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Are You Hungry for Relationships?

Are You Hungry for Relationships?

When Bruce Springsteen croons “everybody’s got a hungry heart,” you can feel how desperate a person can be for love. So it’s not surprising that psychologists agree with that analogy: Turns out if you’re eating or drinking too much, you may actually be hungry for relationships.

According to Michael McKee, M.D., a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic, “feeling lonely activates the sympathetic nervous system in a chronic way that includes regular output of stress hormones….” And self-soothing with food and/or alcohol can be an attempt to ease that discomfort.

If that sounds familiar, well, 35 percent of adults 45+ say they’re lonely. Chronic loneliness is associated with bouts of the blues, insomnia, chronic headache or backache, even elevated blood pressure. Fortunately, if you rely on food and alcohol to temporarily boost your lonely mood, there are other ways to ease your isolation -- and improve your health!

1. Find an organization that does work you admire and get involved. You’ll get outside your own head, interact with caring people, and improve your self-esteem!

2. Write out a list of people you would like to touch base with -- old school friends, former colleagues or relatives. Choose one name a week to contact. Call, email, send a card. Then follow up.

3. Keep a journal of what you eat or drink and your mood at the time. Seeing the correlation will help you moderate your diet and drinking habits. And don’t hesitate to find a trained counselor to talk with. 

Medically reviewed in June 2019.

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