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The Russian writer and philosopher Leo Tolstoy may have been onto something when he wrote the opening line of Anna Karenina: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

A recent study published in Psychological Science and led by a scholar now at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, suggests that when it comes to their brains processing information, people who are not lonely are all alike, but every lonely person processes the world in their own, idiosyncratic way.

Copious research shows that loneliness is detrimental to well-being and is often accompanied by self-reported feelings of not being understood by others. A recent report from the United States Surgeon General’s office referred to loneliness as a public health crisis in reaction to the growing number of adults suffering from this condition. Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately half of U.S. adults reported experiencing measurable levels of loneliness.

In a groundbreaking study, researchers discovered that loneliness can significantly impact the way individuals perceive the world around them. Published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, the study sheds light on the profound effects of social isolation on human cognition.

Loneliness, often experienced as a distressing emotional state resulting from a lack of meaningful social connections, has long been associated with a range of adverse health outcomes. However, this latest research delves deeper into the cognitive consequences of loneliness, revealing intriguing findings.

The study involved a series of experiments where participants completed various cognitive tasks while researchers monitored their brain activity. Remarkably, the results showed that lonely individuals process information differently than their socially connected counterparts. Specifically, they exhibited altered patterns of neural activation in brain regions responsible for attention, perception, and emotional processing.

These findings suggest that loneliness not only affects emotional well-being but also influences fundamental cognitive processes. The altered perception experienced by lonely individuals could contribute to a negative spiral, further exacerbating feelings of isolation and potentially leading to mental health issues, including addiction.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, it’s essential to seek professional help and support. is dedicated to providing assistance and guidance to individuals seeking addiction treatment. Our compassionate team of experts is available to offer personalized solutions tailored to your unique needs.

Take the first step towards recovery by calling’s helpline at 855–339-1112. Our caring professionals are ready to listen, provide information, and guide you or your loved ones toward lasting recovery. Remember, you’re not alone – help is just a phone call away.

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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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