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Meditation is an effective technique for reducing stress and maintaining a positive, healthy outlook. One technique, known as mindfulness meditation, is proving to be effective at treating loneliness, depression and social anxiety disorder.

Although it may not be one of the first things that come to mind when you think of mood disorders, loneliness is a widespread problem in society today. This is especially true for the older population; however, it affects all ages and races. It is prevalent in the aging population because aging adults often become more isolated from friends and family members.

Not only does loneliness increase the risk of depression and other mood disorders, but it is a risk factor for other conditions such as heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Recent studies suggest that mindfulness meditation can be an effective treatment option for loneliness, as well as other mental conditions and mood disorders such as depression and social anxiety.

What is Depression?

Everyone feels sad or depressed at some point. These feelings naturally occur in response to everyday life struggles and they are a normal part of life. An individual who finds himself constantly battling intense sadness and feelings of despair may be suffering from depression. In addition to sadness, depression encompasses other feelings such as hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness. A person who is depressed may experience a complete loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed.

Rather than going away shortly after the initial stressor fades, depression can last for several weeks or longer. Individuals who suffer from these feelings for an extended period of time, and suffer from a disruption of their normal functioning, may be clinically depressed. Additional symptoms may include fatigue, loss of energy, feelings of guilt or shame, inability to concentrate, impaired memory, lack of motivation, indecisiveness, irritability, insomnia, weight loss or gain, restlessness and recurring thoughts of suicide or death.

What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

Social anxiety disorder is a phobic condition in which individuals suffer from excessive and unrealistic feelings of fear when in social settings. Individuals with social anxiety disorder experience severe anxiety and nervousness when in social settings. Their self-consciousness stems from a fear of being intently watched by their peers. They are fearful of judgment and criticism from others due to making mistakes, looking bad or doing something that is embarrassing or humiliating. If the individual does not have strong social skills or has not had experience in social settings, the fear can be compounded.

This fear often leads to increased anxiety and panic attacks. This can lead to the avoidance of social situations. When having to face these settings, the individual with social anxiety disorder does so with extreme distress. Most individuals who suffer from this condition are well aware that their fears are irrational; however, they are unable to control those feelings. Other mood disorders or mental illnesses that are linked to social anxiety disorder include panic disorder, OCD and depression.

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