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Is Loneliness An Epidemic?

In 1949, Hank Williams composed the song, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” The single reached # 4 on the Country charts that year, and many great legends followed to record the song as well; Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley just to name a few.

As you read and ponder the lyrics below; what memories and emotions come to mind?

Hear that lonesome whippoorwill
He sounds too blue to fly
The midnight train is whining low
I’m so lonesome I could cry

I’ve never seen a night so long
When time goes crawling by
The moon just went behind the clouds
To hide its face and cry

Did you ever see a robin weep
When leaves began to die?
Like me, he’s lost the will to live
I’m so lonesome I could cry

The silence of a falling star
Lights up the purple sky
And as I wonder where you are
I’m so lonesome I could cry.

A recent article in Harvard Business Review entitled, “Work and the Loneliness Epidemic,” reports that there is good reason to be concerned about social connection in our current world. We live in the most technologically connected age in the history of civilization, yet the rates of loneliness have doubled since the 1980’s. Loneliness is a growing health epidemic. Another article (this one in Psychology Today) expresses it this way: “Even though our need to connect is innate, some of us always go home alone. You could have people around you throughout the day or even be in a lifelong marriage and still experience a deep, pervasive loneliness. Unsurprisingly, isolation can have a serious detrimental effect on one’s mental and physical health.”

What is Loneliness?

Loneliness has been described as a social pain and an unmet longing to connect, physically and emotionally with someone else. It has been linked to depression, anxiety, paranoia, panic attacks, sleep problems, tiredness, lack of motivation, cognitive decline, heart disease, and even suicide. People who are lonely often share certain characteristics. These include having experienced trauma and loss during their lifetime and having spent their childhood years being cared for by individuals who have harsh, critical and negative parenting skills. In children, a lack of social connection is directly linked to several forms of antisocial and self-destructive behavior.

How is Loneliness Treated?

Doctors are recommending that individuals who experience loneliness be evaluated for possible symptoms of depression and anxiety; as well as receiving treatment from a mental health professional if warranted. Don’t allow loneliness to impair your physical and emotional health or affect your rate of mortality. Our therapists here at Wasatch Family Therapy are available to treat loneliness and improve your quality of life.

Sue Hodges LCSW

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Ask A Therapist: Mother-in-law Passed Away and Left Us $50,000 In Debt

Q: To start off I was best friends with my wife’s mother. She took me in and gave me a family. Within the last 2 years both my wife’s mother and grand father passed away. My wife and I lived with them before we got married.

We ended up getting married twice, once in a church and once in my mother in law’s room at the nursing home. She was 46 years old when she died and it happened this past march.

Since then I have found that we have tons of money to pay out in inheritance tax and to her medical bills if we want to keep our house. My wife has stopped doing anything around the house and she won’t go do any of the legal things that need to be done by her.

How can I get her more motivated without hurting her feelings and how can I keep my sanity though out all of this. I don’t really know what to do to get myself motivated to be happier.

A: I am so sorry to hear about your recent family losses and financial difficulties. You’ve both lost two important support people, and while they can’t be replaced, it important for you and your wife to get additional support during this difficult time. While grieving is different for every person, it seems that your wife’s grieving may have turned into depression. Her “lack of motivation” and difficulty functioning may not be something she can control at this point.  Your difficulty being happy is also concerning to me and I recommend that both of you get an assessment for depression by a mental health professional. I also want to encourage you to seek out a grief counselor to help you process your losses, and a grief group so you can talk with other families who are going through similar experiences. To find a therapist and a group in your area click here.

In addition to mental health support, please seek professional advice on your legal and financial matters surrounding your mother-in-law’s passing, if you haven’t already done so. Tax issues and liability for medical bills can be complex and very stressful.

Thank you again for writing.

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

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