I thought I would take a moment in this blog to analyse how living alone affects depression and anxiety. I have lived for the last 18 months alone in my flat in Ealing, and so have a good period of time to base my analysis on. And before anyone asks, I’ve never considered the following an advantage:
In the past I have lived in flat shares with strangers, and also flat shares with friends. I found this an incredibly difficult experience, due to the struggles I have with my anxiety specifically. A facet of anxiety is that the tiniest of things can bother you, get under your skin, and consume all of your time and thoughts. When sharing with people these were highlighted to a greater degree, to the extent that in the early days I would spend the majority of time in my room, even for meals. The thought of eating or being in the same room as others made me incredibly apprehensive. It started to become oppressive and it felt like I couldn’t escape my thoughts or worries. Even minutiae thoughts such as having to cook at the same time as someone, or meet someone for a chat in a corridor, or another flatmate having someone stay over at the flat caused me considerable anxiety.
This precipitated my mood taking huge plunge downwards. I dreaded coming back to London if ever I went home. It also heightened and highlighted the many symptoms of the illness, including not being able to sleep, being constantly tired, feeling constantly on edge and unable to relax, and also affecting social interactions.
Now I live alone, I have my own sanctuary, an area that I feel safe in, and that doesn’t cause me to fear coming back to. I have freedom and a reduction of the worries and anxieties associated with sharing, as previously mentioned. However, the clear disadvantage is that at times the only companion can be the ruminations inside my head (and occasionally the sounds of the screaming children next door!). There is no distraction, and nobody to talk through how I’m feeling, or even to just go for a beer with in the local area. Anxiety and low mood can mean its at best difficult, and at worst neigh on impossible to force yourself out socially. Being in the bubble of living alone can mean that you can easily get sucked in to staying in that safe environment which may ease the pressure in the short term, but in the long term can lead to loneliness, isolation, frustration and a feeling of despair. It’s a vicious cycle, as much of the associated components of mental health can be.
I think in conclusion that there are clearly pros and cons about living alone with depression and anxiety, and I feel personally that it is unequivocally preferable for my situation, and gives my the best platform to try and get better. Although, clearly living in isolation can have an affect of depression particularly, as this article suggests (Link). It claims “People of working age who live alone increase their risk of depression by up to 80%”. I don’t think it’s quite as simple as that, but clearly it does have a significant impact.
Finally though, for this guy it’s a no-brainer, he clearly loves being the King of his own Castle!