One is the loneliest number
One is the loneliest number
One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do
Three Dog Night
I read an article in The Week magazine yesterday titled An Epidemic of Loneliness. According to the authors, social science researchers define loneliness as “the emotional state created when people have fewer social contacts and meaningful relationships than they would like – relationships that make them feel known and understood.” They go on to say that up to 50% of Americans feel lonely. Isolation is on the rise for various reasons, and as you probably know, it can be very high among People with Parkinson’s (PwP’s). The feeling of isolation can be devastating in many ways.
Many PwP’s withdraw from social activities at some time. Often they withdraw when first diagnosed, because they do not want anyone to know that they have PD or they are afraid people will notice their symptoms. Later they withdraw because of mobility issues and worsening symptoms. The loneliness they experience may cause other problems. According to the authors of the article, loneliness triggers the release of stress hormones, particularly cortisol. Normally cortisol helps make people more alert. These same hormones can damage health over long periods of time, causing high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, depression and more. For a PwP, isolation can cause a downward spiral of poor health and worsened symptoms, making it increasingly difficult to get out and do anything.
A reader in Adelaide, Australia writes ” At the moment most of my continuing and nurturing social connections are not exclusively with PWP people. I suspect that might change over time as things change.” For now, he is incredibly involved, both with PwP’s and with the community at large. He sees those connections as essential for him to keep on going. “Membership of these groups provide a series of lifelines and vehicles for connection and care. I’ve started to see membership of those groups and the thought and action they sometimes require as contributing to an ‘ecology of hope in illness.’ “
I agree with him 100%. Being a part of a group is one of the best things you can do to reduce loneliness. Even if you cannot physically attend, with today’s technology, you can video chat with a group and still feel that you are a part of something. Maybe you chat on-line, or participate in a Facebook group where you have interaction with others. Any contact that you can make with others who understand how you are feeling can give you a much needed dopamine boost.
Recently I wrote about the “non-support group” that I started. The underlying factor that has made it successful is that the women who participate have found those necessary connections with others that give them hope. Sometimes just knowing that there is someone you can call, or email, when you are feeling lonely and isolated, is enough to give you hope. And that goes for any chronic illness.