Silent Suffering: Exploring the Role of Loneliness in CIDP Neuropathy
Loneliness is the invisible monster that may be making people chronically ill. CIDP suffers may not be an exception.
By Shiraz Abbas
When people are afflicted with a debilitating autoimmune disorder like CIDP neuropathy, what is most apparent are the symptoms that people have to suffer from, including the pain and various disabilities that come about from such illnesses, such as difficulties walking or physical deterioration.
Sometimes we blame it on genes, bad luck, or even stressful events like the loss of a loved one or divorce. At other times we may blame the disease on bad dietary habits. We also know that autoimmune diseases are complicated and cannot be reduced to a single reason but does not mean that individual factors should be discounted.
Researchers are now looking at more subtle but equally deadly reasons that could trigger health conditions such as autoimmune diseases. One of the greatest invisible monsters that are negatively affecting people’s health is loneliness.
We humans are social animals and the need to belong is as important as sleep and food. Healthy social relations are some of the primary reasons that determine overall human health.
According to the Globe and Mail, one of the dangerous consequences of long-term loneliness are autoimmune diseases and chronic inflammation, something which people who suffer from CIDP are all too familiar with:
One such “bad thing” researchers are focusing on is the impact of loneliness on immune response, particularly its role in chronic inflammation. Unlike acute inflammation, which people may experience as swelling and redness when they get a cut or are exposed to an allergen, chronic inflammation does not necessarily produce obvious symptoms, but signs of it can be detected via blood tests. (Inflammatory molecules circulate throughout the body, including the brain.)
According to Dr. Steve Cole of UCLA, loneliness triggers a stress response in the form of inflammation, much like the stress response when the body readies itself to fight a bacterial infection. The body uses inflammation to fight off bacteria.
A state of constant loneliness may trigger constant inflammation and immune reactions in the body.
Check out what this 2007 study says:
In 2007, providing a framework for this idea, Cole and his team found distinct differences in the gene expression in the white blood cells of lonely people, compared with non-lonely people. Rather than being in the default anti-viral stance, the immune systems of lonely people appeared to be tipped in favour of producing inflammation.
It is important to note that people who are lonely do not necessarily lack social skills. Forcing them to socialize may make things worse. What may be needed is the intervention of a mental health expert in the form of therapy.
If you have CIDP and suffer from loneliness, you may want to consult with your doctor and see if therapy is right for you. There are chances that therapy can help with your symptoms.
Shiraz Abbas is the founder and manager of the CIDP Neuropathy Support Group. He is also one of the main community educators of IVIG therapy. He resides in Fresno, California. Shiraz can be contacted through our free CIDP advice service at 1-855-782-0574.