"You never thought you'd be alone This far down the line And I know what's been on your mind You're afraid it's all been wasted time" "Wasted Time" Henley/Frey Recorded by the Eagles
Loneliness is hard to define largely because it is an subjective experience, much like chronic pain. Researchers have called it a deficit in quantity and/or quality of social relationships resulting in unpleasant feelings. Experts have called it, "Gnawing distress without redeeming features." (2001, University of Missouri) Loneliness is a universal phenomena. Is it a paradox of humankind that we all seek to fill a need that seems impossible to be completely satisfied? Many people live lonely, wanting lives. Some people experience loneliness as a fleeting feeling that visits them on a cold and gloomy rainy day when human contact becomes minimal and they are left only with isolated thoughts in their heads. This is known as state loneliness because the state of conditions in which the person finds himself/herself appears to trigger the feeling. Others experience loneliness as a curse, a shadow that follows them all the time, constantly lurking behind every human relationship. They develop trait loneliness often leading to withdrawal from painful situations. This loneliness can dominate human experience. Depression and loneliness can coexist and share many common features. Loneliness is relative to personal beliefs about how many relationships the person suffering should have. Those suffering from clinical depression feel rejected and worthless. Anecdotal evidence suggests loneliness can be very medically significant and even life threatening. Research suggests those who feel lonely have more health problems and a shorter life expectancy than others. Some data actually exists that finds the statistical impact of loneliness on heart disease appears to be equal to the impact of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. (University of Missouri) People react to loneliness in different ways. One common reaction is frustration and agitation. The lonely also may become sad and apathetic, leading to fear and hopelessness. Or, they may become angry, bitter, and hostile. How a lonely person reacts is usually based on attribution- whether the person sees the problem as external or internal, fixed or changeable. Interestingly enough, John Cacioppo, Director of the "Social Isolation, Loneliness, Health and the Aging Process," research states, "This is not simply about being alone. Some people can be physically isolated, yet not feel a sense of loneliness. Conversely, people can be married and have children, yet feel excluded and alone. We're focusing on people who perceive themselves to be socially isolated or disconnected."