Does lonliness cause insanity?

Can extreme lonliness cause a person to break down mentaly? Is talking to yourself a sure sign of insanity?

Are we talking about being alone or being “lonely” because we can’t seem to make an emotional connection with anyone. What are you referring to?

Re the first instance there are supposedly tales of pioneer housewives going nuts because of the isolation on the prairie.

If by “lonely” you mean “without an emotional connection to someone”, yes, soon you will go mad. This has always been listed as one of the reason for sucide, I think. As well as from firsthand experiences.

If you mean stuff like solitary confinement, yes, it’s not good either. I recall reading that ‘the Chinese discovered that solitary confinement is the best way to get someone talk’ in one of these overcoming depression books.

look up info about the correlation between solitary confinement and onset of acute paranoid schizophrenia & depression. I can’t think of any offhand but i’m sure there is a connection based on all the prison documentaries i’ve seen where inmates become schizophrenic & depressed.
Not only that but loneliness (if you trust a study shown by discovery health channel, i don’t know where to find it) is more dangerous to your health than smoking, overeating or lack of exercise.
I don’t think talking to yourself is a sign of insanity.

I always heard it made the heart grow fonder. :smiley: [sup]Whatever that means.[/sup]

[ul]:smack: [sup]Damn, that’s absence[/sup][/ul]

[ul];j [sup]Nevermind![/sup][/ul]

Ah, ha ha ha! That’s Our Kniz! (The new SDMB sitcom… coming this Spring!)


Loneliness, depending on your point of view, is either the cause of or the effect of being unable to connect with a lot of people. Whether or not that’s “insanity” is unknown to me… I just call it “unhealthy”.

I think being around TOO MANY PEOPLE can drive you mad quicker. The right person can turn solitude into peace and contemplation.

Too much loneliness is harmful.

(a tautology, but still true)

Has there ever been a study to determine why we go mad when left alone? While I’m guessing that we as humans are very much a social species and require contact with others, what is it that happens to the brain that causes such mental disorders? Does a certain chemical stop being produced or is one produced in excessive amounts?

Also, about how long does it take for the average person to start going nuts? At what point do signs of craziness usually begin to turn up?

I believe it depends on what meaning and creativity come of it.
If you’re physically alone for a long period but are creative and/or feel your alone-ness has meaning, then no problem.

Some are among people, but feel alone and empty (no creativity and/or meaning sense) and this is a problem.

To leave an adult alone until they go mad is, when I think about it, torture. Hence, there are no true studies. Ethics committees have a problem with that kind of thing these days.

Now there are some people who have no desire to socialize, but it’s a minority. Many people find socializing awkward, or painful – but they still desire the human affection and interaction. The first group is happy to be alone, the second group isn’t happy to be alone but finds people difficult to be around.

Think of this scene from the film Barfly
Wanda: I hate people.
Henry: I don’t. I just like it better when they’re not around.

The closest thing we have to experiments are people in solitary confinement – which is considered a punishment for good reason.

There were studies where monkeys were taken away from their mothers at an early age – not exactly the same as being lonely while an adult. The monkeys went bonkers, and their brains were physically and permanently changed by the stress. These unfortunate monkeys ended up with “attachment disorders”, and would never relate normally to other monkeys when they grew to adulthood.

We are like many species that are genetically coded to be social animals, though with different degrees of sociability. When I watch a herd of antelope, and one member gets left behind as the group moves on, it runs back to the herd when it realizes that it has strayed too far from the herd. I think people are like that too.

When we get too far away from the herd, we get anxious. Hopefully, the herd will accept us. If not, we get into a state of distress. I think many people in society are distressed by loneliness, but are so used to it that they don’t even know what is bothering them.

Also, members of our herd (friends, old classmates, family) move away for jobs, marriages, or just because the have a new social group. Our lives are so disjointed from what we evolved from, that I think lost-herd stress creates much of the malaise in our society.

A guy by the name of Colin Wilson wrote rather widely on this topic. His first book, The Outsider, delt with the artistic temperment of isolationists (IIRC loosely defined as non-social individuals). On its release, it caused quite a brou-ha-ha in some circles due to the novelty and the fact that Wilson pretty much came out of nowhere with this whole thing (he was largely self- taught and didn’t have a rep prior to publishing).

Personally, I’ve skimmed through some of his stuff and found it interesting enough. It’s not exactly beach reading, but he does offer a different take on this topic.

Why do you say that?

DOnt listen to him! He is tricksey little hobitses!!

But he only ask good question…?

He stole our precious!! Dirty little tricksey hobitses stole our precious!!! Must kill!!

No! leave me alone! I dont want you anymore!
…I’m lonely :frowning:

Hey, cool, Colin Wilson!
I haven’t heard him mentioned in a long time.
Colin Wilson’s early works still hold pretty well. His Outsider cycle of books dealt with alienation and basic existential philosophy. He was one smart little cookie–part of the ‘Angry Young Men’ of 50’s Britan.
Then later, after an impressive search for meaning, he veered off into the occult and got lost in a kooky search for the paranormal to explain things. He became pretty nutty, but you can’t deny his everlasting optimism!

During the Victorian age it was thought that prisoners should be kept silent and isolated as much as possible to give the former criminals time to reflect upon what had led them to jail.

In one prison museum the chapel show just how far prison authorities would go to achive this objective, each and every seat is completely screend from those around, the only thing being in visual range is the pulpit.

This isolation drove inmates to insanity and was eventually dropped.

I’m trying to find a cite, however what I am stating here is repeated from the HMP Prison Servive Museum at Newbold Revel, near Leicester.

The problem is that there are loads of links to various prison museums around the world.

I think it should be pointed out that although feelings of loneliness or isolation is a common symptom among some mental illnesses, it does not necessarily mean those feelings caused the mental illness. IIRC, there are very few mental illnesses that we can precisely name the causes of. Depression may be one of them, but schizophrenia is not.

There’s also no such thing, as far as psychology is concerned, “insanity” or “madness” or “crazy”. There are only specific disorders.

And hey, some people enjoy a solitary life. Some people have no desire for human contact or relationships, preferring to live alone or in the company of animals. People are so varied that it’s quite unwise to make generalizations about a person’s social needs, or any aspect of human behavior and psychology, for that matter.

“Hell is other people.” --Sartre

I think the OP has asked whether loneliness can cause problems (“break down mentally”). I say the answer is yes.
I don’t think anyone here has said that problems are necessarily caused by loneliness, or that there is anything wrong with preferring to be alone.