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Guest Post: A Pill for Oneliness? May 17, 2010

Posted by Onely in Food for Thought, Guest Posts.
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Onely likes to post guest pieces by other writers who think about singles’ issues. The views expressed in our guest posts may or may not reflect Onely’s views, but we are always interested to hear from other singles advocates. Today’s post is by our loyal reader Steve, who asks a very intriguing question:
Several years ago, I read an editorial that compared the happiness level of people based on their gender, age, and marital status.  The study had a couple surprises:  the happiest group, it was reported, might surprise some people: unmarried women in their 40s.  The unhappiest group: unmarried men in their 30s.  As a 33 year old never married man, I wonder if there is something to this study.  A few months ago, a series of stressful events, combined with my own feelings of despair over what I hadn’t accomplished in life, led to a “nervous breakdown” of sorts.  When I then started having panic attacks, I knew I needed help.  I went to my doctor and was given anti-depressant medication.
Within a few weeks, I started feeling grounded in a way I hadn’t felt in an extremely long time.  “Why couldn’t I have felt like this when I was younger?” I wondered.  I also noticed something else: for the first time, I didn’t feel really bad over the fact that I was still single.  While I haven’t felt like this every day since I started taking the medication four months ago, I have certainly noticed a shift in my attitude.
Helen Fisher, an evolutionary anthropologist at Rutgers University, thinks there might be something to the idea that anti-depressants might actually suppress feelings of romantic love.  You can read more about it here from Wired magazine back from February 2009:
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/02/antidepressants/
I have to ask myself: is it worth the trade-off?  For married couples, these issues can raise all sorts of relationship problems, but for a “chronically single” man such as myself, I actually think it’s a pretty good deal to lose some of these feelings in exchange for greater happiness.  What do you think?

–Steve

Photo credit: ClawzCTR

Comments»

1. Alan - May 17, 2010

I think Bella DePaulo has given us reason to question studies that try and link happiness to marital status. Seems that many of these studies give mixed results and minor differences.

But anyway, onto the benefits of pills and such. I think we need to differentiate between “feeling grounded” and romantic love. Because a pill creates the former doesn’t mean it suppresses the latter. To be honest I’ve never heard of antidepressants suppressing any sorts of romantic feelings. Some antidepressants can cause impotence, but that’s physical not psychological. Depression, on the other hand, can indeed cause emotional withdrawal loss of desire.

2. Singlutionary - May 17, 2010

You know, when I am happy, I don’t feel like I need someone to talk to/be with/share life with. When I am happy, I see the good and I have so much gratitude for the people in my life already. When I am sad, I feel terribly alone.

Maybe being happy is making you more aware of the awesomeness that is already in your life!

3. anony-mouse - May 18, 2010

* This is what I’ve gathered from reading – I’m not an expert… OK? *

Firstly – about studies comparing single men and women. Women, on the whole, will naturally have more friends than men and they discuss personal aspects of their lives with their friends, which men tend not to do. So single women will be able to open up, get advice, share problems etc with their friends, however men don’t have the same place to do it – men rely on wives or girlfriends to do this. So it doesn’t surprise me that single women are happier than single men – it makes sense.

I don’t know about the anti-depressants, but if it’s true then it’s up to each person to individually decide what’s important for them and their stage of life. For example, couples who have been married for 20 years will be in a totally different relationship than those that aren’t married yet, or those married for 1 year. The couple who have been married for 20 years have a much deeper relationship probably based more on friendship and less on sexual partnership. But then everyone’s different.

But it’s always good to know that studies like this exists – so that you can keep a watch out to see if it may validate your own experiences etc.

io.

Alan - May 18, 2010

Don’t forget to take personality into account. An extroverted single man might have difficulties with loneliness and thus unhappiness. This might be much less of a problem for introverted single men.

4. Lauri - May 19, 2010

I think that when people are depressed, anything that could be seen as a negative or lacking aspect of their lives comes to the forefront of their thoughts, and it *becomes* the thing or one of the things that they are depressed *about*. I don’t think I have ever had clinical depression, but I do have very serious PMDD. When I was in my early 20s, before I figured out the PMDD thing and received treatment, I would get very, very depressed about being single. Every month I had a PMDD “attack,” the focus of my thoughts would ALWAYS be my lack of a boyfriend. I thought that I was either depressed about not having a boyfriend or depressed *because* I didn’t have a boyfriend.

After receiving treatment for PMDD, I gradually transformed completely. For the next few years I still wanted a boyfriend, and was sort of unhappy that I didn’t have one, but it didn’t cause feelings of dispear and hopelessness. I wasn’t *having* those feelings anymore. The fact is, without treatment for PMDD, I was going to be depressed about *something* for a week every month. If I had had a boyfriend, my mind would have focused on something else I was lacking.

Actually now I will still have months when my PMDD is more severe and I do get very upset about things, but since I don’t really care if I have a boyfriend anymore, I get upset about things lacking in my career or not having money or not having enough friends or something else. And I know what is happening, so I know that if a depressing thought came into my head that was about not having a boyfriend, I still know intelligently that I really don’t care about not having a boyfriend, and if that’s all I can think of to be depressed about, then things must be going pretty well otherwise! And to note, while I was on antidepressants for PMDD treatment in the beginning, I’m not anymore, I treat it birth control and cognitive exercises.

So I don’t really know if going on anti-depressants should pose a problem in romantic relationships, other than the documented sexual side effects. I think what happen is that when people are NOT depressed, they’re going to be less needy and more happy with themselves. If a relationship is hurt by that, then it’s probably a relationship based on the wrong things!

Onely - May 19, 2010

Agree Agree Agree. . . It’s too late for my brain to function more than that, but I just wanted to say Aye Aye
CC

5. Matt - June 7, 2010

I’m a relatively young guy who’s been taking an SSRI for 10 year or so. While it is true that all of my relationships came before I started taking them, I think all of my Onely tendencies were still present before them, and I was often quite depressed being in a relationship, so I’m not sure how much they may be to blame for my perpetual desire to be single.

I think it might be true that they slightly inhibit the desire/ability to form romantic bonds, but for a Onely like me that’s a good thing, because if I do happen to start sliding into being part of a ‘couple,’ I immediately start to become miserable as my Onely soul revolts. It’s like the SSRI helps prevent me from sliding into unhappy situations out of pure loneliness or something…


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