Why Am I Feeling Isolated? Potential Causes And 7 Ways To Reconnect
In our current global climate, loneliness and social isolation has grown in epidemic proportions and in all age groups. Now more than ever, adults feel estranged in their relationships and isolated from friends and family. For many, their home has become their castle, only to leave for work and shopping, with neighbors resembling strangers rather than people you know and trust. This isolation is reflected in national statistics that reveal 52% of people in the United States reporting feeling lonely and 47% admitting their relationships are not meaningful. If you are one of the many who are feeling isolated, know there are resources available to help you reconnect and leave loneliness behind you. Read on to learn more.
What Is Isolation?
Isolation is defined as a lack of social relationships or emotional support and can occur even if you are not alone. Many people may think that isolation means simply being alone and not in contact with others. However, that is solitude. Instead, isolation is pervasive and long-lasting and can occur without physically being alone. For example, isolation can be emotional in nature and present as a feeling of disconnect from others despite having relationships that should provide meaningful connections.
Meaningful relationships are one of the best ways to reduce the feeling of isolation that may spring up throughout our lives. Without these intimate connections, we may withdraw inside a shell that can keep us from taking care of ourselves. Considering the importance of social support throughout life, it is no surprise that isolation can lead to serious mental and physical health issues if not treated properly.
Why Do I Feel Isolated?
There are several risk factors associated with feelings of isolation, many of which we will discuss in the next section, but some causes of isolation include:
- The loss of family or friends
- Health and disabilities
- An aversion to socialization
- Domestic violence
- Living alone
- A lack of meaningful involvement
If you are experiencing any form of abuse, help is available. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233).
Social isolation can spring up from a buildup of external events or appear without a prominent inciting event. Different personalities and states of mind can be more prone to isolation feelings. For example, if you find yourself quite extroverted and need meaningful connections to others but cannot seem to connect to others around you, you may feel isolated.
But if you are more introverted, you may not mind the lack of connection with others as much. You may not develop feelings of isolation as quickly. Of course, personalities are more complicated than this simple reductionism, but different personalities may be more prone to isolation.
Below are steps you can take that may, more directly, help your effort to feel less isolated. We will look at some of the common causes of isolation and how to fix them, in addition to listing ways that you can connect with others.
Ways To Connect With Others And Eliminate Causes Of Isolation
1. Reduce Social Media Usage
It is well known now that social media use can cause, and more commonly, amplify feelings of social isolation. While it promises to help us connect with others, the truth is, social platforms do not offer the same form of communication that you get when you visit in-person and away from the computer screen. If anything, the anonymity just provides a medium for self-criticism and social competition. However, this is not to say that social platforms cannot be used constructively - they can connect far-off friends and family who live apart. Beyond communicating with loved ones from afar, social media tends to isolate you from “real” people and situations.
If you want to stay connected with others, grab a coffee, or invite them over, or if they live far away, give them a call. Liking the occasional picture or commenting a compliment on a post is not enough to provide you with the feeling of genuine connection that we, as humans, depend on for survival.
2. Commit To Spending Quality Time With Friends
Following the theme of staying connected, try to set time aside for time with people in your support system. Having lunch or coffee with friends once a week keeps you connected with others which can do wonders for your mental health. You can meet with a friend spontaneously or take a moment to visit with your neighbor. Even if only occasionally, your commitment to spending quality time with a friend will quickly reduce feelings of isolation. Consider writing down a goal of social activity at least once a week, even if it’s a short walk at lunchtime with a trusted co-worker. Even small bouts of isolation can be lessened by looking forward to the upcoming quality time spent with those who truly care for you.
3. Develop A Passion
Building off the points of number two, getting involved in something enjoyable can be great for connecting with others. More than just the social aspect, finding a new passion reduces feelings of isolation because you now have something more meaningful to dedicate time to. There are several ways for you to develop a passion that you can share with others. Consider learning to play an instrument and find an open jam session where you can meet other musicians. You can also volunteer in your local community. Giving your time to others provides a double advantage to feelings of isolation, not only are you spending time with like-minded people but your generosity also is a boon to mood and mental health.
4. Maintain A Healthy Lifestyle
As unrelated as it sounds, maintaining good health can be vital not just to your happiness but to your feelings of social isolation as well. The act alone of getting out and going to the gym or on the run can get you outside and around other people. Even if you don't talk to others as you exercise, being in public can help.
Additionally, the rush of endorphins from exercise can directly improve for your overall health and put you in a great position to feel and act energized. Proper sleep and dieting will also bring you the energy and naturally good endorphins to help you gain control of your day and mood.
5. Challenge Your Inner Critic
Often, feelings of loneliness and isolation from others stem from the internal dialogue in your head. This private speech in our minds can have a powerful impact in our self-perception and outwardly interaction with others. Sometimes, this internal voice will turn into a harsh critic that berates your every action (and interactions), keeping you from opening to others and promoting self-imposed isolation.
Insecurities and a fear of what is outside your comfort zone can be enough to push you to avoid both attempts to reach out and connect with others and to appreciate and value those connections. So, by challenging that part of yourself that holds you back, you can begin seeing real possibilities for connection. One strategy for challenging your inner critic is simply participating in regular social interactions. Of course, connecting with others will be difficult, especially if your inner critic is on the attack. You can start by being a friend to yourself and meeting the harsh words with kindness and love. If this is not working, do not worry. You can reach for mental health support, and they can walk you through the process of self-love.
6. Gain Control Over Your Life
If you are working up the will to make connections and find yourself continually falling into the same old habits and self-inflicted misery - there is one solution for you: to gain control of your own life. It can be easy to let things go in a world where we can hide behind our screens and digital personas, where accountability is easy to sidestep. You can empower yourself by acknowledging the responsibility you have to care for yourself.
By practicing small steps, you can build the willpower and the motivation to see the vast control you have over your life. Perhaps, you realize that a part of you wants to feel lonely, that it is easier to isolate than break out of your protective shell and meet with others. This self-realization is a step in the direction of self-awareness. However, in acknowledging that you are growing your own circle of isolation, you now can take responsibility to make that change.
7. Reach Out For Help
Confronting feelings of social isolation can be difficult - especially when you begin to connect this feeling with accompanying symptoms of anxiety and depression. Isolation can compound these symptoms and reinforce loneliness, causing a cycle that is hard to break alone. Even calling someone, you trust to talk about the problem is an excellent step towards making a difference.
When reaching for a friend is not enough, know you can reach for mental health support. Therapy is a powerful tool for healing the feelings of isolation that many of us are living with on a daily basis.
Living with feelings of isolation is challenging and may interfere with your ability to find a therapist to meet with in-person, especially with the added need for setting appointments and traveling to an office. Online therapy is a convenient option that is supported by research as a highly-beneficial alternative to in-person therapy, For example, an article published in Frontiers in Psychology found that online therapy interventions helped provide emotional support for young adults managing loneliness and other symptoms related to depression and anxiety. You may find that it is easier to attend online therapy sessions from the comfort of your own home than going to an office for in-person therapy. Whichever format you choose, therapy will help you take those steps you need to heal past hurts and work through present challenges.
When you feel isolated from others, you may experience feelings of intense loneliness, sadness, and difficulties with your self-esteem. Fortunately, there is a remedy for these feelings of isolation in the act of reaching for support from a friend, family member, or co-worker. If you find that your support system is not available or need more, reach for the guidance of a mental health therapist. Know you do not have to continue feeling disconnected and you have the power within you to reach for help. Online therapists are available when you are ready.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Does Feeling Isolated Mean?
Isolation and loneliness can lead to the development of mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depressive disorders. When you feel isolated or lonely, you may feel cut off and withdrawn from others while sad about being yourself. However, when attempting to cope with loneliness, feel less lonely, or feel comfortable being alone, health information resources and national helplines can provide you with a wealth of knowledge to work through a mental illness that could contribute to these feelings.
Why Do People Isolate Themselves?
To cope with loneliness, friends or family may start to feel the need to remove themselves from situations. Although it may seem counterintuitive, mental and emotional distress make some people feel like they can’t talk to others, and they may even feel lonely in a crowded room. Mental illness can make isolation and loneliness seem like the proper solution. However, national helplines and health information can help them realize that there are ways to feel less lonely. Making new friends, seeing a therapist, and even taking steps to find health insurance that covers mental illness consultations are often the first steps to helping people work through their feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Is Being Isolated A Bad Thing?
The American Psychological Association explains that feelings of isolation and loneliness can affect “your physical, mental, and cognitive health.” When you are feeling isolated or feeling lonely, anxiety, depression, and other forms of mental illness are just a few of the problems that may develop. You may also start to feel sick more often, withdraw yourself from friends and family, and neglect past times you usually enjoy. Reaching out to a national helpline can get you the health information you may need if you are dealing with isolation and loneliness.
How Do I Stop Being Isolated?
When feeling lonely, you may feel like few people can understand or even care about your situation. However, isolation and loneliness are often the causes of this self-fulfilling cycle; when you convince yourself to remove yourself from others, you are actively isolating from people around that may care or want to talk. Consider reaching for a friend, professionals, or national helplines when you are experiencing these isolating feelings. Reaching out to a national helpline or mental health therapist can help you determine why you are feeling isolated and get you closer to the resources you need to stop feeling lonely so often.
Can You Tell If Someone Is Lonely?
There are several ways to tell when a person may feel lonely. If you find them withdrawing from the conversation, avoiding new situations, or possibly even making jokes about feeling lonely, they may subtly be isolating themselves. However, if someone is reaching out more often, is more disappointed about canceled plans, or looking for more grand activities than usual, understand they are reaching for support and make it a point to connect with them.
What Are Signs Of Isolation?
The signs of isolation include the inability to connect with others, exhaustion, lack of social interest, negative feelings towards yourself, and more. Reaching out to a national helpline or a mental health therapist can help you understand how isolation can contribute to mental illnesses and what to look for when you feel you or your loved ones may be isolating yourself.
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