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Have you ever wondered why you tend to isolate yourself?
Do you shut the world out as a way to cope with difficult situations and feelings?
Maybe you’re struggling with mental health issues and self-isolation feels like the answer?
If you’re not sure why you isolate yourself, don’t worry. This article will explore some of the more common causes of self-isolation.
Self-isolation involves stepping away, staying to yourself, and avoiding social interaction. People who self-isolate frequently might lack good friendships and a solid support network. It’s also likely that they struggle with low self-esteem and confidence.
When you isolate yourself for a prolonged time, it can have lasting impacts. There can be challenges with your physical and mental health and daily living tasks. Isolating yourself can deepen feelings of depression and loneliness.
If you tend to avoid social interactions, panic when you think about being social, or have feelings of dread around the idea of being social, then you might be struggling with the effects of self-isolation.
So let’s look at the many reasons why you might isolate yourself while also offering alternative behaviors. Make sure you read until the end to understand all the reasons a person self-isolates and to learn the many coping strategies.
1. Depression/mental illness.
Living with depression or any other mental illness can lead a person to isolate themselves. Mental illnesses often involve a chemical/hormonal imbalance in the brain and can leave a person feeling down, sad, hopeless, and alone. Sometimes people isolate to take care of themselves; other times, it can be to save loved ones from seeing them at their worst.
Depression can make it challenging to complete daily living tasks such as showering or brushing your teeth. Furthermore, on bad depression days, it might feel like it requires too much energy to put the mask on and smile, and staying in and being alone is more feasible.
Depression can strip a person of everyday living. It tries to convince the sufferer that they’re not worthy or important and that the world doesn’t need them. It’s important to remember that none of these things are true.
Depression and other mental illnesses have both mental and physical symptoms. It can be challenging to cope with all the symptoms, and self-isolation can seem like the best idea. However, doing this for any length of time will likely leave a person feeling even worse and more detached from the world.
Mental illness can hinder a person’s life and prevent them from working or following through with regular tasks. In addition, it can feel like an enormous amount of heaviness following you around, and isolating yourself might help you feel safe. Though isolating might seem like the best thing to do, here a few ideas of what you can do instead.
What you can do.
Counteract the urge to isolate by reaching out to a loved one(s) when you can feel the depression setting in. In fact, it would be a healthy idea to keep in contact with your loved ones routinely, but for the purpose of this guide, when you feel yourself beginning to retreat, here are a few things to do instead:
- Schedule a fun activity, so you have something happy and exciting to look forward to. You can do this alone or invite someone along.
- Call a friend or family member. Hearing their voice on the end of the phone will remind you that you’re not alone and that you have people. This can make a significant difference in how a person is feeling.
- Call a mental-health chatline if you don’t feel comfortable reaching out to someone you know. You can reach out anonymously. Sharing what’s on your mind can bring so much relief.
- Join a support group to encourage and foster regular social interactions in a safe environment. Try to join a relatable group. This will increase the chance of you participating and creating meaningful connections.
- Find a community of people you can relate to in real life. (For example, if you’re an artistic, creative person, try to find some like-minded friends. If you’re a mom and need someone who understands mom life, try to make some mom friends.) This will help to fight the feelings that you’re alone and no one likes you. (Both of which are common in those with depression and other mental illnesses, but both of which are very untrue.)
2. Social anxiety.
Social anxiety is a prevalent anxiety disorder. It gives the person an intense fear that they’re being watched and/or judged. It can manifest in a massive variety of ways and significantly disrupt a person’s life.
Social anxiety can make it impossible to meet new people, attend social events (even ones that you originally wanted to attend), answer the telephone, order food at a restaurant, go on a date, drive, or even go for a walk. Social anxiety can be dreadful to live with.
Although it is a mental illness, it can leave a person with very physical symptoms like a racing heart, nausea, blurred vision, blushing, and more. People struggling and living with social anxiety aren’t rude or simply looking to avoid socializing. They’re the ones who feel trapped and unable to connect with the social world. Rather than self-isolating, keep reading to find a few tangible tips to help with this.
What you can do.
Living with social anxiety is hard. One of the beneficial things you can do is to learn what your triggers are. Triggers are the things that make your social anxiety flare up. Learning what your triggers are means that you can then learn how to cope with them. (Cope or avoid, depending on each scenario.)
- Learn stress-relief tips to use in social settings rather than retreating to isolation. This might include various breathing exercises, meditation, etc.
- Learn mindfulness. Practice being present. This practice takes a lot of work, but it is worth it and helps with social anxiety. If you are a mindful person, you’ll be more present, and at the moment, being social won’t irritate your triggers.
- Challenge whatever negative thoughts you encounter. Why do you feel like everyone is staring at you? Is it possible to safely answer the phone? When you challenge the negative thoughts, you end up putting doubt and reason into your mind and usually lessen the need to self-isolate.
3. Feeling alienated.
When a person is feeling alienated, they feel emotionally detached. It might seem like they don’t fit in or that others don’t understand or care. Feeling alienated can be a major reason why someone wants to isolate themself. It is common to want to retreat if you feel misunderstood or not cared for.
When people feel alienated, they will be more likely to reject support and care from loved ones. They might feel hopeless or like their role in the world is meaningless. When the person feeling alienated is with loved ones, they might still be struggling with feeling different or detached from their immediate surroundings and like they don’t belong. When a person feels this way, they’ll be more likely to isolate themselves.
What you can do.
Feeling alienated can leave you feeling very lonely and lead to self-isolation. Reach out to loved ones and/or create a strong support network to help battle these recurring feelings. Alienation might feel the safest and more secure. However, I challenge you to do these things instead:
- Complete daily activities that improve your self-confidence.
- Decrease your desire to “fit in” and work on accepting who you are.
- Be true to yourself.
- Reach out to loved ones.
- Schedule a friend date.
- Find and explore hobbies.
4. Toxic family.
Sometimes, people isolate themselves because of toxic family or toxic relationships. It might feel like a coping tool to isolate rather than face that person, or perhaps challenge the situation. A toxic person might dish out cruel criticisms, give you the silent treatment after an argument, make you feel bad about everything, threaten you, and more.
While the saying goes, you only have one family, it’s important to note that being family doesn’t give, and shouldn’t give, people a pass to mistreat you. Being family doesn’t give a permission slip for this. Isolating yourself might feel like a safe haven compared to dealing with a toxic person.
What you can do
Dealing with a toxic family member is hard. But, the effects of isolating oneself can linger and be long-lasting. If you’re regularly dealing with a toxic family member, it might leave you feeling sad, hopeless, unattached, and struggling with feelings of guilt. In addition, a toxic family member might make you want to avoid socializing and attending gatherings. So, here are a few things to try rather than self-isolation:
- Create and maintain clear and healthy boundaries surrounding the toxic person.
- Limit contact with the toxic person.
- Don’t judge but rather turn inward and reflect.
- Create a strong support system to lean on when you do have to encounter a toxic person.
- Use the Gray Rock method when dealing with the toxic person.
Self-isolation might sound like a good idea when experiencing grief. You might experience grief for a variety of reasons, but we’ll focus on the example of losing a loved one in this article.
That sort of loss is an emotionally charged obstacle, and grief can make you feel very heavy and empty. These types of emotions can linger for a long time. Grief can be very overwhelming and leave you feeling detached from the world. It can cause varying emotions, and isolation might be intended or happen accidentally. (For example, if you’re so sad and you haven’t left your bed in a few days, it’s unintentional self-isolation.)
What you can do
Everyone processes grief and loss differently, but a few things that can help are:
- Talking about the death with loved ones.
- Take care of yourself (healthy meals, hydration, exercise, and so on).
- Seek out a support group and participate.
- Turn to faith (if applicable).
- Remember and honor the life of your lost loved ones.
6. Financial stress.
The impact of dealing with financial stress can cause a person to isolate themself. They might feel ashamed, embarrassed, or struggle with low self-esteem.
Financial stress can have mental and physical effects that will only worsen until they’re dealt with. People who self-isolate because of lingering financial worries can experience anxiety and stress.
What you can do.
Instead of self-isolating, try these things to cope with your financial stress:
- Continue making payments on bills even if it feels like you’re making zero progress.
- Talk to a trusted financial advisor.
- Sell assets.
- Remember that you’re not alone and are not the only person with financial stress.
- Start a side hustle.
7. Moving to a new town.
If you’ve moved to a new home, property, or community, you might feel isolated. Moving to a new place is a lot of work, and making friends as adults is tough, so naturally, self-isolating can feel like a safe response.
However, being new to a community can increase social anxiety and just generally make a person feel nervous and unsure.
What you can do.
Community is critical and helps us to have a deeper and more meaningful sense of belonging. However, when a person moves to a new place, it disrupts this and can be difficult to manage.
Here are several things you can try instead:
- Introduce yourself to new neighbors.
- Join a sports club.
- Volunteer with a local organization.
- Get out and about in the community.
- Practice introducing yourself while looking in the mirror so you get used to it.
We really do recommend that you seek professional help from one of the therapists at BetterHelp.com as professional therapy can be highly effective in helping you to address the reasons why you isolate yourself.
8. Catastrophic thinking.
Catastrophic thinking is the term used for thinking and obsessing about the worst-case scenarios. For people who struggle with this, the worst-case scenarios can feel very real and present. However, catastrophic thinking might be absurd for those who don’t struggle with this type of anxiety. Many people struggle with it and can’t control it.
Catastrophic thinking can increase anxiety and cause people to isolate and avoid situations that they need to deal with. Catastrophic thinking can feel very hard to talk about. Furthermore, many catastrophic thoughts end in disaster of some kind. Therefore, the feelings that come with these thoughts are very real.
What you can do.
Living with catastrophic thinking can be very hard. The thoughts feel very real to those who are struggling, and it can feel impossible to change.
To cope with this type of thinking, the best thing to do is to take care of yourself. You’re more likely to be overwhelmed with anxiety if you’re particularly stressed or down. So pay attention to how you’re feeling at all times.
In addition, here are a few more things you can do instead of letting catastrophic thinking isolate you:
- Have a strict self-care routine.
- Practice reframing thoughts to put them into perspective.
- Practice mindfulness.
Burnout is the name for the exhausted feeling one experiences from constantly being swamped. The feeling can happen during prolonged periods of intense stress. It can occur both in the workplace and in your personal life.
A few symptoms of burnout are a strong sense of failure, detachment from the world, defeat, and a sense of hopelessness. Burnout can result in a person feeling completely unmotivated and uninspired; they don’t want to do anything. This is how burnout can lead to self-isolation. Burnout can leave you feeling exhausted and too tired to do anything. Self-isolation might feel like what you need, but there are other options.
What you can do.
Instead of isolating yourself when you’re dealing with burnout, practice self-care. Burnout signifies that your mind and body are overworked and under-cared for. Ensure you eat a healthy diet, get adequate sleep, and drink enough water to help your body recover from burnout. Furthermore, reaching out to your support system when you’re feeling the start of burnout setting in would be helpful too.
The word phobia is a general term used to refer to an irrational fear or aversion to something. Phobias exist everywhere, and even if you think you are the only one with this particular fear, I’m telling you, you’re not.
Phobias can stop a person from functioning normally and completing their daily tasks. In addition, phobias can be very intense and result in a person isolating rather than facing them.
What you can do.
If you’re dealing with a phobia and find yourself self-isolating, then reach out and talk to your doctor. It’s important to note that you’re not alone and don’t have to live with an intense phobia. There are therapies and help available. In addition, a few things you can do instead of self-isolating are:
- Practice being around your fear in small increments.
- Practice self-compassion as you work through the phobia.
- Self-care is a must.
Living with embarrassment or shame might lead a person to isolate themselves. Embarrassment is a big emotion that can leave a person feeling increasingly self-conscious and awkward. It can also lead to low self-esteem.
In addition, living with shame or embarrassment can be a trigger for anxiety and depression. These feelings can arise for many reasons (for example, body image issues, feelings of self-consciousness about wearing a specific outfit, the embarrassment of not being able to afford to go out, and so on).
Embarrassment is a perfectly normal emotion, but if it stops you from living your life, then it’s no longer normal. For example, a person may be embarrassed about a bad haircut, their body, or their scars. Feeling embarrassment for these things is normal, but it can be overcome by doing little confidence-boosting exercises. If you’re feeling like embarrassment is the cause of your self-isolation, then try a few of the following tips.
What you can do.
Embarrassment is a normal emotion, and it’s important to remember that. The idea here is not to prevent it but rather to understand the root of it and find a healthy way to cope.
If your embarrassment is rooted in physical appearance, then it’s best to seek professional help and work on your feelings of self-worth. A “bad” haircut, last year’s clothing, or anything else does not make you less worthy, and you should still go out and enjoy time with loved ones.
- Make a joke about the embarrassing moment. Humor can help substantially with embarrassment or shame.
- Talk to a loved one about your feelings.
- Understand that everyone feels embarrassed at some point.
12. Emotional pain.
Emotional pain is any pain that doesn’t take a physical presence. It can be triggered by anxiety, depression, grief, loss, and so much more. Emotional pain is heavy to carry around and can leave a person feeling beaten down.
Regardless of the reason for emotional pain, it can create intense psychological effects. For example, a person living with emotional pain might experience feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and rage. These emotions can lead to self-isolation.
A person with emotional pain will isolate themselves for a variety of reasons. It could be what feels good to them, but it could also be avoidance of the real world and people. Emotional pain can be intense and even trigger physical symptoms such as aches and pains, headaches, or dizziness.
What you can do.
It can be a process to work through when dealing with emotional pain. Below are a few tips for dealing with it and what to do instead of isolating yourself.
- Cry/vent/scream—express the emotional pain.
- Practice gratitude.
- Reach out and talk to a loved one.
13. Feeling unsafe.
The feelings involved with being unsafe or even just feeling that way are intense. They can be triggered because of PTSD, anxiety, or common sense.
For example, people might feel unsafe in their neighborhood, with certain people, around certain things, and so on. Feeling unsafe can cause feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression.
The importance of feeling safe is significant. Feeling unsafe might stem from childhood, a certain situation, various phobias, or mental health conditions. Living with the feeling of being unsafe can be challenging and may cause a person to isolate themselves.
What you can do.
If you’re struggling with PTSD, anxiety, or an overall sense of fear, and it’s causing you to isolate yourself, you should reach out to a medical professional. Feeling unsafe for a prolonged amount of time can generate lasting impacts on the body. So it’s important to acknowledge and deal with the feelings rather than isolating. Isolating can trigger more symptoms and issues.
- Go to therapy.
- Write about times in your life when you felt safe and turn to it in moments of feeling an overwhelming sense of fear.
- Get enough sleep.
- Eat a healthy diet and drink water.
- End relationships with anyone who doesn’t treat you with kindness and respect.
14. Social media.
Social media usually shows us a carefully curated version of an individual’s life. If a person isn’t careful, thoughts of comparison and feelings of inadequacy often creep in.
Though social media has many benefits, such as being part of a community and spreading awareness and education, some negatives can really hinder people. If you’re having negative feelings surrounding social media, you can do a few things instead of isolating yourself. Isolating yourself will likely leave you feeling worse and less in control.
What you can do.
Avoid doom-scrolling. If social media gives you some negative feelings and causes you to isolate yourself, it might be time to consider a detox/break. In addition, you can filter your content better, mute things that bother you, and diversify your feed.
Make sure you’re following a variety of accounts and not just one type that leaves you feeling less than awesome. If an account doesn’t leave a great taste in your mouth, it might be time to unfollow.
Social media is a world we can control to some extent, so exercising that control is important. Look at things that leave you feeling good and happy, and remember that it’s all just a highlight reel. Those perfect-looking influencers don’t look like that all the time.
15. Relationship issues.
If a person finds themself struggling with their relationship, it could also trigger them to self-isolate. Whether the emotions are coming from having an abusive partner or just not feeling good in the relationship, the feelings are valid and need to be addressed.
People might isolate themselves if they’re dealing with this because they’re ashamed or embarrassed. In addition, they may avoid telling their loved ones because they don’t want them to worry.
What you can do.
If you isolate yourself because of relationship issues, there are a few things you should know. First, you’re not alone. Your feelings are valid, worthy, and important, and you are deserving of safety and compassion. In addition, the following can help.
- Reach out to a loved one and be honest about what you’re experiencing. Being honest can feel impossible, depending on what you’re dealing with, but it’s absolutely necessary.
- Call a crisis line.
- Stay at a shelter.
- Seek help.
We’ve all had that awful head cold, strep throat, or flu. It can be trying to continue daily life while managing various symptoms, and isolating can feel like the best thing to do. Of course, staying away from people when you’re sick is important, but there are still things you can do to remain connected and supported.
What you can do.
If you’re feeling very sick, it is, of course, best to consult with your doctor. Below are a few ideas of how to help with the sick feeling and avoid the desire to isolate.
- Reach out by phone, text, or video call to loved ones.
- Write a letter to a friend.
- Snuggle with a pet.
- Take a warm bath.
- Go for a walk (if you’re feeling well enough).
The effects of isolating yourself can be massive. Although it might not seem like a significant issue at the time, chronic self-isolation can greatly affect mental and physical health, relationships, and quality of life.
Though there are plenty of reasons why someone would isolate themselves, it’s imperative to find alternative behaviors. These important tips can help you overcome the need to isolate. Though self-isolating can feel like it’s what you need, it’s playing a trick on you. Connection with loved ones is key and will help immensely!
Still not sure why you self-isolate or how to stop doing it? Talking to someone can really help you to handle whatever life throws at you. It’s a great way to get your thoughts and your worries out of your head so you can work through them.
We really recommend you speak to a therapist rather than a friend or family member. Why? Because they are trained to help people in situations like yours. They can help you to explore your isolation and the reasons behind it before offering specific advice to help you overcome it.
A good place to get professional help is the website BetterHelp.com – here, you’ll be able to connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
While you may try to work through this yourself, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can address. And if it is affecting your mental well-being, relationships, or life in general, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.
Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.
Click here if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.
You’ve already taken the first step just by searching for and reading this article. The worst thing you can do right now is nothing. The best thing is to speak to a therapist. The next best thing is to implement everything you’ve learned in this article by yourself. The choice is yours.
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