that is done or if not done, there is a hole inside a person, a void that is left which can make someone feel empty, thus alone.

Whatever the reasons or the issues for feeling lonely, real or imagined, the solution is 
get help.  The consequences are great, to you as an individual and to us as a society.  
The options are as varied as we are as people.   We mustn’t be shy about reaching out 
our hands to help others and point out ideas of paths to take to aid others on ways to improve their condition.  Or we can become part of the solution.  We should never try 
to become the only solution, as that would be self-defeating, becoming a crutch for another person.  They need the tools so they have the sense of accomplishment and
 the ability to go on with or without you.
There really is no excuse for noticing someone is lonely and not offering a helping hand, pointing out resources or extending some friendship.  It could be a matter of saving a 
life. And one day, that life saved might be yours!