Growing up, I somehow convinced myself that no one wanted me around. My depression and anxiety got so bad that I would rarely come out of my room unless it was for basic necessities. I was either exhausted from being depressed or too anxious to come out of my room. I was afraid of making someone upset with my actions and downtrodden attitude, so I thought it would be easier for everyone if I limited my contact to the world.
Family gatherings were painful because I was so sensitive to everyone pointing out how despondent I was. Even when I did go out and socialized, I immediately wanted to go back home and sleep in my bed. My room was my safe space: it was the one place I could be myself without fear of ridicule. I was isolating myself from my family and friends even as I desperately wanted to connect with others. I thought of myself as an outcast, someone who didn’t belong anywhere.
Sadly, this feeling of wanting to isolate myself carried on into my adulthood. While I can recognize now, in retrospect, that some of my isolation was a symptom of my depression, and many years of therapy have definitely helped, I still can’t help but fall back into thinking that I was a burden to everyone. Socializing has always felt so overwhelming, even with my closest friends. While I consider myself an outgoing person now, I still have frequent moments of dreading interaction with others. What if I say something hurtful? What if make a fool of myself? What if I run into someone I’ve been avoiding? It was a vicious cycle that hurt me so badly in my teenage years.
So why do people isolate themselves? How do you know when isolating yourself has become dangerous? Today, I want to review the types of loneliness that people experience. There are three main types:
Situational loneliness is when you feel lonely based on environmental factors. A momentary feeling of absence, like eating lunch alone somewhere new. It’s the feeling of being alone in a new place with no established connections.
Emotional loneliness occurs when you lack interpersonal relationships. You might experience this when everyone has a romantic partner except you. Or even feeling lonely when you are in a relationship that just isn’t fulfilling.
Social loneliness happens when you don’t feel a sense of belonging to a group. Examples involve staying home because you lack access to social situations, or not being contacted by friends for long periods of time. Also not having transportation to attend social gatherings or leave the house can lead to feeling socially isolated.
A lack of regular, meaningful social interactions can lead to feeling lonely, which can actually be horribly detrimental to one’s mental and physical wellbeing. Loneliness can lead to long term psychological disorders like depression, alcohol abuse, sleep problems, and personality disorders. Humans are a social species, and healthy social relationships are crucial to one’s well being. What’s more surprising is that even physical disorders can develop comorbidly with loneliness, like cardiovascular disease, obesity, and poor health in general. If left untended, loneliness can have some serious consequences. It is even a risk factor for mortality. It is important that you try to reach out if you’re feeling isolated, and come up with ways to help yourself when you feel yourself intentionally isolating yourself from others. Also, look for signs that your friends might be isolating themselves, and reach out to them if you suspect they are feeling lonely. That can go a long way toward the ultimate goal of making sure that no one ever has to be alone.
If you are feeling disconnected from the people around you, Mindpath Health has therapists available who can talk to you and develop strategies for reconnecting.