Study: Loneliness Isn't a Symptom, It's a Disease
Loneliness accompanies a host of unhealthiness, and we may need to reconsider the chicken and egg of it all.
John Cacioppo co-authored a study that was recently released with an interesting premise: Before his study, it was believed that loneliness was just an accompanying symptom of mental illnesses such as depression. In light of his study though, there is evidence to point out that loneliness is not a symptom - rather it's the disease. Cacioppo's research pointed out how people can still feel lonely when in the presence of many friends, because loneliness is not exclusive to when you are physically alone. A huge component to his study was the fact that loneliness is not just an emotion, and the brains of those who frequently experience loneliness actually struggle with certain functions. For example, the lonely brain has a suppressed neural response to positive stimuli; positive events and images don't register in a lonely brain the way they do in a non-lonely brain.
This article took an in-depth look at Cacioppo's study, the results, and the evidence found that supported the results and conclusions. I personally find the study very interesting, especially with the fact that Cacioppo took a completely unprecedented approach to the "epidemic" of loneliness and depression. Instead of saying that loneliness can only be experienced in situations where the individual is alone, or saying that depression and loneliness are mutually exclusive, he has performed an entire study on why loneliness is its own disease, rather than just a symptom experienced by those with depression.
Due to some events namely, some rather tragic school shootings, mental health has become a fairly large issue both in the fields of psychology and in general. This study re-evaluates the very symptoms and nature of a mental illness and forces people to evaluate things from a different perspective. Hopefully with studies like this, peoples' understanding of mental illnesses will become somewhat clearer. Plus, who knows? Maybe the more familiar we become with mental illnesses, the less stigmatized those who suffer from them will be.