What Is Social Isolation?

People suffering with certain illnesses like STDs might choose to spend time alone rather than seek out the company of others due to feelings of shame.
Child psychiatrists can often help shy or anxious children to interact more positively with peers and others in social situations.
Low-self esteem might lead to a person's social isolation.
Social isolation can impact a person's self-esteem.
People who feel socially isolated may turn to alcohol or other substances to cope.
Some people might use social networks to not feel as isolated.
People living in poverty might feel social isolated from peers who have more options in life.
Some experts claim non-personal communication is so convenient that people do not feel the need to interact in a personal way.
Article Details
  • Written By: Karize Uy
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 20 December 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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Social isolation is an occurrence wherein a species experiences continued separation from other members of the species. Humans tend to suffer from this intentionally, consciously retreating and evading any forms of social contact. The term should not be confused with being anti-social, as the latter refers to negative and violent behaviors towards society, while social isolation does not do any harm to the public.

More than an ailment, this can be treated as a symptom or an offshoot of other events. Generally, people who feel that they do not fit the norm may display this behavior. Those with physical disorders can, as a result, feel unattractive and embarrassed and would shy away from social contact. Psychological disorders such as schizophrenia or paranoia can alter a person’s perspective of how people can treat them, which can cause the isolation.

Usually, a low self-esteem can also be associated with wanting to be alone. Social isolation may be a symptom of a problem, but it can also result in worse and more harmful illnesses. Such illnesses can include body dysmorphic disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, drug and alcohol abuse, and depression. All of these can somehow be an attempt to be cope with the isolation.

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Aside from mental disorders and damaging actions, social isolation is also found to cause many physiological and mental risk factors. Studies show that people who experience depression and seclusion have inferior immune systems, which can lead to many sicknesses. Isolation can even trigger obesity, as some people turn to eating food in large amounts to comfort themselves. On the other hand, social interaction is known to benefit the human heart. The brain also improves its performance when stimulated by human contact and conversation.

When isolation is severe, it can also cause a person to have suicidal thoughts, which can lead to death. Many research studies have shown that modern technologies may have been a cause for an increased social isolation among people. In 2009, 25 percent of Americans reported they felt like they cannot confide in anyone, as opposed to 10 percent during 1985. Communication is so convenient through the use of text messages, phone calls, and emails that people do not feel the need to interact in a personal way, experts have said.

On the opposite end, some researches assert that technology helps an individual cope with loneliness. Social networks give registered members the freedom to express themselves through blog posts and “shout outs.” Other members, in turn, give comfort through responses and comments. In this case, technology creates a bridge that links people together, no matter how distant, perhaps making people handle social isolation better.

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Discuss this Article

anon924664
Post 6

I agree with you. I do want close relationships but no one else seems interested in a legitimate friendship or relationship in which you really work hard for each other and commit to each other.

I'm actually on the web looking for an answer to that question now. I don't think the answer involves overcoming the need, but fulfilling it in the right way. That's as far as I've gotten, though. I wish you the best.

anon352237
Post 5

No person should have to depend on someone else for their happiness. My question is how do you overcome the need for other people's presence in your life? Since the only person you can really depend on is yourself, is there a way to feel comfortable being completely alone? I have grown tired of depending on people who are self centered.

icecream17
Post 4

@Latte31 - I love to exercise too. I also wanted to add that I agree that people that are suffering from social isolation need to shift the focus from their loneliness to something else. I think that volunteering at a charity really helps to shift the focus of the individual’s feelings of loneliness because they are offering support to someone who really needs more support.

Finding the right cause can be very empowering and it really helps to put your life in the proper perspective. It also makes you realize that there are others who are suffering more than you and the revelation that you are not alone in your suffering is very therapeutic.

Also, charities have social activities that volunteers can participate in if they want even more social interaction.

I also suggest keeping a journal and listing daily the things that you are grateful for. I think that when we are depressed we are so focused on our needs that we forget all of the wonderful small things that others do for us. When you develop a sense of gratitude for others you automatically feel better because you realize how distorted your thinking was when you were depressed. This really helps to curb social isolation and depression.

latte31
Post 3

@Cupcake15 -I agree that outside groups are a great way to make new friends. I also think that sometimes the outside groups can be fitness related.

I think that working out with a group with a similar goal not only helps you feel better, but exercise tends to help you relax and generally make you feel happier.

Also, having a common goal with others like running a half marathon or a 5K race and going to weekly or daily trainings can help you shift the focus from what you were depressed about to this new race.

I am a runner and I have to say that running is addictive and makes you feel great. I was not always a runner and never thought that I would be but I made goals to be able to run short distances and before long I was able to run several miles a day. I got my start by training for a 5K race.

cupcake15
Post 2

@Subway11 - I understand what you are saying, and I felt a little like this when I decided to work at home instead of work at an office.

At the office there was a social aspect that I missed because I had lunch with my friends and we got to talk and it was fun. However, when I started to realize that I was starting to feel a little depressed, I immediately looked for networking groups that met once a week so that I would talk to new people about my business and have something to look forward to.

I found that the meetings were great because everyone had a similar background and I was able to talk to people that knew how I felt about the challenges of working at home. I also made a lot of new friends and really reduced my social isolation symptoms.

subway11
Post 1

I agree that some of the effects of social isolation can result in weight gain. I have a friend that is a stay at home mom that has gained fifty pounds in the seven years that she has been a stay at home mom. Because her husband travels and most of her friends work and her children are in school she finds herself snacking all day long.

I know that it is directly related to her social isolation and loneliness. They say that people develop addictions like this to mask a void or to hide some pain. My friend now realizes that she has a health issue that she has to deal with and is now going to a weight loss support group on a weekly basis.

This helps because not only does she get to talk to others but she also is held accountable for her weight due to the weekly weigh ins. I think that there are a lot of people suffering from this type of social isolation and it often leads to bouts of depression because you feel like every day is the same and don’t see any improvements in your situation until you get out and meet people.

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