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  • Writer's picturedocschleg

Anti-social or lonely?

Recently I was sent an article on loneliness. It seems that isolation can effectively rewire the brain to make it harder to break through the isolation. Here you can find the full article "How Loneliness Reshapes the Brain" by Marta Zaraska. She states that research has found that isolation can change the brain, making socializing more difficult. On the other hand, loneliness is to socializing as hunger is to eating-it signals that we need to socialize. Some quotes from the article are below.

Neuroscience suggests that loneliness doesn’t necessarily result from a lack of opportunity to meet others or a fear of social interactions. Instead, circuits in our brain and changes in our behavior can trap us in a catch-22 situation: While we desire connection with others, we view them as unreliable, judgmental and unfriendly. Consequently, we keep our distance, consciously or unconsciously spurning potential opportunities for connections.

In short, we might want to socialize but struggle to have successful social interactions. People seem less trustworthy, or we focus more on negative interactions than otherwise.

The problem with loneliness seems to be that it biases our thinking. In behavioral studies, lonely people picked up on negative social signals, such as images of rejection, within 120 milliseconds — twice as quickly as people with satisfying relationships and in less than half the time it takes to blink. Lonely people also preferred to stand farther away from strangers, trusted others less and disliked physical touch.

This describes some outcomes from studies on loneliness that scientists think perpetuate isolation and actually make people more lonely. You can see how this creates a negative cycle of feelings and behaviors.

I have heard a couple of explanations from people who say they prefer to be alone and are obviously suffering from isolation. This explanation makes a lot of sense to me because it suggests that people might even intend to socialize but get overwhelmed by all the negative and disparaging feedback they get from their social environment. If this describes you or someone you know, I encourage you to read the article and study this further, and possibly seek professional assistance. This important and complicated issue does not lend itself to flippant advice or Top 10 lists.

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