Loneliness Can Lead You Into Scams And Prevent You From Recovering
We have noted over the years that many (most) scam victims talk about being vulnerable to a romance scam because they were lonely.
Is This Really True?
Though our need to connect is an essential part of us, many of us frequently feel alone. But alone and loneliness are not the same thing.
Loneliness is the state of distress or discomfort that results when one perceives a gap between one’s desires for social connection and actual experiences of it.
Even people who are surrounded by others throughout the day—or are in a long-lasting relationship—can still experience a deep and pervasive loneliness. Research suggests that loneliness poses serious threats to well-being as well as long-term physical health.
What is Loneliness?
Loneliness is a state of mind characterized by a dissociation between what an individual wants or expects from a relationship (human connection) and what that individual experiences in that relationship or the lack of it. The relationship can be romantic, career, or friendship.
BECAUSE LONELINESS IS A STATE OF MIND, BEING PHYSICALLY ALONE IS NOT A NECESSARY NOR A SUFFICIENT CONDITION TO EXPERIENCE LONELINESS
One can experience a lonely state of mind while being with people at work, at home, or even in a relationship. Income, education, gender, and ethnicity don’t protect you from loneliness, and it is contagious.
One in three people in America, Canada, and Great Briton is affected by loneliness, and one in 12 is affected severely.
The effects of loneliness can’t really be tied to the physical characteristics of lonely people. Rather, they are due to the effects of loneliness on everyday people.
Loneliness is a universal condition that makes a person irritable or angry, self-centered, depressed, insecure and is associated with a 26 percent increase in the odds of premature mortality. According to our evolutionary model of loneliness, loneliness causes more than just mental health and behavioral dysfunction. For instance, studies have also reported a significant association between loneliness and various health issues such as cardiovascular disease, diminished sleep salubrity (quality), increased inflammation, and decreased viral immunity, even after controlling for various other factors.
LONELINESS CAN ALSO INCREASE LONELINESS
Loneliness is typically reversible, but commonsense solutions are not helpful.
First, one must understand the definition of loneliness. Being alone for dinner is not the same as being lonely; one can be physically alone and mentally with someone or part of a community by thinking of them, keeping their family or partners in photographs or having dinner with their people via video chat.
In turn, one may feel extremely lonely while having dinner with an estranged partner or old friend for example.
Finally, one may seek solitude during a holiday and be extremely happy alone (both mentally and physically). Solitude is different from loneliness. But solitude can be a red flag for loneliness.
Identifying and Fighting Loneliness
Whether a person lives in isolation or not, feeling a lack of social connectedness can be painful. Loneliness can be described in different ways; a commonly used measure of loneliness, the UCLA Loneliness Scale, asks individuals about a range of feelings or deficits of connection, including how often they:
- feel they lack companionship
- feel left out
- feel “in tune” with people around them
- feel outgoing and friendly
- feel there are people they can turn to
Given the potential health consequences for those who feel like they have few or no supportive social connections, widespread loneliness poses a major societal challenge. But it underscores the demand for increased outreach and connection on a personal level, too.
This is a major cause for the vulnerability that helps lead a victim into a relationship scam.
Why is it So Hard to Seek Out Companionship (or the Right One) When One Feels Lonely?
There’s evidence that lonely individuals have a sort of negativity-bias in evaluating social interactions – an insecurity – and establish barriers.
Lonely people pick up on signs of potential rejection (real or imagined) more quickly than do others, perhaps better to avoid it and protect themselves or drive others away.
THUS, LONELINESS CAN BE QUITE SELF-DESTRUCTIVE
People who feel lonely need to be aware of this bias or insecurity so as to override it in seeking out the right kind of companionship, particularly in avoiding loneliness traps such as romance scams.
Loneliness, Health, and Well-Being
A number of unfavorable outcomes have been linked to loneliness. In addition to its association with depressive symptoms and other forms of mental illness, loneliness is a risk factor for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and arthritis, among other diseases.
One of the major impacts for lonely people is their extremely high risk for scams and fraud. Their loneliness (and associated attributes of insecurity, selfishness, etc.) make them ideal candidates for a fake romance or relationship.
Lonely people are also twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, research suggests. The state of chronic loneliness may trigger adverse physiological responses such as the increased production of stress hormones, hinder sleep, and result in weakened immunity.
The Best Advice for Someone Who’s Feeling Isolated and Lonely
Introspection, connection, and interaction. These are the keys to overcoming loneliness!
- First, stay connected and make a daily effort to express gratitude – to yourself and others. Selfishness is a common danger in loneliness and it must be fought against – gratitude is the weapon to combat it.
- Next, do something helpful or nice for others (without expecting anything in return). Collaborate with others and work together in harmony. Volunteer to help people in need. Choose to engage with people (including strangers) on different levels and on a broad range of topics, and listen to them.
- Finally, share positive news (rather than negative information) and expect the best from people.
Finding and actively participating in a community of like people is an easy way to begin rebuilding bonds that connect you with others.
After being scammed, victims commonly ask for support, but they really have no idea what that is. Most often it is looking for a savior who can recover their money. Yet, while that is important, though most often impossible, it does not resolve their issues with loneliness. In fact, it is an expression of their lack of interest in resolving loneliness.
Many will find their way into communities of vigilantes and scammer haters, but this serves only to further isolate individuals by only linking them through their shared hate – this is not the basis of community development or deep personal connections.
Fortunately, there are real communities where victims can share and become a part of real communities, that can help fill a gap in their social connectedness. SCARS Support Groups are designed to fill that role.
Regardless of what the community is, scam victims especially need to find a community where they feel at home and can belong. Where they can be open and honest (within limitations, of course), and where they can be trusted and trust others.
EVERY SCAM VICTIM SHOULD FIND SUCH COMMUNITIES
However, victims must recognize that they are going through processes of grief and recovering from trauma, and these can create hostile emotional states.
While someone can join and connect through a community, it is important to understand that communities will only accept behaviors that contribute to the group’s harmony and the person’s progress.
Anger especially is an easy way to alienate a community and destroy the opportunity for a victim to fill that void and begin to overcome loneliness.
It is always important to be self-aware and do their best to moderate destructive emotions so that the gains made in a community are not lost by rash actions and behaviors.
Communities do not function through spectators. They work by active, even if intermittent, participation. Those that sit on the sidelines and just watch will not gain the benefit of the community, and in fact, can enhance or increase their loneliness.
It takes very little effort to step up and be an active part of a community, and the benefits are significant. But make no mistake, communities know who is not participating, and people will naturally pull away from those they see as willfully separate and unwilling to participate.
We hope this helps cast a new light on this topic and that you all can benefit.