The relationship between loneliness and psychiatric symptomatology over the course of treatment of an outpatient psychiatric episode

Glen Edward Heiss, Fordham University


The correlation between feelings of loneliness and various psychiatric symptoms has been well-documented. Most of the research in this area has been cross-sectional, however, and there has been little examination of the loneliness-symptomatology relationship over time. The present research addressed this gap by administering standardized instruments to two clinical samples at multiple time points. The first sample was comprised of employees and dependents of employees of the Xerox Corporation (N = 101) who received outpatient mental health and/or substance abuse treatment following an episode of inpatient or intensive outpatient treatment. These individuals completed a measure of loneliness and relevant symptom scales at three points over the first twelve months of treatment. The second sample was comprised of individuals who sought treatment through one of two outpatient facilities in the Northeast ( N = 240). These individuals completed a standard loneliness measure and a general index of symptomatology at two points during their first two months in treatment. In both samples feelings of loneliness and psychiatric symptoms were correlated at every assessment point among. subjects diagnosed with depressive disorders, anxiety disorders and adjustment disorders. No relationship was found between feelings of loneliness and symptoms among subjects with substance abuse diagnoses, but the number of individuals with these diagnoses was rather small. General symptom severity and feelings of loneliness were correlated at most assessment points. Initial symptom severity was observed to exert a significant predictive influence on subsequent loneliness in both studies. Variables such as diagnosis, gender and ethnicity did not mediate the loneliness-symptomatology relationship. Marital status, however, did exert a mediating influence on this relationship; the correlation between loneliness and symptomatology was significantly stronger among individuals who were not married than it was among married subjects. These results extend previous research in this area by illustrating that feelings of loneliness persist and tend to remain correlated with psychiatric symptomatology throughout treatment across multiple diagnostic categories. This research also illustrates that some interpersonal variables (e.g. marital status) exert a noteworthy influence on the relationship between loneliness and psychiatric symptomatology.

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Recommended Citation

Heiss, Glen Edward, "The relationship between loneliness and psychiatric symptomatology over the course of treatment of an outpatient psychiatric episode" (1999). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9955964.