Loneliness can be hazardous to your health, doctors warn.
A deficiency of social contacts often leads to a feeling of emptiness – due to a lack of recognition, affirmation and appreciation – and can eventually cause stress, according to the German Association for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics (DGPPN).
That’s why loneliness is a risk factor for mental health conditions such as depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, the association says.
If you want to liberate yourself from loneliness, it suggests that you start small. Even brief conversations – in a bus, supermarket or stairwell, for instance – can help. Opportunities for somewhat deeper interpersonal connections include volunteer work, adult education courses and sports groups.
Social networking websites are also a way to make contacts, but should be used with caution. While the inhibition threshold for communication is much lower – which is good – frequent use of such sites can increase your social isolation. They’re no substitute for real person-to-person contacts.
Approaching people can be very difficult if you’re lonely, though, because you may lack self-confidence or be weighed down by negative thought patterns. If this is the case, the DGPPN advises working on your relationship with yourself, for example by consciously brightening your days – and practising some self-care – with pleasant experiences.
If you feel unable to take small steps like these on your own, you should seek professional help – particularly if your loneliness has escalated into depression. If you find yourself in a state of psychological crisis and need someone to talk to, you can call your local telephone counselling service. – dpa
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