Despair and sadness and anger hang like a pall over everything. It’s fed by the national election cycle, conspiracy theories that have gone mainstream, misinformation on voting, record heat waves, and riots in the cities. All of this contributes to feelings of hopelessness. Even worse, there’s no prediction nor consensus on if or when the coronavirus will be under control—a fact also contributing to much of the anxiety. Is it any wonder mental health practitioners report there’s been a 33 percent increase in depression, or that drug and alcohol use is at epidemic levels?
Humans are social animals. We require frequent social interaction. This virus has left us sitting in our homes alone and out of contact with family or friends. We’re not biologically built for seclusion. It affects our physiology and numbs the brain. Our behavior and moods become argumentative. Back in 1972, French scientist Michael Siffre showed this when he shut himself in a Texas cave for more than six months. His research ranks as one of the longest self-isolation experiments in history. He documented the effects on his mind over the 205 days.
His sleep-wake cycle lengthened and how he measured time became distorted. He wrote that he could “barely string thoughts together” after a couple months. By the fifth month he was so desperate for company he tried to befriend a mouse.
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