The Impact of Long-Term Solitary Confinement on Mental Health

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Natasha Nabbona


From the current literature, it continues to be documented that long-term solitary confinement causes anxiety via trickle-down effects of panic attacks, fear of impending death, irritability, and even persistent low level of stress. Specifically, the isolation causes emotional blunting or flatness in which individuals lose the ability to “feel.” Additionally, the isolation has been associated with depression in terms of lethargy, apathy, loss of initiation of ideas or activity, social withdrawal, hopelessness, and mood swings. Regarding anger as a secondary effect accruing from long-term solitary confinement, the practice accounts for outbursts of verbal and physical violence against objects, self, and others, poor impulse control, and hostility and irritability. Indeed, the study indicated that this isolation yields cognitive disturbances in terms of disorientation, confused thought processes, poor memory and concentration, and short attention span. This study highlighted further that there is a direct relationship between long-term solitary confinement and perceptual distortions. Notably, it was highlighted that the confinement accounts for the affected persons’ hypersensitivity to smells and noises, de-realization or depersonalization, disorientation in space and time, and sensation distortions. Furthermore, it was documented that long-term solitary confinement is predictive of hallucinations that impair the five senses.

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