Why do we miss?

The continuous verb tense of the word missing already shows its progressive aspect. I am more than sure that; the pressure felt in the middle of the chest when someone you were used to be with is not there anymore; could never be more alive overtime. Missing is more than remembering, but why do we miss?

Missing is more than just remembering those good moments lived with that person who is not there anymore. The real problem of missing someone resides in the emptiness that is created when someone is left behind. That empty space must be filled in. However, sometimes; the solution is not always to let someone else in.

 

Is the pressure in the middle of my chest normal when I breath?

Indeed, yes. Luckily or unluckily you might have experienced this characteristic feeling when losing someone. People might have laugh at you when sharing this feeling, but it is actually biologically normal. This pressure is triggered by a certain state of mind termed as loneliness [1].

Being alone does not necessarily make a person lonely.

It is the perception of being alone which makes the person lonely [1]. And how this perception is triggered and how is it felt; might differ from person to person. It might not be strange now to know that; current research has reported that loneliness might have a genetic basis. This evidence relies mostly to dopamine-related and serotonin-related genes [2]. Previous research has shown that variations of the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) can influence social behaviors and modulate the generation of affectivity and emotional loneliness [3], [4].

 

Do we want to miss?

We don’t want to miss; however it is something that we can’t control and that hurts. Beyond the need of having that person or situation which is absent, what really makes us feel lonely is the oppression in the chest, the higher cardiac rhythm, and the tears from our eyes. It is the hole that has been emptied and that we can not fill what makes us feel lonely.

Loneliness

Loneliness has been associated with higher blood pressure [5], and impaired immune function [6], [7]. Feelings of loneliness have been linked with mental and physical health outcomes [7]. Indeed, loneliness correlates with higher levels of cortisol, the primary glucocorticoid in humans [7].

Cortisol levels rise during stress, hence cortisol is sometimes linked with negative affects [8].Also, those individuals with high cortisol secretions often have depressed moods [9]. However, the association of negative effecte and cortisol is not straightforward. The main role for glucocorticoids (cortisol or corticosterone) in our bodies is to increase the energy available. For that our body triggers for instance the raise of blood glucose levels [9], [10]

Figure 1. Cortisol molecule

Why has nature decided to make as vulnerable to loneliness?

The need to belong somewhere or to someone has an innate drive [11]. When this requirement is not fulfilled, pain might be experienced in the form of loneliness.

From an evolutionary point of view, a loneliness mind state can be adaptive and functional [12]. When a certain individual experiences loneliness in response of the loss of someone, that individual might be more prone to restore the gap made by that loss. These kind of people who do experience loneliness; have higher chances to survive and pass on their genes as their capability of survival is greater when compared to the rest of the community.

Indeed, experiencing transient levels of loneliness is not entirely negative and might even be positive as those might motivate to seek social contact. However, chronic levels of loneliness can lead to negative consequences such as sleep problems, cardiovascular disease and depression [13].

 

References

[1]         S. C. Tiwari, “Loneliness: A disease?,” Indian J. Psychiatry, vol. 55, no. 4, pp. 320–2, Oct. 2013.

[2]         E. van Roekel, M. Verhagen, R. C. M. E. Engels, L. Goossens, and R. H. J. Scholte, “Oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) in relation to loneliness in adolescence,” Psychiatr. Genet., vol. 23, no. 5, pp. 204–213, Oct. 2013.

[3]         J. LeClair, J. Y. Sasaki, K. Ishii, M. Shinada, and H. S. Kim, “Gene–culture interaction: influence of culture and oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) polymorphism on loneliness,” Cult. Brain, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 21–37, Mar. 2016.

[4]         M. J. Lucht et al., “Associations between the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) and affect, loneliness and intelligence in normal subjects,” Prog. Neuro-Psychopharmacology Biol. Psychiatry, vol. 33, no. 5, pp. 860–866, Aug. 2009.

[5]         J. T. Cacioppo et al., “Loneliness and health: potential mechanisms.,” Psychosom. Med., vol. 64, no. 3, pp. 407–17.

[6]         S. D. Pressman, S. Cohen, G. E. Miller, A. Barkin, B. S. Rabin, and J. J. Treanor, “Loneliness, Social Network Size, and Immune Response to Influenza Vaccination in College Freshmen.,” Heal. Psychol., vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 297–306, May 2005.

[7]         L. D. Doane and E. K. Adam, “Loneliness and cortisol: momentary, day-to-day, and trait associations.,” Psychoneuroendocrinology, vol. 35, no. 3, pp. 430–41, Apr. 2010.

[8]         J. Smyth, M. C. Ockenfels, L. Porter, C. Kirschbaum, D. H. Hellhammer, and A. A. Stone, “Stressors and mood measured on a momentary basis are associated with salivary cortisol secretion.,” Psychoneuroendocrinology, vol. 23, no. 4, pp. 353–70, May 1998.

[9]         M. M. Wirth, S. M. Scherer, R. M. Hoks, and H. C. Abercrombie, “The effect of cortisol on emotional responses depends on order of cortisol and placebo administration in a within-subject design.,” Psychoneuroendocrinology, vol. 36, no. 7, pp. 945–54, Aug. 2011.

[10]      L. C. Hawkley and J. T. Cacioppo, “Loneliness Matters: A Theoretical and Empirical Review of Consequences and Mechanisms,” Ann. Behav. Med., vol. 40, no. 2, pp. 218–227, Oct. 2010.

[11]      R. F. Baumeister and M. R. Leary, “The need to belong: desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation.,” Psychol. Bull., vol. 117, no. 3, pp. 497–529, May 1995.

[12]      J. T. Cacioppo et al., “Loneliness within a nomological net: An evolutionary perspective,” J. Res. Pers., vol. 40, no. 6, pp. 1054–1085, Dec. 2006.

[13]      L. M. Heinrich and E. Gullone, “The clinical significance of loneliness: a literature review.,” Clin. Psychol. Rev., vol. 26, no. 6, pp. 695–718, Oct. 2006.

 

 

 

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Natalia Giner Laguarda

I am originally from Spain, Valencia. I'm a 23 years old Spanish girl who is in love with sports and the sun. I love travelling and running wherever I am. You will find me for sure in Sport Centre de Bongerd as is probably my second house (both the gym and the bar).

I did my biotechnology Bachelor in Valencia and even though I liked it very much, I was still CURIOUS about how far it could go. Hence, I decided to give a shot in The Netherlands and I came three years ago to do my erasmus. Then I came again for my Master's (Biotechnology & Molecular Life Science). Synthetic Biology is by far my favorite field in Biotech, and exploring as much as possible in this field is my goal here.

I would love to share my experiences as an international student to whoever is interested and of course I would be more than happy to solve all your questions :)

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