A recent Scientific American has an extensive article about loneliness.
[“Loneliness Can Be Toxic“, by Francine Russo, January 2018]
Here are some relevant quotes from this article (plus our comments):
“Loneliness is defined as perceived social isolation and the experience of being cut off from others.”
[The dictionary basically says, “the sadness of being alone,” from Middle English alone, al all + one one.]
“…researchers have been probing the nature of different types of loneliness, their biological mechanisms and their effects on mind and body.”
[Recognize here the emphasis on the discredited biological (medical) model of psychiatry.]
“…insufficient social connection … is a major public health concern”.
[Recognize here the inference of a dangerous environment.]
“Growing evidence has linked loneliness to a marked vulnerability to a host of psychological and physiological ills…”
[Recognize here the invocation of a psychological aspect plus the psychiatric medical model.]
“Part of the problem in the scientific literature is that the standard tools for measuring loneliness do not necessarily gauge the same things.”
[Recognize here the admission that psychologists don’t really understand the issue.]
“The most commonly used measure of loneliness, the Revised UCLA Loneliness Scale, assesses individuals’ perceived dissatisfaction with the quality or quantity of their relationships.”
[This is a 20-item questionnaire purported to measure one’s subjective feelings of loneliness as well as feelings of social isolation. Participants rate each item on a scale from 1 (Never) to 4 (Often).]
The psychiatric billing bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) has no shortage of items that could be related to loneliness, covering pretty much all the bases — in other words, regardless of what the patient says is the matter, a diagnosis could be found here.
[The purpose of which is to be able to bill insurance for counseling or drugs for any of these diagnoses:]
“Problem related to living alone”
“Disinhibited social engagement disorder”
“Other problem related to psychosocial circumstances”
“Social (pragmatic) communication disorder”
“Social anxiety disorder (social phobia)”
“Social exclusion or rejection”
“Unspecified problem related to social environment”
“Unspecified problem related to unspecified psychosocial circumstances”
“Psychological factors affecting other medical conditions”
“Other personal history of psychological trauma”
“Unspecified personality disorder”
In 1959 a German psychoanalyst, Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, thought that loneliness might arise from premature weaning; her own severe loneliness was apparently related to her own and familial deafness. In 2012 and 2016, published research reported that loneliness was age-related. Other studies reported loneliness factors related to being married, or being employed, or relations with parents, or issues with trust, or with health or discrimination. Again, psychologists don’t really understand it, but they can sure get funds for researching whatever symptoms they think could be related to it.
Then, too, a scan through the side effects of psychotropic drugs gives one the impression that many of these adverse reactions could certainly lead to feelings of loneliness.
At first we thought it was a joke when we read that Prime Minister Theresa May appointed a Minister for Loneliness on January 17, 2018, based on a report from The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness claiming that over 9 million people in the United Kingdom are lonely. But they are entirely serious; perhaps too serious. One suspects, however, that this is really just another drug marketing campaign diagnosing common life situations such as sadness and loneliness as “mental illness.”
The main “treatment” for symptoms of loneliness is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which is a form of psychotherapy that attempts to modify dysfunctional emotions, behaviors, and thoughts — by evaluating and challenging a person’s behaviors and getting the person to change those behaviors, often in combination with psychiatric drugs. Some recommendations are for drug treatment with allopregnanolone, a neurosteroid related to progesterone, although this is still being researched (naturally, since they don’t really understand it.)
So, what is loneliness, and how should it be treated?
Well, let’s stop explaining it in terms of symptoms and then trying to treat those individual symptoms with evaluative psychotherapy or harmful drugs. Let’s find a root cause.
The root cause of any feelings of loneliness is an absence or scarcity of communication. Communication is livingness.
There is certainly no scarcity of silence, which would be another way to describe aloneness, but silence itself is death. The answer is to provide more communication.
The American Psychological Association (APA) states that “Our mission is to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.” How unfortunate it is that the APA does not actually use communication as a treatment.