The number of clients that therapists are seeing with these disorders is growing at an alarming rate. Something is happening in our society to produce this surge. There are a number of reasons for the escalation, but there is one that deserves special notice: loneliness, caused by an epidemic of disconnection of humanity from humanity.
I am fortunate to have recently celebrated my 59th birthday. I have had the privilege of living through a significant amount of history and witnessing innumerable changes. Some of that history includes summers and weekends as a young boy spent in the north Georgia mountains with relatives. I enjoyed such things as outhouses, drawing water from a well and a weekly bath in a tin tub filled with water heated on the stove. The same water was used by several cousins so bath time was quick. Each of us hoped we would be first and not the last in line.
I have grown to appreciate the closeness of that rural community. Neighbors and relatives often stopped by without notice to sit and talk on the rough hewn wooden porch in hand made rocking chairs. The men rolled Prince Albert tobacco cigarettes and the women with their aprons on fanned themselves in the hot, humid Georgia nights with funeral fans. Lazy, quiet talk would be exchanged until it was so dark fireflies and glowing cigarettes were the only light. I would get lost in the magic of it all as I listened to stories, tales and gossip until I drifted off to sleep in the safety of the gathering.
The members of that community always seemed peaceful and content. Their rustic lifestyle was not a lack of, but rather an abundance. The large metropolitan cities do not possess the riches of authentic human connection.
I think that is the sickness that has beset our age. I believe the loss of simplicity, true community and family has produced this disease of loneliness, which emerges as depression and anxiety. The joy of face-to-face conversation with no agenda other than knowing another person has become lost in this modern day famine of food for the soul.
We need to return to this connection and nourish the soul with its own kind.
Don Cotton is a psychotherapist based in Stockbridge.