Loneliness, Depression and Negative Thinking Patterns
In the previous post we explored some aspects of both loneliness and depression. The causes of each often have their basic roots in the way that modern life has progressed, particularly where ways of protecting oneself against being alone, feeling down and worthless and so on have been eroded.
Isolation from others (geographic, social, emotional), small and one parent families, being single and male, stresses of unemployment or working far too hard, the fast pace of life where there is little time free for reflection, pleasurable activities and forming meaningful relationships, financial hardship, lack of social networks and friends especially (but not exclusively) with men of all ages are all reasons why people may succumb to feeling lonely and depressed.
We have also discussed the sort of faulty negative way of thinking (constant self put downs and blaming self for any mistakes or faults*) that many people who are depressed become habituated to.
*Self-limiting thoughts are ingrained processes of thought that impact on the way in which we appraise, interpret or analyse a given situation or event. Self-limiting thoughts can take many forms, such as:
Black and white thinking — The tendency to interpret events in extremes (no shades of grey). This means that anything less than perfect is interpreted negatively and limits our ability to see the positives.
Unrealistic expectations — The tendency to pre-empt an event with unrealistic ideas of what should occur. This is a clear sign of setting yourself up for failure.
Selective thinking — This is the tendency to hone in on the negative aspects of a situation and ignore any of the positives, leading to an unbalanced perspective.
Catastrophizing — Imagining the worst possible outcome. This can discourage action and stall change.
So if we know that these are some of the causes, then it would be reasonable to assume that simply accepting these things and not challenging them in any way, represents ineffective options. To understand this concept, read the case study below.
Case Study — Dempsey
Dempsey is a sole parent aged 37 years, divorced with two sons, Tyson aged 10 and Jason aged 12. He has been living alone with the kids for six years now and lives atop a small grocery corner store in town which he runs as a sole trader.
He works from 8am until 7pm each day except Sundays when he closes at midday. He is just so busy. He has no idea how the kids are going at school but always tells them to do their homework when they are not helping him in the shop, watching TV or playing video games.
The kids find their own way to and from school and sport. Dempsey is always whinging to the kids that he never gets time to do anything, which is undoubtedly true and he often says that he would like to sell out if he could find a buyer and go up north to the tropics.
Dempsey knows that his life is just work, work, work, a bit of sleep and television when he gets a chance. He feels so lonely and depressed at times, and is still bitter about his wife leaving him and her kids for another man.
Dempsey has taken to drinking alcohol as a way of easing the pain of loneliness for the past couple of years, but it has been affecting his behaviour so much that he is yelling at the kids and even being rude to customers and business has dropped off. He hasn’t been on a proper holiday for over ten years and he is having lots of difficulty sleeping and concentrating and he often can’t be bothered eating properly on most days.
He has very few friends and acquaintances except for a few regulars to the shop who say “hello” and have a brief yarn occasionally. He has dated one other woman since his wife left, but when together he was totally impotent and so nervous that she finally left and told him to see a psychiatrist. He felt totally deflated to say the least.
Dempsey feels like there is not much to live for anymore except for the kids and life is like a prison. He feels so tired sometimes that he would rather just shut up the shop and walk out under a bus. Sex is always on his mind, but he is so frustrated and depressed about not getting any or at least having intimate relations with a woman.
What is problematic here?
- Dempsey is a sole parent and therefore at risk of loneliness and depression according to the research findings.
- Dempsey works long hours without any relief or backup for virtually 7 days a week and has little time for anything else.
- Dempsey has few friends to provide emotional and other support and friendship.
- Dempsey still harbours bitterness towards his wife and his life has hardly moved on (unresolved issues and emotions).
- Dempsey is anxious, not sleeping well, has suicidal thoughts and his concentration is getting poor at times.
- Dempsey is drinking alcohol as a crutch to ease his loneliness and frustrations. Instead of making him feel better it has simply made him aggressive and bad mannered.
- Dempsey appears to have little to do with his kids and this could prove problematic for the kids’ welfare and education once they reach adolescence.
- Dempsey has no life outside of the shop — he doesn’t exercise, eats poorly, has no real friends, can’t relax and hasn’t had a holiday in years.
Dempsey is in a very difficult position. It would seem that if he continues with his business the way it is and his current poor lifestyle, that things will end up very badly indeed and his physical and mental health will suffer. He certainly needs some counselling and probably needs to seek business and financial counselling as well to see what options there are to support him with his business or to sell the business. At the moment the business is making his life miserable.
Given that he has resorted to drinking alcohol and has been having suicidal thoughts it is imperative that Dempsey seeks medical help or counselling as soon as possible, since research evidence indicates that such people are at high risk of suicide. His constantly thinking about sex may also be a compensation for feelings of emotional loneliness, depression and poor self-esteem — when he did have a romantic date with a woman, he became impotent and nervous, to the degree that it became a failure.