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Losing Your Brain...And Your Mind Essay

1581 words - 7 pages

Loneliness creates an uncomfortable feeling in most people. The lack of a social presence seems to have a noticeable effect since it creates a personal void. This could explain why people turn to their phones when they have no one to talk to; they end up talking to people via text in order to fill up such a void. It is interesting to see how “nothing” can have such an effect on people. Fortunately, loneliness is a form of perceived isolation and is only temporary for most. However, for those who experience chronic isolation, a lack of connection with others can lead to detrimental effects. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” illustrates how being alone can lead to insanity. ...view middle of the document...

These problems can partly be attributed to the sensory deprivation many prisoners in solitary confinement experience. Prisoners in solitary are usually housed in constant darkness or under permanent lighting, causing them to be disoriented by their environment. A study done by Donald Hebb, a professor of psychology at McGill University, found that sensory deprivation rendered subjects “‘unable to think clearly about anything for any length of time and that their thought processes seemed to be affected in other ways’” (Mechanic). In Hebb’s study, subjects were prevented from engaging their basic senses. For example, they wore headphones, goggles, and protective sleeves to limit their sense of hearing, sight and touch, respectively. None of Hebb’s subjects were able to keep up with these conditions for more than a week at a time, suggesting that people need to regularly engage their senses in order to function properly. Without their senses, the subjects’ cognitive abilities were impaired, causing them to perform “poorly on grade-school tasks involving simple arithmetic, word associations, and pattern recognition. They also experienced extreme restlessness, childish emotional responses, and vivid hallucinations” (Mechanic). From this observation, it is suggested that without any mental or sensory stimulation, the brain would regress in its capability to carry out simple, everyday tasks. Furthermore, the mind would develop abnormalities that would affect a person’s quality of life. Such symptoms like childish behavior and hallucinations that can be gained from sensory deprivation show how the mind can have a large impact on not only personal abilities, but also produce mental and behavioral anomalies that become out of one’s control.
Humans are naturally social animals and have always lived and flourished in social groups; so people who are chronically lonely experience feedback from their bodies that may prove detrimental to their physical health. For example, Naomi Eisenberger, a professor of social psychology at UCLA, found that feelings of loneliness caused activity in parts of the brain that would normally register pain. Thus, the body perceives loneliness as a threat to survival. This view is also supported by the fact that the chronically lonely have higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that the body releases to cope with stress. People who spend a prolonged period of time by themselves tend to feel more stressed when performing routine tasks or even relaxing. Since the circulatory system works harder at a longer period of time to maintain higher blood pressure and adrenal glands are burdened with constantly secreting cortisol, sustained levels of elevated stress and cortisol can lead to a variety of health complications, such as sleeping problems, heart disease, depression and mental illness. In addition, according to CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, “loneliness, by itself, more than obesity, more than chronic...

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