insomnia, mental health, mental illness, mental illness awareness, mental illness stigma

Mental Illness and Toxic Loneliness

Loneliness and mental illness can often occur together. Does the mental illness cause the loneliness? Or can loneliness and isolation cause mental illness?

There are studies that suggest the loneliness and isolation can cause depression, anxiety disorders and even dementia. But for this post I want to leave the studies and references to those studies aside. We can do that another day.

If someone becomes depressed they tend to self isolate. People that are stricken by grief or loss sometimes just don’t feel enough energy or desire to interact socially.

For short periods of time, this can be a normal reaction, particularly for an introverted person. But long term isolation has detrimental effects on mental health.

Anxiety disorders also can cause people to self isolate. Without any support  or interaction with people, a person with severe anxiety can develop other disorders like agoraphobia or even hoarding.

Long term isolation cuts off the human connection that people need. This can bring up the fight or flight mechanism, because the brain may perceive extreme isolation as dangerous. Being cut off from community and basically cut off from the protection of the herd, is something that the brain may perceive as life threatening.

The reptilian brain is all about the primal urges and protection for survival. If the reptilian brain feels that the basic survival needs are not being met, then a message may be sent to the limbic system to feel the threat in the body.

The amygdala is the part of the brain that controls the fight or flight chemicals. Cortisol and adrenaline are sent into the system when a threat of danger is perceived.

If we become overloaded by cortisol for extended periods of time on a regular basis, it can create harm to the body and the brain. I will get into this more in another post.

The important thing is that these chemicals make the nervous system feel terrible. The person can hyperventilate, have heart palpitations and feel painful, uncomfortable sensations throughout the body.

We were designed to  exist in a state of fight or flight mode. This is PTSD or it can be C-PTSD. In the case of on-going experiences of feeling in danger, over many months or years, it is complex post traumatic stress disorder that occurs.

There may be feelings of extreme fear of abandonment upon meeting new people. There may be severe social anxiety from this or from feeling inadequate to interact with people.

Some of the trauma may be rooted in early childhood experiences of abandonment or rejection. Child abuse of any kind, including emotional abuse, can cause fear of abandonment and fear of being isolated from others.

The issue of loneliness and how serious it can be seems to be taboo to discuss. People do not like to say they feel lonely because it makes them fear they will be rejected for admitting this. Then they will just reinforce their problem by making people reject them.

So there can feel like there is no way out. Someone feels depressed or lonely to begin with. Then the depression results in pathological loneliness. Or the toxic lineliness results in chronic depression.

The anxiety naturally goes along side all of this, and turns into C-PTSD  or it opens old childhood trauma which had already caused C-PTSD. The person may not even know they had old wounds to open, but the emotional flashbacks to rejection and fear of abandonment are happening.

Suicidal thoughts, self harm and self medicating can occur as a result of this snowball effect. What started the process may never be known. The person just feels isolated and afraid to live this way.

The stigma of mental illness makes all of this worse. Many people are afraid to seek treatment. They are afraid to even tell anyone how they feel. They do not think anyone will understand.

Once someone starts to become isolated from other people, it can be hard to get out of. They will still feel isolated in a room full of people, because they feel that they are too different to fit in.

The issue of loneliness should not be taboo to talk about. It causes suffering for many people with mental illness, and most likely is one of the roots of mental illness to begin with.

It is when someone feels that others do not understand them, that they feel inadequate or just too different to be accepted. Everyone needs human touch and emotional intimacy of some kind.

This issue of loneliness needs to have less stigma, just like the issue of mental illness needs to have less stigma. There needs to be more awareness so that people do not isolate themselves emotionally to the point that they see no value in living.

Being in emotional and mental pain every day, on a regular, constant basis diminishes quality of life. It makes people feel hopeless and worthless.

Mental illness is painful, and so is the feeling that no one can understand and accept you.

The worst thing is believing there may be no end to the suffering. That is when people lose hope. No one wants to live with neverending suffering.

anxiety, anxiety disorder, c-ptsd, depression, life, mental abuse, mental health, mental illness, narcissistic abuse, ptsd

Depression, Loneliness and Invisible Illness

Depression and lonliness can exist together, but they are not exactly the same thing.

Lonliness is something experienced by all people at some point but it is not always accompanied by depression.

Usually lonliness is thought of as occurring in solitude but this is not always true either.

Some people experience lonliness in combination homesickness , when they are away from familiar people and surroundings. They can feel this even when there are people around.

Other people feel like they do not fit in and this leads to lonliness with people around. Some people feel more lonely around groups of people than they do when they are by themselves.

There are other circumstances where people experience lonliness with other people around. Some of these circumstances tend to cause a co-existing condition of depression and lonliness.

People with invisible illnesses like chronic pain, chronic illness, and mental illness often feel both lonliness and depression. There is a feeling of disconnection from others when someone cannot find anyone that can relate to what they are going through.

Toxic loneliness is something that happens to people that cannot tolerate being alone or cannot tolerate bring without an intimate partner.

Ross Rosenberg coined the term “pathological loneliness” when he was doing research with his clients that suffered from co-dependence.

He discovered that one of the reasons so many people go back into abusive relationships is the pathological loneliness.

Both the terms toxic loneliness and pathological loneliness refer to this intolerable pain associated with being alone.

Usually the abusive partner lures the victim back in with false promises that things will be different. The victim who is suffering from such severe emotional / mental distress from being alone takes their chances and goes back.

In the mind of the victim, the pathological loneliness and the depression that goes along with it, is more painful than the abuse was.

People with codependent personalities usually developed pathological lonliness as children from neglect and abuse.

Depression can also develope out of childhood abuse. This can be any type of abuse, including emotional and psychological abuse. People that were abused as children often have complex post traumatic stress disorder as adults.

C-PTSD can involve depression, anxiety and sometimes pathological loneliness. There are often internal mental tapes that play inside their head that repeat negative things.

Being alone can make the internal dialogue louder. Thoughts of worthlessness, shame and failure play over and over. These tapes are implanted in the subconscious during childhood by others.

Many people with C-PTSD do not realize that they have actual trauma that is the same as PTSD which was caused at multiple ages and multiple circumstances.

Many people who have mental illness like depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder had chaotic, traumatic, abusive or emotionally devaluing chilhoods.

People with depression have organic differences in their brains which can be seen with brain scans like an MRI. Certain parts of the brain that are supposed to light up to show activity, do not light up.

Depression can also co-exist with anxiety disorders. The sensations of imminent threat that occur with PTSD and CPTSD, can be felt alongside of depression and loneliness.

Sometimes it can be hard to differentiate one feeling from another. It can be helpful to people to be able to identify what sensations they are feeling.

Sometimes looking at the feelings and figuring out what is based on current circumstances and what is from early programming can help.

People with disorders of depression often feel lonely because they are unable to find people to understand their illness. Being disbelieved and invalidated can open up old wounds from childhood.

Some people are unaware that they had any abuse or emotional trauma because it happened at a very young age. The brain stores memories differently before the age of 5.

Conditions like depression and toxic loneliness are no less painful than other illnesses. Unfortunately many people are not empathetic about invisible illnesses.