Do you find yourself in a new environment knowing no one, no family, no friends and feeling as if you are alone with no one to turn to for emotional support? Does the situation make you feel sad and unhappy? Do you experience a sense of helplessness? Are you unable to fit yourself in an environment? If you can identify with the above, then you could be going through a period of social isolation which is different from choosing to be alone for personal reflection. It is different from being alone. You sometimes want to be alone by your own choice which is different from social isolation. Social isolation might be included in loneliness. But there is a fine line between loneliness and social isolation. These two terms are interrelated but not necessarily have the same meaning. You can be lonely or feel alone in a crowded place but that does not necessarily mean you are socially isolated. Social isolation can be defined as the absence of social contact which can cause loneliness.
The socially isolated person could also be reacting to rejection, loss or suffered bad social relationships or going through depression, unemployment, health issues etc. Staying away from home, feeling homesickness, staying home for a very long time, little or no communication with friends, family or colleagues can cause social isolation as well. These work as barriers to maintain social relationships which lead to social isolation. Whatever the cause the person is overwhelmed by the situation and will need psychological help.
The truth is human beings are wired to relate to each other for social and economic survival. When there is this missing component of your lives we are in fact depriving ourselves of the inborn need for love and attachment. It has been a factor which hampers our lives hugely because it isolates you from your born instinct of socializing.
I guess you all remember the story of a boy who went to jungle to live alone to avoid social relationships. But he could not do that as for different necessities he bought dog, cat, cow and a caretaker. This is how he again found himself in a society. So it is really hard to be out of the society within the society. Social isolation affects you immensely.
Research has shown that social isolation is harmful to one’s health and well-being and can lead to mental health problems as it increases the stress hormones level.
“Even the technology that promises to unite us, divides us. Each of us is now electronically connected to the globe, and yet we feel utterly alone.”Dan Brown
Couples do have moments when one or both experience emotional isolation which is an offshoot of social isolation. When there are issues of infidelity, abuse and other relational problems that result in a breakdown in communication the partners isolate themselves from each other resulting in much emotional and physical pain and distress. Often times, in such a situation, couples breakup and not only isolate themselves from each other but also from the other members of their surroundings which again triggers social isolation.
We must recognize when we or someone else is experiencing symptoms of social isolation and make efforts to get help and reach out to others. If we notice a friend or a co-worker is withdrawn and always distanced him/herself from the rest of the staff members particularly at the cafeteria or at a social activity, make it your duty to go over and engage them in a conversation. Sometimes all the person need is someone to just come over and say hello. Don’t assume that he/she prefers to be alone or they are moody or this is their personality it could as well be that there is an issue of low self-esteem,rejection or betrayal and the person trusts no one or that person is also waiting for you to take the initiative, or s\he is shy. You never know what could be the reasons. While in this emotionally fragile state the person internalizes feelings of hurt and is reluctant to share with anyone what he/she is experiencing.
Psychotherapy would help the socially isolated person engage with others by firstly establishing a positive regard for self. Through psycho-education the person learns social skills that would enable him/her to connect with others and maintain meaningful relationship.
Let us be our brother’s and sister’s keeper and reach out to someone in need of a friend and so heed the words of song writer Bill Withers:
Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on.
Before the situation gets worse everyone should get immediate help. Depending on the severity of the condition people should find a way to deal with it. It is not too late yet. The psychotherapist would engage you in talk therapy and help you restore a sense of harmony and mental stability. And the address of getting help from any professional is Seeking Shalom. Seeking Shalom has trained and experienced therapists in the area of social isolation. Seeking Shalom works with children, adolescents and adults. It offers you two contexts to help you. You can engage in weekly individual/family therapy or in a twelve week group setting where you get to interact with persons like yourself and together learn helpful strategies and techniques to deal with the problem. To pursue any of these options you can contact us via telephone at 212-655-9605. We would be happy to help you on this journey to healthier living.