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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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4 Tips to Surviving Divorce

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So your marital relationship with your spouse has ended, and you’re probably reeling from the aftermath, wondering how you’re supposed to pick yourself up and move forward. It is normal to feel confused, lost, alone, and wounded. The good news is you do not have to feel this way forever. There are some things that you can start doing right now to work towards healing, and finding a new, positive path for yourself. Here are 4 tips that will help you survive your divorce and get to a better place:

  1. Surround Yourself With Good Support

Going through a divorce can be one of the loneliest feelings in the world, because you’re losing one of your primary connections. In order to take the edge off of the loneliness, it’s important to engage in and create a positive support system. This can include friends, family, neighbors, church leaders, and a therapist. You don’t want to rely on just one person to talk to, because you want to get different types of perspectives and support, and you don’t want to burn anyone out. It may be difficult to be around people at this time, but forcing yourself to spend some time with trusted others can really help ease the pain.

  1. Take Care of You

If you’re going through a divorce, you probably feel really low on motivation and energy. The only thing that may sound good to you is lying in bed all day, but this is only going to enhance feelings of depression and loneliness. Instead, it’s going to be very important for you to do a lot of self-care. Make sure you practice good hygiene, and take a shower every day. Try your best to eat good food, and get in some exercise. Along with those things, it can be helpful to do some fun things for yourself. Take a trip with a friend, go for a fun night out, or try out a new hobby. It’ll be difficult, but the more you can take care of yourself, the quicker your adjustment will be.

  1. Create a Game Plan

No one plans on getting divorced, so chances are you and your partner had mapped out plans for your future that are now going to have to change. It’s normal to feel lost and in limbo after a divorce, so it is important that you come up with a new plan for your future. Spend some time thinking about what you would like your new normal to look like, what your goals are for your future, and what you’re going to have to do to get there. Once you have some plans and goals in place, you will have a better sense of direction and control over your life.

  1. Grieve-Don’t Wallow

This can be a tough one to navigate. It is normal and necessary for you to grieve the loss of your marriage. Of course you’re going to have a mixture of emotions, and it’s going to be tough to make it through each day for a while. However, while it’s important for you to allow time to feel and talk about these emotions, it’s also important that you take positive action, and don’t allow your feelings to consume you. If all you ever do is focus on the negative aspects of your divorce, and every time you talk to someone in your support system you are venting about the same things over and over again, you’re never going to feel any better. All that emotion is just going to sit and fester instead of heal. So, when you find yourself obsessing and overwhelmed, engage in that self-care we talked about, get out of your environment into somewhere that helps you gain new perspective, or get busy working on some of those goals we mentioned. There are times and places to work on your grieving process, but that does not have to be every minute of every day.

Divorce is one of the most difficult and painful things a person can experience, and it is expected that you’re going to be down for a time. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. If you practice these important buffers, you will soon find yourself on the way back to happiness and peace.

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Social Media, Depression, and Loneliness: How to Beat the Facebook Blues

Social Media, Depression, and Loneliness: How to Beat the Facebook Blues

It’s no secret that social media connects us like never before. In an instant, we can snap pictures and post our whereabouts (think that selfie from your backpacking trip in Europe) and also keep tabs on what our friends are up to. I love social media. It has been an integral part of my professional life and is a great way to keep in touch with my loved ones. But it is not without its problems.
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In the past few years, there has been public and medical concern about such topics as cyber-bullying and too much screen time (particularly for young people). As a psychotherapist, I’d like to address one more issue as it relates to mental health and social media: that of internet loneliness, depression, and feelings of low self-esteem.

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Is Group Therapy Right for Me?

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Wasatch Family Therapy is starting a new Women’s Group, beginning Thursday, September 5. This group will be a wonderful way for women to interact and feel support. It is normal to have some apprehension about joining a group like this. If you are wondering whether or not a group would be the right thing for you, here are some questions you can ask yourself:

Do I feel alone?
If you’re feeling lonely for any reason, group can be a great place to feel a sense of purpose and belonging. It gives you the opportunity to interact with others, and fill your life with more people who truly know and care about you. Even if there are weeks you don’t feel like talking, you can at least still feel the presence of others, and keep from feeling isolated and cut off from the world.

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Ask A Therapist: I’m So Lonely But I Should Be Happy

Simply put, I’m very lonely.
 I should be happy.  I just graduated college and starting my masters’ degree.  I own my own home. I have a job. I’m very fit. I try to do things that are social, but most of the things I do are by myself because I don’t have friends.
I’ve always had a boyfriend, and finally realized that they were a crutch, so I’ve been single for the past 2 years and concentrated on myself and my education. But being alone night after night and not having anyone to do things with is terrible. I’m considerate and friendly, but I just don’t know how to find friends. Seems like I’ve even lost my mojo in dating. I don’t feel like the person I used to be, and maybe I’m not anymore in a good way, but I can’t figure out why I don’t have any friends and am living a solitary life. It’s so lonely. What can I do?

A: I have more questions than I have answers. How long have you struggled with friendships? Has this been a pattern even when you were younger in elementary and junior high or is this recent? No matter where you live you can find friends. Watch the video for some suggestions for overcoming this loneliness and sadness.

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

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Ask A Therapist: Depressed, Anxious, and Socially Awkward

Q: I don’t remember a time in my life where I’ve been totally happy but for the past approximately 2 years i have been extremely depressed as a result of my social anxiety and loneliness. I have always found social situations ‘awkward’, in fact the last time I remember frequently leaving my house for social reasons was when I was about 13. I then became more and more of a recluse from there on, i went out with my friends less and less outside of school, then upon leaving school i stopped doing things with my friends more and more until the point where i have not left my house for social reasons for about 2/3 years. I no longer have any friends and although my family is nice and supportive they cannot provide me with what I need. I have not spoken to anyone in person about my problems, I simply can’t. My parents will just tell me to go to a doctor. Doctors will just prescribe me with a drug that I don’t want. I don’t feel a psychiatrist can help me. I’ve become extremely lonely and depressed. My self esteem is extremely low and although I’m not a bad looking person I simply cannot accept my imperfections, no matter how hard I’ve tried. I feel I am in so deep that I cannot make a recovery. I cannot throw myself into social activities to make friends because of my social anxiety. I no longer find anything enjoyable and nothing at all interests me, this leaves me with the motivation to try nothing. I feel like I’m in a corner with no way out, every possible path I need to take to fix myself, I cant bring myself to walk down whether its my self esteem, depression or social anxiety stopping me. I hate it and I hate the person I am, I’m so sad it hurts. I feel so lost and lonely I cry randomly, its pathetic. There is no reason why I should feel like this, I’ve had a very normal life without any trauma, this only makes me feel guilty for the way I am. Guilt I don’t deserve to feel when there’s so many more out there in far worse situations.

I just want to live my life and be happy, but I truly believe I will never get there. Sometimes I feel like giving my life and donating what i have to give someone else a shot at life. Someone who can appreciate life.

I have read a lot of advice online about people in similar situations to myself but what are my options when the things I need to do to fix myself, I simply cannot bring myself to do?

A: Thanks so much for writing in and reaching out for help. I have seen many clients in my therapy office who express similar feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, focus on their own imperfections, and have extreme guilt for feeling so sad and lonely because they’ve had a “pretty normal life.” It sounds to me like you are suffering from severe depression and anxiety that are keeping you in a downward spiral, unable to reach out for help. The good news is you have reached out on this forum, so I am very hopeful that you can reach out in other areas.

I urge you to talk to your parents and ask them for help. You said you haven’t talked to your parents because they will tell you to go to a doctor. If they love and care about you they will tell you to go to a doctor or a therapist because that’s the right thing to do when a family member is ill. I suggest that you keep an open mind about medication. While it doesn’t need to be the first course of treatment, it can definitely be a helpful tool in treatment. Ask your doctor for a psychotherapist referral as individual psychotherapy can be very effective. Often, a combination of medication and psychotherapy can be effective in treating depression and anxiety.

In order to experience some change in your life and find happiness you will need to take some action, even if you don’t want to, and even if it’s a small one – like talking to your parents about how hopeless you feel. You can do it. It sounds to me like what you’re experiencing isn’t really “you” but is mental illness clouding your thoughts and feelings. You can have more satisfaction and joy in living than what you’re experiencing.

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

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Ask A Therapist: I’m a 26-Year-Old Virgin with No Close Friends

Q: I’m 26 and very lonely, a virgin and I have no close friends. I’m socially awkward and it has affected me all my life. I’m so alone that I made a time limit in my journal that if I don’t make friends or have sex when I reach 30, I’ll kill myself. Crazy right? I even know it’s crazy. I’m a really nice girl, but quiet. What is wrong with me? I have no help what-so-ever around me. I don’t even know what to do anymore. I’ve tried making friends, but it’s so hard. I’m getting desperate, I’m so alone.

A: Thanks for writing in about your desperate need to connect with others. I hear that your overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and helplessness are so painful that you have considered putting a time limit on your life. Ironically, putting a time limit on getting close to others will likely increase your anxiety level and create situations that will make it less likely that you’ll create close and successful relationships. Instead of giving yourself an ultimatum (“You get close to someone or else I’ll end your life”), I suggest that you work on seeking sources of emotional and relational support, on self nurturing, and on actively seeking relationship skills.

I strongly recommend that you seek a psychotherapist as soon as possible to get someone on your “team,” someone you can explore your pain with, ease your loneliness, and help you find the tools to connect with others.  Opening up to a therapist may feel very scary; however, therapy can be extremely helpful in resolving emotional blocks that are making it so difficult to get close to others, and help you develop emotional and relationship tools.  Your therapist will also assess for a mental illness that is contributing to the feelings of loneliness or isolation. If you need help to find a qualified therapist please click here. Group therapy may also be a helpful treatment option for you at some point. Groups are a wonderful place to explore your relationship patterns and to practice relationship skills in real time with the support of a therapist. Thank you again for writing in.

Please take good care of yourself.

Julie Hanks LCSW

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