Many people don’t realize just how important socialization is until it’s out of their reach.
The truth is that socialization feeds a particular need in the human brain that requires interaction to thrive.
Socialization stimulates the prefrontal cortex, which improves cognitive function and helps with flexible thinking. It also causes your brain to produce needed hormones as a result of the different emotions that socialization can trigger.
A person who feels disconnected may retreat from socialization altogether, which is a double-edged sword. The times when you don’t feel like talking to anyone may be when you need other people most—like when you are going through a hard time. Social support can help mitigate some of the weight of that emotional turmoil.
Still, there are times when you will feel you are not fitting in, which will make you feel disconnected. Let’s explore some reasons you may feel disconnected with some possible solutions.
1. Too much social media and technology.
In some respects, the internet has brought people together; however, it’s managed to tear people apart too.
The problem with relying on social media and technology for socialization is that it doesn’t feed or activate the same kind of social processes that in-person socialization does.
So instead of being around someone who makes you feel good and recharges you, your brain may not be taking the same cues from the social interaction.
That is not to say that long-distance friends are not valuable or lesser than others. They’re not. It is great to be able to connect with people around the world. It’s just that social media and technology do not stimulate the same kind of social responses in your brain that interacting with someone in person does.
Not having in-person friendships and relationships can leave you feeling more depressed, isolated, and alone. Therefore, one should strive to create some in-person relationships.
2. Fear of rejection.
Fear may cause you to stop taking risks in an attempt to avoid the hurt and judgment of rejection. The problem is that we can only forge our deepest connections and relationships by allowing ourselves to be vulnerable.
The truth is that rejection is going to happen. There’s no avoiding it. That’s just part of the deal. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose.
However, it doesn’t have to control the entire direction of your life if you can change how you look at it.
Rejection isn’t saying that you’re a bad or unworthy person. All that it’s really saying is that “this person doesn’t fit in my life.”
Even if the other person is being unkind about it, that’s still what’s being said. Besides, they wouldn’t go out of their way to make you feel bad about it if they weren’t a jerk.
They would say, “Hey, this isn’t for me. No, thank you.” And that would be it. To do otherwise is a them problem, not a you problem.
3. Low self-esteem and self-worth.
Low self-esteem is a common cause of the feeling of not belonging. People with low self-esteem often don’t feel they are worthy of a true connection. As a result, they don’t fully commit to the relationship, or they sabotage their own success to reinforce that they do not deserve it.
They essentially end up segregating and disconnecting themselves from others because they have difficulty accepting that others find them valuable.
Fixing low self-esteem or self-perception is a difficult thing to do. But it will need to happen if you want to feel connected with other people and have healthy relationships.
First, you must value yourself enough to say, “Hey, I am worthy of friendship.” And you have to know that for yourself so you don’t seek constant validation from your relationships, which can be unhealthy.
4. Cultural differences.
An often-underestimated cause of loneliness and disconnection is cultural differences. You may feel alienated from society if you are from a dramatically different culture.
Even in the United States, it’s easy to feel out of your element if you move to another part of the country that has a drastically different culture. Different slang, unspoken rules, customs, and behaviors may not feel right or comfortable to you.
A good way to ease this problem is to immerse yourself in the culture to learn more about it. You will likely find it’s easier to take an interest in the culture and you may even find connections that way.
In addition, plenty of people would love to share their knowledge and personal experience.
5. Busy schedules.
Life is busy. As an adult, you must deal with work, family, housework, and chores. There is always something to do, which means you can easily become overwhelmed.
This can cause you to leave social relationships behind. Who has time to hang out with their friends when you have all this other stuff to do?
Here’s the thing: You must make time to maintain your social relationships with others. If you don’t, they fall away. Sooner or later, you will become disconnected.
The thing about life is that there will always be another responsibility or thing to do. Unfortunately, friendships and relationships aren’t always that resilient. So you must regularly create, build, and maintain your relationships if you want them to survive.
6. Loneliness and isolation.
It should come as no surprise that loneliness and isolation can be responsible for feeling disconnected. The lonelier one feels, the more distant one often is from other people.
The interesting thing about loneliness is that you can still feel lonely if you are with the wrong people. In that, it comes down to connection. Drastic differences may prevent you from feeling connected to the people around you.
Seek ways to socialize. Look into local groups or activities that will put you in contact with other like-minded people. That way, you have a better chance of finding some connections so you can curb your loneliness.
7. Grief and significant life changes.
Grief is a lonely experience that may leave you feeling no connection to your family or friends. When we lose something important or experience a drastic life change, this powerful emotion strikes us.
For example, you may experience grief over the loss of a loved one, a relationship ending, losing a job that was important to you, or any other number of intense emotional occurrences.
These life situations hit everyone differently. Some people can roll with the punches without it affecting them too drastically. Others are bowled over by it and may find that they retreat into themselves to try to navigate their pain.
Grief is something that needs to be experienced and moved through, though it may require the help of a counselor to do so, particularly if it affects your desire to socialize over a prolonged period of time.
8. Relationship struggles.
A relationship should be a place of respite from the chaos and difficulty of the rest of the world. Unfortunately, that’s not how it always works out. People are messy creatures who sometimes do messy things and make bad decisions.
Even in the most loving relationships, stress from work or finances can interrupt the connection, so your home doesn’t feel like home anymore.
It isn’t easy to set aside time for romance and intimacy when you have kids to care for and housework to keep up with.
Still, addressing relationship struggles before they become a massive problem is the best way to handle them.
The more distant you feel from your partner, the easier it is to disconnect, making it much harder to bring the relationship back to a healthy connection.
That may require more focused time together or help from a relationship counselor.
9. Toxic and destructive relationships.
Unhealthy, toxic relationships can cause a lot of harm to your emotional and mental well-being. They will make you feel disconnected because you are unable to be authentic around toxic people without them using it against you.
Even if you aren’t consciously making that choice, your subconscious is guiding you to try to protect you from the harm that may come your way.
At some point, you must decide what makes for a healthy relationship and eliminate the ones that don’t uplift and empower you. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find people that are a positive force like that. That journey may be a lonely one in and of itself.
And suppose you don’t have a good idea of what a healthy relationship looks like. In that case, you’ll want to talk to a mental health counselor who can help you learn and work through whatever traumas you may have experienced at the hands of toxic people.
10. A lack of shared interests.
Variety is the spice of life, so they say. And while that is true, it’s also true that we tend to need some shared interests to connect meaningfully with other people.
Shared interests allow you to bond with another person over that mutual interest, contributing to each other’s knowledge to forge a friendship.
That doesn’t mean you can’t be friends or connect with people with whom you don’t share interests. Sometimes a shared interest can be as simple as, “I’d like a new friend.” And then you can forge a connection over that desire for a new friend.
Still, it doesn’t hurt to spend some time with like-minded people in some way. Hobby groups and volunteer work are both good places to look.
11. A lack of purpose and meaning.
A lack of purpose and meaning can cause you to feel disconnected from yourself and the world. Being out of tune with who you are and who you want to be makes it difficult for you to meaningfully connect because you’re not fulfilling that spiritual side of yourself.
By spiritual, we don’t mean religious or metaphysical. In the mental health world, spiritual health is often defined by the intangible things that bring us joy. For example, creating art often provides people with pleasure and satisfaction. Pleasure and satisfaction are intangible spiritual needs because they aren’t easily defined.
Still, if you lack purpose and meaning, pick something and do it. Don’t sit around and wait for it to fall out of the sky and into your lap. Go do things! Pick literally anything and go do it.
You will either find it fulfilling, or you won’t. There’s the added benefit of meeting new people and gaining new experiences that may put you on the path to your purpose and meaning even if this thing is not it.
12. Personal growth.
People are often surprised to find out that personal growth can cause you to feel disconnected as you pull away from your old life. As you strive to get healthier, you’ll find that some people don’t fit in your life anymore.
For example, suppose you had toxic friendships with no boundaries where they were able to take advantage of you. In that case, you will find that those people fall away when you start living a healthier life.
Another good example is sobriety. Many people who decide to clean up and get sober find that many of the friends they partied with were never really friends. They were just people they got drunk and high with. That was their only mutual connection or interest.
Once that mutual interest is gone, the relationship doesn’t last. It’s common for someone newly sober to feel disconnected and lonely because their entire friend group changes or falls away.
Personal growth can be lonely. However, it is also paving the way for the healthier relationships of tomorrow. You just have to keep going and be willing to forge new relationships.
13. Physical or chronic health conditions.
Illness is responsible for so much loneliness and isolation. A person with or that develops a chronic illness is often faced with difficult challenges to try to maintain some normalcy.
Chronic pain or fatigue can make socialization nearly impossible because of how overwhelming it is for the person experiencing it.
A medical issue like cancer is often lonely and isolating because of how intense of a situation it is. You’re facing life and death, a difficult treatment that may or may not work, and juggling everything else that goes along with trying to live your life.
It’s hard. Often, a good approach is to look for connections in support groups. Being around other people going through similar struggles can provide connections that you may not otherwise be able to forge with people who aren’t going through similar things.
14. Substance abuse.
Substance abuse and substance abuse disorder (addiction) drives wedges into relationships and destroys lives.
Sure, plenty of people out there recreationally use or drink, and it doesn’t cause them too many problems. However, that is not the case for everyone.
Many people who drink and use drugs may get pulled down the route of addiction once their mind latches onto and forms a need for the substance. In extreme cases, substance abuse can destroy relationships, families, careers, lives, and so many other things in between.
Substance abuse often changes a person’s behavior because the substance directly interacts with the brain. It can change functionality and hormone production. Substance abuse can also kill off brain cells that affect how you behave. That, in turn, can cost you relationships and leave you feeling lonely and disconnected.
The only real solution to that is sobriety. And if you think you’re ready for sobriety, talk to your doctor before you do anything. You don’t want to wind up having a seizure from withdrawals and cracking your head off a toilet by collapsing in the bathroom.
15. Mental health issues.
Mental health issues are a stroke painted with a broad brush. There are so many different mental illnesses that may cause you to disconnect from other people or yourself.
Depression, general anxiety, social anxiety, depersonalization-derealization disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, trauma—the list can go on and on and on.
The solution is complicated and will differ from person to person. You may need treatment, a support group, healthier coping mechanisms, or a therapist to help you figure things out.
Whatever the case may be, if you feel that you need help with your mental health or can’t figure out why you feel so disconnected, it would be best to speak to a mental health professional who should be able to help you get to the root of the problem and find a solution.