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From nightmares to crippling loneliness, isolation and social distancing can affect us in many adverse ways, as a lot of doctors have analysed, practicalised, and explained.
The practices of physical distancing and self-isolation are a crucial part of the plan to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and, we hope, the number of deaths from the disease.
As important as it is to keep these measures in place, it is also important to recognize the psychological effects this can have on people.
I don’t think anyone of us could’ve ever guessed these events would escalate so quickly, but they did. Here we are, welcoming a new decade and the most impactful disease of the century. Most research have shown and analysed, that by number of deaths, the covid-19 isn’t nearly as devastating as the swine flu or the flu which kills about 56,000 people each year. Regardless if you think the world is over reacting or not, this perception is now our reality.
Humans are a social species and lots of things can change when that is taken away from us. We instinctively feel alone and we don’t release as many ENDORPHINS or DOPAMINE throughout the day, known as our “happiness hormones.” You lose motivation and things start to feel… desolate, dejecting, down in the dumps.
Humans are social creatures. Like all social animals, we have evolved over millennia to rely on complex social interactions with those within our own species. This has been a vital part of our evolution and forms the basis of most societies.
As increasingly stringent, social restrictions are put into place, mental health experts are warning that losing these important connections can come at a high psychological cost.
There is a difference between being socially isolated and being lonely.
Social isolation is the objective physical separation from other people – say, living alone – while loneliness is the subjective distressed feeling of being alone or separated.
It is possible to feel lonely while among other people, and you can be alone yet not feel lonely. But loneliness is not just a feeling; it is a biological warning from your body to seek out other people. Human connections are important to survive and thrive, and your body knows this.
Physical distancing and self-isolation measures that have been applied to limit the spread of the coronavirus have resulted in an increased number of people feeling lonely.
Long before coronavirus, we have known that loneliness, in particular, has been linked to a number of adverse health outcomes.
There have been anecdotal reports of people having nightmares or trouble sleeping as a result of the stress, frustration, and uncertainties surrounding the coronavirus.
This is not a surprise. According to research by Dr. Simon Williams, public health researcher at Swansea University, he stated that, anything that can cause anxiety or stress will increase your risk of having nightmares. Trauma and upsetting events can also have a similar effect on your sleep and dreams.
The elderly and the young ones are particularly vulnerable during isolation. Research has linked social isolation and loneliness in the elderly to a higher risk of a variety of physical and mental conditions, as well as cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease, even earlier death.
It is thought that lonely older people do not engage in activities such as conversations with other people, spend less time outdoors and are less physically active than their non-lonely counterparts, and all of this causes significant mental stress which can lead to increased rates of Alzheimer’s dementia.
For the young ones, which are probably having thier first taste of staying home 24/7, research shows that children a likely to be more psychologically affected by the isolation, bacause, they are used to playing outside with friends, going to parks to play, going to a classmates birthday party and also going to diners with parents.
The effects of social isolation are not confined to the elderly or the young ones alone, however. With fewer people hugging and greeting each other during the pandemic, we are losing another one of our essential human connections – TOUCH .
Human TOUCH releases a hormone in the body called OXYTOCIN . It is OXYTOCIN that triggers the bond between a mother and an infant, and it may also play a role in recognition, sexual arousal, trust and anxiety. Some research has shown that lower levels of OXYTOCIN have resulted in higher levels of stress and anxiety.
Mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety are also more prevalent among those isolating themselves during the pandemic.
The European Public Health Alliance stated: “Feelings of loneliness and social isolation, heightened by the current public health crisis, can have severe health consequences for a number of socioeconomic groups.
“Furthermore, limiting access to normal daily activities, not just going to work, but normal social interactions with others provokes mental health issues, and weakens physical health for those who already struggle to maintain good health and wellbeing.”
People depend on routine for their mental health. This may include things such as going to work, taking the children to school or going to the gym.
When their routine is thrown out and they are forced into isolation – with the added threat of becoming seriously ill from the virus – there is a real danger that mental health issues set in.
A doctor from Stanford Healthcare said that he’s been having an increased number of calls from his patients about their mental health. People with existing mental health issues are finding the current situation particularly difficult, and it is important that they speak to a healthcare professional about it.
What we do not want is to come out of this pandemic to the collateral damage of large numbers of people suffering from subsequent mental health issues.
If you are struggling with your mental health, talk to a healthcare professional sooner rather than later.
It’s very easy to feel disheartened by all of this, but we all have a choice:
Let’s pull together, be there for each other EMOTIONALLY, MENTALLY, and SPIRITUALLY by virtual means, and we’ll get through these times together. I know I’ll be leaning on my friends and family more for phone calls to catch up and share a few laughs, quiet time to relax, and free time to read, write, and focus on my self development and what really matters in the world. How are you spending your quarantine?
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