A new research study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology finds that people who have social anxiety are at greater risk for loneliness. Profound feelings of loneliness may be caused by a lack of interpersonal relationships, physical isolation, new living environments, divorce, and even death, and social anxiety may also create loneliness for sufferers.
Loneliness and Poor Health
In prior research, scientists have linked loneliness to higher morbidity and mortality rates. However, few research studies have investigated the effects of loneliness on mental health beyond the depressive effects. For this study, researchers conducted three online surveys of 1,010 participants ages 18-87. Researchers designed the survey to measure changes in mental health over a 6-month period.
Through an initial analysis of the survey data, researchers found that mental health issues didn’t increase the risk of loneliness experienced by participants. However, researchers discovered that social anxiety significantly increased the participants’ risk for loneliness and depression. Researchers noted that those with social anxiety tend to avoid social interactions, thus preventing the development of relationships that would offset feelings of loneliness. Paranoia was among the other mental conditions that researchers linked to a higher risk for loneliness.
Anxiety Diagnosis & Treatment
While there is no official diagnosis for loneliness, addressing underlying factors such as anxiety and paranoia may help reduce behavior that isolates individuals. The diagnosis of anxiety usually involves conducting a physical exam, as well as blood and urine tests to look for signs of other underlying medical conditions. Other diagnostic methods involve the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM-5) and examine four key symptoms:
- Extreme anxiety and general worry about events or activities for more than six months
- Difficulty controlling worry
- Feelings of worry and anxiety that make performing daily tasks difficult
- Exhibiting at least three of the following symptoms: restlessness, fatigue, trouble concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, or sleep problems
- Feelings of anxiety that are not related to panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, drug abuse or other medical conditions
The management of generalized and social anxiety varies by case, but treatment can involve a mix of cognitive behavioral therapy and the use of medications that minimize excessive feelings of worry. Additionally, HelpRx offers discounts on many widely used anxiety treatments such as Xanax. Talking to your doctor is the best way to determine the ideal combination of therapies and medications to treat social anxiety and other underlying health conditions that could be making you lonely.