Social anxiety and loneliness.

Image: Pixabay.com

Fearnounan unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm. 

Does that sound familiar to you and your experiences? Perhaps it may. Anxiety is often coined to be a particular type of persisting fear, wherein we worry about potential future outcomes associated with specific events. In fact, the way we feel when either frightened or anxious are extraordinarily similar, because the basic emotion for both remains the same. So, despite not being in any immediate danger, anxiousness can result in similar symptoms to that of fear: increased heart rate, feelings of sickness and/or dizziness, and a loss of appetite. For many, new social situations can be a common trigger of these symptoms, often termed as social anxiety. 

Social anxiety: what is it?

Also labelled as social phobia, social anxiety presents itself as a long-lasting fear of being humiliated or scrutinised by others. It is sometimes (and incorrectly) compared to general shyness. However, whilst shyness often manifests for many prior to an unfamiliar situation, this usually dissipates following exposure to the new social situation. This is not the case for social anxiety. The latter often manifests during adolescence, when the opinions of friends and peers become increasingly important. This impairment can continue into adulthood, wreaking havoc on a wide variety of important life events. Separating social anxiety symptoms from those of general shyness is thus essential before discussing management and treatment options. 

The symptoms

Symptoms of social anxiety (as with any form of anxious behaviour) can be wide ranging, and it is unlikely that any one individual would experience them all. All anxiety disorders can be associated with the symptoms mentioned previously. However, common identifiers for social anxiety usually include the feeling of dreading everyday activities, such as starting up conversations with strangers, speaking on the phone to unfamiliar people, or even going into work. As a consequence, social anxiety can result in the avoidance of many social activities such as eating out or going to parties.

Can social anxiety effect my health? 

Because of the primal need for social interaction between humans, the consequences of social isolation on both physical and emotional health can be catastrophic. A recent meta-analysis – a statistical approach which combines data from multiple studies – identified that a lack of social connections can heighten health risks as much as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day or having an alcohol consumption disorder. The analysis suggested that social isolation can significantly increase the risk of premature mortality, with the magnitude of risk exceeding that of other common leading health threats. A recent study in 2019 analysed the data from more than 580,000 adults, finding that social isolation increases premature death risk for every race.

The negative impact on both mental and cognitive health is also apparent. Evidence supports a link between social isolation and adverse health effects including poor sleep quality, depression and accelerated cognitive decline, the latter of which is associated with problems in memory, language and judgement. A 2018 study also discovered a clear association between loneliness and dementia, increasing a person’s risk of developing the latter by up to forty percent. Examining data from more than 12,000 U.S. adults aged fifty or older, participants rated their loneliness and social isolation alongside completing a battery of cognitive tests every two years for up to ten years. 

Do you think this applies to you?

As reported by a 2018 survey, loneliness levels have reached an all-time high. Of the 20,000 U.S. adults approached, nearly half reported feeling alone, with the youngest generation being the loneliest of all. However, isolation is also well characterised in the elderly. According to Age UK, over two million people in England over the age of 75 live alone, with over one million stating that they go for over a month without conversing with a friend, neighbour or family member10

It is essential to determine whether social anxiety and/or loneliness applies to either yourself or a loved one, and then take appropriate action. It is important to try and communicate with friends and family where possible. However if this is hindered, it is imperative to seek out advice from a qualified medical professional. 

Anxiety: How it links to our future.

anxietyiessss

“After all, what is happiness? Love, they tell me. But love doesn’t bring and never has brought happiness. On the contrary, it’s a constant state of anxiety, a battlefield; it’s sleepless nights, asking ourselves all the time if we’re doing the right thing. Real love is composed of ecstasy and agony.

― Paulo Coelho, The Witch of Portobello

This quote really stuck with me. Love is an incredible thing. Whether that feeling is for a significant other, or perhaps for work or even an environment, it is an emotional rollercoaster. You appreciate how fantastic that person/thing is. However, at the same time, it can cause a sense of worry and sadness. What happens if things change? How certain is the path that I currently walk on? What if change detrimentally alters my current position or relationships? Continue reading “Anxiety: How it links to our future.”

It is time to crucify the self critic.

Self-criticism. It can be one of the most disabling components of our psychological wellbeing. Unfortunately for most of us, we will always be our own worst-critic. Relationships, friendships, work progression; self-critical thoughts can make us second guess our ability and worth in all of these areas. Continue reading “It is time to crucify the self critic.”

The disaster of getting inside your own head.

diaster

I am sure we can all relate to this. Whether it’s insecurities which have built up as a direct consequence of our scrambled society, or perhaps due to previous exposer to a singular toxic perpetrator; self-criticism can cause undeniable havoc and internal conflict. The constant flux within our culture, alongside a concurrent addiction to unrealistic expectations has led to the manifestation of many young individuals feeling like they will never be good enough. Continue reading “The disaster of getting inside your own head.”

Don’t let the past dictate your future.

dont let the past.png

Most of us understand that an upsetting childhood can affect our adult lives. Depending on the nature of the trauma and the resilience of the individual, resulting consequences can sometimes lead to misery, which often manifests itself through extended depression and anxiety. This is especially the case if no professional help is sought. Continue reading “Don’t let the past dictate your future.”

Never Rush Into A Relationship.

replace

The end of a serious relationship can cripple us emotionally. I am sure you, at some point in time, have been on the receiving end of ‘This just isn’t working’, or ‘It’s not you, it’s me’, or perhaps even ‘I don’t want to risk destroying our friendship’. There are definitely more stereotypical lines that are used by both sexes, but I hope these are enough to provide you with a sense of relatability. Continue reading “Never Rush Into A Relationship.”

Where Words Leave Off, Music Begins.

the fuck.png

‘Where words leave off, music begins
– Heinrich Heine

The power of music, it’s inescapable. Many suggest it to be the universal language of the human race, alongside being the greatest form of communication on the planet. Think about it… even if we do not understand the language someone is singing in, we can still identify and appreciate good music when we hear it.

Scientists have identified that listening to music stimulates more parts of the brain than any other human function. Because of this, many people see incredible potential in the power of music to change the brain and modulate its functioning. For example, music has been shown to help stimulate thought to be forgotten memories in Alzheimer’s patients. Curating a collection of music that an Alzheimer’s sufferer may have listened to when they were younger appears to encourage the activation of long-term memories pathways. Additionally, a technique referred to as melodic intonation therapy utilisesthe use of music to trigger portions of the brain into taking over for areas that might have been previously damaged. It is sometimes used for individuals who have suffered a stroke, and lost their ability to speak, for example. In some cases, it can help patients regain their speaking prowess.

It’s unsurprising then, that music is so extensively intertwined with our emotional responses. It almost has the ability to allow us to become an ultimate version of ourselves. Think about listening to music in your car. It makes us feel totally invisible. If we sit there and play the stereo at full volume, it’s almost as if other people cannot see you, as if it tints your windows.

Music is a feeling, not a sound. The majority of music that we choose to listen to gives us some form of emotional buzz. Whether that is happiness, anger, or sadness, music has the ability to stimulate these emotions in all of us. Over the Winter months, focusing on the negative can be, unsurprisingly, unexceptionally normal for us. So much so, the term seasonal affective disorderkeeps cropping up in society. This is then further highlighted when people change their moods once the sun does eventually make an affectionate appearance.

For me, when the sun is out, the UK is one of the best places to be. Sun in the capital is incomparable, and it sets up an unlimited number of possibilities. Yes, sure, experiencing sun all year round on a beautiful beach in Thailand is an idealistic paradise for many. I just think that having to wait for good weather in a place where it is usually so dismal, heightens the experience.

Whilst we all wait for summer, I think music can really help with the negative emotions that we all feel when we brace the winter months. Most of us are clinging onto a savior, in the form of a holiday or travel trip. But, some of us don’t. I know when you’re sad it is exceptionally easy to stick on some upsetting music, thinking it will help with the emotions. It generally heightens them. Sadness as an emotion from listening to particular songs however, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You can embrace the art of a song that was intentionally designed to provoke sadness. It’s listening to music which propagates your own personal experiences of negative situations that you need to avoid. The songs you used to enjoy because of an ex-partner would be the perfect example of this. An otherwise upbeat and energetic song would now be riddled with negativity and despair.

Last year I curated a list of negative and positive songs to listen to following a traumatic experience such as a break-up, or a bereavement. The post specifically highlighted that listening to the negative first, followed by the positive, is generally better for our psychological wellbeing. This time, I have accumulated a playlist which has been getting me through the wet and rainy days over the past few weeks. I hope it helps you as much as it does me!

Oh Wonder – Lifetimes

Peking Duk, Elliphant – Stranger

MK – 17

Mallory Knox – California

Lower Than Atlantis – Could Be Worse

Lo Moon – Real Love

Just Kiddin – More To Life

Fred V & Grafix – San Francisco

Foo Fighters – Learn To Fly

Draper – Who Are You

The xx – Hold On (Jamie xx Remix)

The playlist is also on Spotify, here https://open.spotify.com/user/115449199/playlist/3wGsGoEnLh2LOM7cocWKmf?si=e-A72QRJRzyei1tUz0FLVg