The Risks Of Social Isolation Caused By Romance Scams A Scam is a confidence trick - a crime - is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust through deception. Scams or confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, or greed and exploiting that. Researchers have defined confidence tricks as "a distinctive species of fraudulent conduct ... intending to further voluntary exchanges that are not mutually beneficial", as they "benefit con operators ('con men' - criminals) at the expense of their victims (the 'marks')". A scam is a crime even if no money was lost.
Understanding the Effects of Social Isolation on Scam Victim Mental Health Mental health, defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), is "a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community". According to WHO, mental health includes "subjective well-being, perceived self-efficacy, autonomy, competence, intergenerational dependence, and self-actualization of one's intellectual and emotional potential, among others". From the perspectives of positive psychology or of holism, mental health may include an individual's ability to enjoy life and to create a balance between life activities and efforts to achieve psychological resilience. Cultural differences, subjective assessments, and competing professional theories all affect how one defines "mental health".
People around the world have taken unprecedented safety measures during the COVID-19 pandemic. Physical distancing is critical for slowing the spread of infectious diseases, but experts suggest solitude carries its own health cost: Social isolation can affect mental health.
However, almost all scam victims go through their own form of quarantine by isolating themselves bother during the scam and afterward.
This isolation can have serious and lasting effects on victims, especially when they are trying to recover from these experiences and most need the support of others.
What Is Social Isolation?
Social isolation is not necessarily bad; most people crave solitude at least occasionally. Being alone can be relaxing, meditative, and rejuvenating. Social isolation typically refers to solitude that is unwanted and unhealthy.
Socially isolated people may lack friends or close coworkers, and they often feel lonely or depressed. They can suffer from low self-esteem or anxiety. These are the exact kinds of feelings that scam victims feel.
The following symptoms associated with social isolation are warning signs of unhealthy social isolation:
- Avoiding social interactions, including those that were once enjoyable
- Canceling plans frequently and feeling relief when plans are canceled
- Experiencing anxiety or panic when thinking about social interactions
- Feeling distressed during periods of solitude
- Feeling dread associated with social activities
- Spending large amounts of time alone or with extremely limited contact with others
Social isolation can involve emotional isolation, which is an unwillingness or inability to share one’s feelings with others. When socially isolated individuals lack emotional interaction and support, they can become emotionally numb — detached from their own feelings.
When a person goes through a traumatic experience, like a romance scam, for example, there is a multitude of emotions that can cause them to self-isolate. These include fear of discovery, not knowing how to talk about what happened, shame Shame is an unpleasant self-conscious emotion typically associated with a negative evaluation of the self; withdrawal motivations; and feelings of distress, exposure, mistrust, powerlessness, and worthlessness. and guilt, fear of being judged, and the fear of being ostracized by those they know.
Isolation During The Scam
During a typical relationship scam A Relationship Scam is a one-to-one criminal act that involves a trust relationship and uses deception & manipulation to get a victim to give to the criminal something of value, such as money!
Click here to learn more: What Is A Relationship Scam?, the scammer A Scammer or Fraudster is someone that engages in deception to obtain money or achieve another objective. They are criminals that attempt to deceive a victim into sending more or performing some other activity that benefits the scammer. manipulates the victim to limit their social interactions. They do this through manipulative techniques such as Gaslighting Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group creates the seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment. It may evoke changes in them such as cognitive dissonance or low self-esteem, rendering the victim additionally dependent on the gaslighter for emotional support and validation. Using denial, misdirection, contradiction, and disinformation, gaslighting involves attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim's beliefs. Once in this state the criminal can then more easily control the victim for their own purposes.
Instances can range from the denial by a scammer that a scam has occurred, to belittling the victim's emotions and feelings, to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim. The goal of gaslighting is to gradually undermine the victim's confidence in their own ability to distinguish truth from falsehood, right from wrong, or reality from delusion, thereby rendering the individual or group pathologically dependent on the gaslighter for their thinking and feelings. – convincing the victim that it is basically them against the world. Victims to deceive family and friends, and systematically isolate themselves. This benefits the scammer because it means the victim is more under their control and that there will be less contact with others that might make them see the light.
Isolation After The Scam Ends
After the scam victims are going through a broad range of emotional distress. This includes grief, body chemical withdrawal, trauma Emotional and psychological trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless in a dangerous world. Psychological trauma can leave you struggling with upsetting emotions, memories, and anxiety that won’t go away. It can also leave you feeling numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people.
Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety or other emotional shocks, but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and isolated can result in trauma, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm. It’s not the objective circumstances that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your subjective emotional experience of the event. The more frightened and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatized.
Trauma requires treatment, either through counseling or therapy or through trauma-oriented support programs, such as those offered by SCARS. responses (fight, flight, freeze Trauma Freeze Response:
While fight-or-flight is the better-known way humans respond to certain stressful stimuli, the additional less known third response "FREEZE", was not as widely studied until this last decade. Freezing as a response to a threat might seem effective, a sort of “playing dead” in the face of danger; however, in humans freezing manifests as an inability to communicate, react, make decisions, or take any action of self-preservation or defense., and fawn), plus shame, guilt, and self-blame Victim blaming occurs when the victim of a crime or any wrongful act is held entirely or partially at fault for the harm that befell them. SCARS seeks to mitigate the prejudice against victims and the perception that victims are in any way responsible for the actions of offenders or scammers. There is historical and current prejudice against the victims of domestic violence and sex crimes, such as the greater tendency to blame victims of rape than victims of robbery. Scam victims are often blamed by family & friends for the crime. Scam victims also engage in self-blame even though they are not to blame.. This makes victims even more likely to isolate themselves from people that they believe might blame Blame or Blaming is the act of censuring, holding responsible, making negative statements about an individual or group that their action or actions are socially or morally irresponsible, the opposite of praise. When someone is morally responsible for doing something wrong, their action is blameworthy. By contrast, when someone is morally responsible for doing something right, we may say that his or her action is praiseworthy. Blame imparts responsibility for an action or act, as in that they made a choice to perform that act or action., shame, or ridicule them. This shame & guilt are powerful emotions that only make the period after the scam that much worse, and inhibit their emotional recovery.
Isolation and Loneliness
When experts study isolation’s causes and impacts, they distinguish between social isolation and loneliness.
Social isolation is an objective lack of social relationships or infrequency of social contact. Loneliness is a subjective feeling of isolation. A person can be socially isolated but not feel lonely. A person can also feel lonely when they are surrounded by people.
Because of the secrets that scam victims carry their isolation tends to fuel loneliness.
Nonetheless, isolation and loneliness are very much linked. Studies of loneliness’s causes, symptoms, and impacts shed light on the potential negative effects of this isolation.
Some Of The Causes Of Social Isolation?
Many circumstances can cause people to be isolated from others or to choose self-isolation:
- Intimate partner violence. People in abusive relationships sometimes avoid contact with family, friends, or coworkers because of an unwillingness to reveal their true situation.
- Loss of loved ones. Isolating after the loss of friends or family members can be common, especially among seniors who have lost many loved ones in their age group.
- Mental health issues. Issues such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem often result from social isolation, but they can also cause it.
- Remote location. Individuals who live in remote areas or who are geographically separated from family and friends due to job duties (military service, for example) can experience feelings of isolation.
- Physical impairments. Physical challenges that limit mobility can reduce an individual’s ability to interact socially. Some people with physical disabilities feel ashamed of their disability or appearance, which can make them reluctant to interact socially. Hearing and vision impairments can also create a sense of isolation.
- Social media. Communication via social media helps some people stay connected to others, but it can lead to isolation if it becomes a substitute for meaningful conversations and in-person socialization.
- Unemployment. The shame associated with losing a job or being unable to secure new employment can lead individuals to self-isolate.
Social isolation can also result from physical distancing measures such as those necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now couple those with the after-effects of the scam and the likelihood of isolation grows substantially. Guilt and shame are overwhelming emotions that cause victims to hide, stay silent, and avoid contact.
Effects of Isolation and Loneliness
Mental and physical health are interconnected. Isolation’s adverse health consequences range from sleeplessness to reduced immune function. Loneliness is associated with higher anxiety, depression, and suicide rates.
Isolation and loneliness are also linked to poor cardiovascular health and cognitive function:
- A study led by an epidemiologist at Newcastle University concluded that deficiencies in social relationships are associated with a higher risk for coronary heart disease and stroke.
- A study published in The Journals of Gerontology concluded that loneliness was associated with a 40 percent increase in the risk of dementia.
- Links between social isolation and serious medical conditions are not fully understood, but ample evidence supports the connection. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology linked social isolation with higher risks of premature mortality. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points to loneliness and isolation as serious public health risks.
Some effects of social isolation are specific to pandemics or other public health situations that require people to physically-distance. When you combine that with the effects of relationship scams A Relationship Scam is a one-to-one criminal act that involves a trust relationship and uses deception & manipulation to get a victim to give to the criminal something of value, such as money!
Click here to learn more: What Is A Relationship Scam? both during and after it is a recipe for disaster.
Loneliness and depression can also go hand in hand with anxiety and fear about the dangers associated with the event that made physical distancing measures necessary. Victims are especially fearful about others learning what happened and how much money they lost.
Relationship scam victims are a high-risk group for isolation and its damaging effects. It is for this reason and others that SCARS recommends that are scam victims find local trauma counseling Counseling is the professional guidance of the individual by utilizing psychological methods especially in collecting case history data, using various techniques of the personal interview, and testing interests and aptitudes.
A mental health counselor (MHC), or counselor, is a person who works with individuals and groups to promote optimum mental and emotional health. Such persons may help individuals deal with issues associated with addiction and substance abuse; family, parenting, and marital problems; stress management; self-esteem; and aging. They may also work with "Social Workers", "Psychiatrists", and "Psychologists".
SCARS does not provide mental health counseling. or therapy. This is important to at least be evaluated with thin the first few months after a scam, or if isolation has become a part of the victim’s life.
It is important for individuals dealing with social isolation to have self-care strategies. This is particularly true when the factors contributing to isolation present real barriers to accessing outside resources, such as for people who live in remote areas may not have easy in-person access to mental health professionals.
Individuals can lessen isolation’s negative effects by taking steps to address the challenges isolation presents:
- Engage in relaxing activities. Exercise and stretching, reading, listening to music, meditation and prayer, journaling, and hobbies can help relieve stress that can be associated with isolation.
- Follow a routine. Daily routines promote a sense of purpose and normalcy.
- Maintain healthy habits. Eating well, getting enough sleep, and engaging in physical activity can promote better mental health.
- Stay connected. If conditions limit in-person contact, phone calls, email, texting, social media platforms, and videoconferencing can be used to stay in touch.
- Stay informed. Keeping in the loop can be particularly important for those isolated for any reason, but even more so after being manipulated heavily. Learning the real facts about scams, scammers, and the psychology of how it all works can help people avoid feeling panicky. That said, controlling media consumption is also helpful –– too much exposure to negative news about scams can feed anxiety. Especially avoid the endless streams of scammer or stolen photos that can increase feelings of hopelessness.
Support Groups In a support group, members provide each other with various types of help, usually nonprofessional and nonmaterial, for a particular shared, usually burdensome, characteristic, such as romance scams. Members with the same issues can come together for sharing coping strategies, to feel more empowered and for a sense of community. The help may take the form of providing and evaluating relevant information, relating personal experiences, listening to and accepting others' experiences, providing sympathetic understanding and establishing social networks. A support group may also work to inform the public or engage in advocacy. They can be supervised or not. SCARS support groups are moderated by the SCARS Team and or volunteers.
Professionally managed scam victim support groups can also play a role in helping the victim re-integrate with others through group interactions and participation. SCARS offers such groups and has found significant success with those victims willing to commit to their recovery. SCARS scam victim support groups are offered in English or Spanish, plus SCARS partners and affiliates offer them around the world.
- For the SCARS English language support group In a support group, members provide each other with various types of help, usually nonprofessional and nonmaterial, for a particular shared, usually burdensome, characteristic, such as romance scams. Members with the same issues can come together for sharing coping strategies, to feel more empowered and for a sense of community. The help may take the form of providing and evaluating relevant information, relating personal experiences, listening to and accepting others' experiences, providing sympathetic understanding and establishing social networks. A support group may also work to inform the public or engage in advocacy. They can be supervised or not. SCARS support groups are moderated by the SCARS Team and or volunteers. go here: SCARS Official Romance Scam Victims’ Support Group on Facebook
- For Spanish go to: SCARS Grupo / Foro de Apoyo y Educación para Víctimas de Estafas en Facebook
Individuals suffering from the effects of scam-based isolation or loneliness should be mindful of their symptoms and seek help from experts if they persist or become severe.
Trauma therapists help by exploring underlying issues related to isolation or self-isolation. For example, a person’s isolation may be a sign of depression or an anxiety disorder amplified by the relationship scam ending.
In addition to identifying underlying issues, a trauma counselor or therapist can develop a treatment plan that helps victims regain a sense of control over their lives.
Types of therapy used to treat isolation might include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy. CBT is a talk therapy that helps people become more aware of negative or inaccurate thoughts that affect their behavior
Behavior / Behavioral Actions
Otherwise known as habits, behavior or behavioral actions are strategies to help prevent online exploitation that target behavior, such as social engineering of victims. Changing your behavior is the ONLY effective means to reduce or prevent scams.. CBT sessions can help individuals identify misperceptions and reshape negative thinking.
- Exposure therapy. Exposure therapy programs help people break avoidance and fear patterns. During exposure therapy sessions, in a safe environment, individuals are exposed (in person or in their imagination) to situations they avoid. They confront fears, process emotions, and manage anxiety.
When to Seek Professional Help
Individuals who experience any of the following should consider consulting a medical or mental health professional:
- Confused thinking
- Delusions or hallucinations
- Excessive feelings of anger Anger, also known as wrath or rage, is an intense emotional state involving a strong uncomfortable and non-cooperative response to a perceived provocation, trigger, hurt or threat. About one-third of scam victims become trapped in anger for extended periods of time following a scam.
A person experiencing anger will often experience physical effects, such as increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and increased levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline. Some view anger as an emotion that triggers a part of the fight or flight response. Anger becomes the predominant feeling behaviorally, cognitively, and physiologically.
Anger can have many physical and mental consequences. While most of those who experience anger explain its arousal as a result of "what has happened to them", psychologists point out that an angry person can very well be mistaken because anger causes a loss in self-monitoring capacity and objective observability. or fear
- Extreme swings in emotion
- Inability to cope with daily problems
- Major changes in eating or sleeping patterns
- Numerous unexplained physical ailments
- Prolonged depression
- Social withdrawal
- Substance abuse
When circumstances limit in-person contact, people can connect with a mental health professional by phone or telemedicine.
Keep An Eye Out!
Some isolated people can find it difficult to ask for help. When others keep an eye out for those who might need assistance but be hesitant to ask, they can play a part in lessening isolation’s negative effects on them.