Isolation and Fatigue
Last updated: May 2023
Mental health is one of the most critical pieces of our overall health we can tend to, but it is often glossed over quickly or not talked about at all. There is a stigma attached to saying out loud we are struggling. There is often even more of a problem identifying the root cause of mental struggles.
A study this year talked about one such aspect of mental health and isolation. It doesn’t address the specifics of living with a chronic disease, but much of what they found still resonates with me. The study's title ("Homeostatic Regulation of Energetic Arousal During Acute Social Isolation: Evidence from the Lab and the Field") could easily be “isolation causes mood disorders and affects fatigue and poor nutrition, if not more.”1
The researchers noted that people with more social isolation could be at higher risk for fatigue and lower energy. In other words, being isolated can have some serious consequences to our overall health.1
Isolation can be a common MS problem
What better population to apply this finding of fatigue than multiple sclerosis, where many of us have fatigue as a troublesome symptom? Adding to fatigue, I know people with MS can also feel socially isolated.
The possibilities of why isolation happens are complex. There are many reasons why we might isolate ourselves from others, such as the common MS problem of bowel and bladder dysfunction. It can be difficult to go out when your biggest concern is where the nearest restroom is and how fast it can be accessed.
Depression can cause people to withdraw from others and self-isolate. I think we all understand how mood-altering having a chronic disease such as MS can be. Then there is the ongoing issue of mobility problems that might keep us secluded because it is just so difficult to leave our homes. The list of reasons why people with MS self-isolate can be varied and lengthy.
The impact of connecting with others
We know there can be value in gathering with others in this MS community, whether it is through online sharing or in-person support groups. But I think this solution tends to oversimplify the solution for isolation. I don’t know about you, but I usually get a mental and physical lift when I interact with other people.
The study I mentioned looked at patterns and found that people who were socially isolated experienced greater fatigue and mood problems than those who had regular social interactions.1 I have to wonder if the same can be said for people with MS and isolation.
Do some of us experience greater fatigue in part due to our sense of isolation? Granted, this is not the entire cause of fatigue in people with MS, but if being less isolated can improve our levels of fatigue by even a small percentage, I think it could also have a positive impact on our mental health.
What do you experience?
I would love to know if you feel there is a link between your own levels of isolation and the fatigue and mental health connection.
Wishing you well,
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