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Breaking the Cycle of Social Isolation Associated with Mental Illness

By HERWriter
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Emotional Health related image Photo: Getty Images

It’s an indicator of delayed or altered childhood development. It has links to mortality, sickness or illnesses in a particular segment of the population. It has been shown to increase the growth of cancer in mice. And a simple change of perspective can make a world of difference to those people caught up in the cycle – isolation and mental illness.

If a child is observed not interacting with classmates, huddling in a corner away from everyone, it is often recommended that the child be evaluated for some form of mental illness or disorder. The segments of the population most prone to social isolation are those with mental illnesses and older women. A 2007 study conducted by the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine has shown that socially isolated people experience 50 percent less production of a brain hormone responsible for reducing reactions to stress, resulting in anxiety and aggression. A 2009 study by the University of Chicago observed an isolated group of mice with breast cancer and another group of mice that were kept together and found that the isolated mice developed larger breast cancer tumors, as well as a disrupted stress hormone response. This particular study was conducted to investigate “how the environment affects human susceptibility to other chronic diseases such as central obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, etc” (Suzanne D. Conzen, MD) (www.allacademic.com).

For decades people have – perhaps without realizing it – known that removing people from the ability or opportunity for social interaction would be viewed and processed by the body as an act of punishment, hence solitary confinement in prisons and the ultimate purpose behind time out, or the more old fashioned name of “standing in the corner.”

What is Social Isolation?

Being connected with people promotes health-enhancing behaviors, increases a person’s sense of control and self-esteem, increases immune function, and reduces cardiovascular and neuroendocrine damage related to exposure to stress.

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EmpowHER Guest

I am to far gone for to long for these lame steps to effect me positively and i don`t have any one to follow them no friends family nothing. For the past 8 years i been in complete isolation have not left my house and accept some shallow social interactions playing online games nothing but void.
all this article does is depressing me even more now i don't just have no outlook or future , but now i get to worry about all the negative medical effects of this .great help this is.
how am i supposed to reach out for help if i isolate myself ????
who ever wrote this does not understands this vital basic fact .
Or any comprehension of accurate titling this is breaking social isolation for others then the social isolated i can summarize this whole article in 2 words : reach out.

male 28y filled with pain.

August 30, 2014 - 11:32pm
HERWriter (reply to Anonymous)

Thank you for sharing your story.Your pain really comes through. I'm sorry my article didn't help. It was more geared for parents and teachers and helping them deal with children who are socially isolated because of mental illness. Obviously, those tips would not work for adults, although there is an effort in Canada, right now (not sure about the U.S. so much) to reduce the stigma attached to mental illness, so that people around those with mental illness will use the tips I mentioned.

As for your particular situation, it is kind of an irony that the thing an isolated person needs to do most is reach out, but that is the thing that is hardest not only for a mentally ill person to recognize about him/herself, but also to do -- I most certainly do understand this fact. Stories of mothers killing their children out of postpartum depression - and public criticizing the mother for not getting help when they don't realize that that requires a mentally ill person to notice they need help and knowing whom to call -- when most of the time they don't realize they need help until it's too late and they really don't know who to call. It's up to those around them to notice some of these things.

Unfortunately, again - as in your case - there is a very limited support system for many. My main support is my church and a group of Christian ladies and moms with whom I've been friends for the last 15 years. I, honestly, don't know what to suggest for you. But the fact that you've reached out here, shows me that you're not too far gone and that you have enough self-awareness and awareness of your situation that you need to reach out. You would benefit from an encouraging atmosphere, one where the people can help you find hope when you have trouble finding it yourself.

Hope today is better for you.

September 2, 2014 - 10:10am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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