Social Isolation and Depression: The Impact on Health & Well-Being
by Gail Arno, CMC, ECM Director of Care Management
Social Isolation and depression often go hand in hand and can impact both one’s physical and emotional well-being. It can also augment a person’s level of depression or anxiety which can consequently increase the risk of dementia by 40%.
The research shows that social isolation and loneliness are linked to cardiovascular disease and other cardiac issues, obesity, endocrine system problems, reduced immune system function, and decreased sleep quality – all of which can lead to depressive disorders. Extended social isolation or loneliness that is left unaddressed can ultimately lead to depression. And, untreated depression may then lead to an increased risk of personality disorders, in addition to brain-based conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Depression is defined as a feeling of sadness, feeling down or blue, or experiencing a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities. We all may suffer from bouts of these feelings, but if these feelings persist and affect our lives substantially, it may be Clinical Depression and should be addressed with a medical professional.
You can’t just “snap out” of depression. Current research suggests that depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Seeking professional medical assistance and guidance will lead you to a better resolution. You should look to your primary care physician to provide you with direction on how to lessen your depression with tools ranging from medication to talk therapy to cognitive behavior therapies.
Below are a few non-medical tips for decreasing depression-related concerns:
- Take a Different View – Change your tone and allow yourself to have the vision to look for another view.
- Visualize a Happy Memory – Stay away from painful memories and go to the ones that fill your heart and soul. Don’t allow yourself to go down the rabbit hole. Take a breath and conjure up and hold on to the good memories.
- Tell Me Something Good – Focus on the good in the world, the good in you, and find the joy of waking up each morning. Spiritually speaking, you are what you feed yourself. Change the narrative and create a positive storyline that you can create and follow.
- Make Plans – Schedule events, efforts, and things to do no matter how small or large. Reconfigure your plans and revel in the simple success of trying.
- Find Something to Look Forward To – Use this effort as an anti-blues vacation. Find a calendar and schedule something to do on it. The biggest mood turnaround arises when we begin a project that can potentially create some good in our world and lead to fulfilling connections.
The upshot of depression is that it can be diagnosed and treated. There is no reason to suffer in silence or to guess as to whether what you are feeling qualifies as depression. Turn to your medical professionals to help you navigate through a possible depressive bout. In addition, find alternative ways to support you on your journey out of your feelings of depression.
We are without a doubt in a very challenging time and some days if feels as if the light at the end of the tunnel has gone dark. We must remember, however, that there is always a light available to us. Sometimes we just need to look harder to bring that light closer to us.