What happens in the brain when you’re alone?


It may sound strange but this is true that loneliness may affect the brain. People don’t consider loneliness as a medical problem, as it doesn’t look like that but it can affect the body as well as the brain.

Loneliness makes a person less sociable and disconnected from the outer world. This produces invisible and unknown stress which may result in depression, anxiety and surprisingly can be responsible for high blood pressure and heart disease.

Often spiritual leaders, artists, meditation practitioners and philosophers praise solitude. Most of the people find it important  to spend some time completely alone to regain the peace. So if solitude is beneficial, does it not sound contradictory that loneliness begets a mental disease.

It is so because man is a social animal. He craves for social interaction and if he remains alone for a long period he might experience discomfort. Even extended isolation can have debilitating effects on the mind.

Leave a person in isolation for three days, where he has no one to accompany. After three days he will start finding difficulty in the movement of his jaw, when he tries to speak, let alone the process going on his mind.

Let us see what exactly goes in the mind of a person when he is alone for a long period. Surprisingly many people crave for solitude and some other fear loneliness. So, first of all, it depends on the prospect of how a person perceives.

Doctors say that our brain never sleeps. It is always on its duty. Ninety-five per cent of its part is always running. The brain always keeps on working in the background even if we are sleeping.

You might be surprised, different parts of the same brain are  involved in different tasks. It is divided into different areas. So, when there are no external tasks or activities or distractions are going on, still, the brain is unconsciously involved in planning for future, recalling the memories, feeling emotions, analysing things, perceiving outside stimuli etc. This is called to be ‘default mode’ of a brain.

Being in a lone state frees the mind from the fear of getting noticed. You may call it ‘spotlight effect’.  Whenever you are in public, you are always inclined to estimate yourself, you become conscious that others notice your accomplishments and mistakes.

But when you are alone, your brain stops imagining that your actions are being noticed or judged. All of us must have experienced this at some point in time during loneliness. It gives a temporary relief from stress. That’s why some people recommend solitude.

Despite the above-mentioned benefit of solitude, if a person is left completely alone it may be uncomfortable or even stressful. In a study, ten participants were told to sit alone in a room separately without doing anything for 20 minutes.

Six persons admitted that they cheated by getting up from the chair or distracting themselves seeing here and there, or finding a window or a way to go out.

Extended isolation can raise anxiety and affect the way the mind reacts to a stimulus. Their brain turns out to be less active and less calculating. Hallucinations are likely to happen.

Prisoners in solitary confinement with no human contact are found to be more vulnerable to extreme stress that sometimes causing them to develop psychiatric disorders. Thus solitude for a longer period may cause a person to lose his mind.

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