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Social Isolation and Loneliness: Definition and Their Relation

Social Isolation

Social isolation describes the state of feeling cut off from others. The defining point of social isolation is a physical separation, either from family, friends, or society, for an extended time, which can lead to loneliness.

Socially isolated people have little to no friends and avoid social interactions. Their isolation can include staying at home for lengthy periods without communicating with family or friends. Socially isolated people could also willfully avoid any contact or interaction with others, even when opportunities arise.

Social isolation is often unwanted, although some people choose to self-isolate. Extremely introverted people, like INFJs, INFPs, INTJs, INTPs, and ISTPs, are the likeliest personality types to have social isolation tendencies.

What is social isolation?

Social isolation is the complete or near-complete lack of social interaction, contact, and relationship with others.  Social isolation can happen when there are physical barriers that separate one person from others or hinder someone from interacting with others. For example, you can be socially isolated when you are living in a rural area with little to no neighbors and no transportation. Social isolation can also involve emotional isolation, a state of detachment that characterizes the inability or unwillingness to share your feelings with others.

That said, not having many friends or living alone doesn’t necessarily make someone socially isolated. Being alone by choice can be relaxing and rejuvenating. But when social isolation is unwanted or becomes unhealthy, it can have various adverse effects on a person. For one, chronic social isolation can lead to loneliness. Although isolation and loneliness are terms often used interchangeably, the terms are different. Isolation is an objective state where you can identify the absence of social contact based on how many people you interact with on a regular. Meanwhile, loneliness is a subjective feeling that may come as a result of isolation. You can be socially isolated without feeling lonely. Conversely, you can feel lonely while not socially isolated, like in a crowd.

The effects of social isolation on a person go beyond feeling lonely. Social detachment can also cause people to suffer from anxiety and low self-esteem. And with a prolonged lack of physical and emotional interaction with others, socially isolated people can become emotionally numb or detached from their own feelings.

What are the risks of social isolation?

There are two types of risks of social isolation. First, there are mental health risks of social isolation. Reduced social contact can cause or worsen anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and other severe mental health conditions like schizophrenia. Social isolation has also been linked to cognitive function decline and a diminished ability to perform everyday tasks. Socially isolated people also have an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, especially older people.Prolonged isolation also risks losing a sense of connection to others and the community. Hence, socially isolated people may feel mistrustful or threatened by others. Second, there are physical health risks of social isolation. Social isolation can manifest in physical reactions such as muscle tension, headaches, sleep problems, and worsening medical conditions. Over time, being alone can make someone more vulnerable to high blood pressure, obesity, and heart disease.

Socially isolated people may be less inclined to take care of themselves properly. They may get little to no exercise, lack proper sleep, eat poorly, and engage in substance abuse. All these risks can weaken the immune system and further increase the risk of severe health conditions.With the magnitude of these mental and physical health risks, studies have found that social isolation increases the risk of early death.

What are the symptoms of social isolation?

The symptoms of social isolation will vary depending on individual situation. Here are 15 general symptoms that are warning signs of unwanted or unhealthy isolation.

  • Spending lengthy periods in solitude with limited or no contact with others
  • Feeling worthless or hopeless
  • Inability to enjoy activities you once loved
  • Low energy and lack of motivation
  • General lack of interest in social interactions
  • Avoiding emotional connections
  • Experiencing anxiety and panic attacks at the idea of social interactions
  • Lack of meaningful social or professional relationships
  • Depression
  • Sleeping problems
  • Increased alcohol consumption or other substance abuse
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Unable or unwilling to share emotions
  • Reluctant to discuss anything except for superficial matters
  • Feeling numb or shut down

What are the causes of social isolation?

There are six causes of social isolation, which are listed below.

  • Stress: If a person experiences too many intense overlapping difficulties, they can socially withdraw from the stress. 
  • Physical limitations: A person’s physical state can cause social isolation if their limitation requires them to stay away from other people. 
  • Low self-esteem: If a person feels shy or nervous about attending social events, they can socially isolate. Their anxiety can progress to the extent that they worry they lack communication skills necessary to socialize. A person might retreat to the confines of social isolation to avoid their negative thoughts and feelings.
  • Location:. External factors, such as moving or relocating for work, can lead to a person isolating. For example, if you move to a new area and don’t speak the language, you’ll experience social isolation. 
  • Changes at work: Unemployment or losing your job can create feelings of shame and inadequacy, forcing a person to self-isolate. Remote work is another way changes at work can affect isolation by causing a disconnection between workplace and colleagues. 
  • Loss: Breakups or divorce can cause a person to socially retreat and can lead to a loss of mutual friends. Death is another form of loss that can cause social isolation. People want some alone time to grieve the loss of their loved ones. However, when you shut people out for too long, it can lead to unhealthy isolation.

What are the types of antisocial behavior?

Below are seven types of antisocial behavior that can be related to social isolation.

  • Ego-syntonic isolation: Ego-syntonic isolated people choose their isolation. They are comfortable their world view and reject conformity.
  • Extreme introversion: Extreme introversion is another type of antisocial behavior. An example includes, taking months to recharge after social outings, or avoiding them completely.
  • Lack of motivation: Another type of antisocial behavior includes a lack of motivation. Antisocial people often struggle to find a reason to progress in life.
  • Maladaptive daydreaming: Daydreaming is another type of antisocial behavior. However, antisocial people can struggle with maladaptive daydreaming. Maladaptive daydreaming is a condition that causes a person to daydream to to the point of it interfering with their life.
  • Ego-dystonic isolation: Ego-dystonic isolated people may also show disruptive or destructive behaviors like substance abuse as a coping mechanism. Such behavior comes from their desire to escape isolation because ego-dystonic isolated people don’t want isolation. But they are forcibly in isolation due to either internal or external causes.
  • Restlessness: Restlessness is an antisocial behavior that causes hyperactivity or an inability to relax. Antisocial people will seek to remedy their boredom and only worry about their satisfaction in the process, because of their lack of social interaction.
  • Displays of anger: Displaying anger and frustration are also types of antisocial behavior. Antisocial people risk cutting themselves off from society due to their disregard for social ettiquette and brash reactions to frustrations.

What common traits do antisocial people have?

There are three common traits that antisocial people have. Firstly, general reservation. Antisocial people typically choose or are forced to withdraw from most social situations. Secondly, shyness. Antisocial people can be uncomfortable and hesitant in social situations, one of the reasons for avoiding such interactions in the first place. Thirdly, social ignorance. Prolonged social isolation can impair the ability to interact with other people normally. Without the opportunity to socialize, antisocial people often get a warped perception of social cues.

Which personality type is antisocial?

There are five personality types are antisocial to a greater degree than others. 

  • INFJ: People with an INFJ personality type have a high risk of isolation because they are withdrawn, often preferring to isolate themselves, even from their loved ones.
  • INFP: INFP types have social isolation tendencies because they prefer to be on the sidelines. An INFP’s aloofness is one of its biggest weaknesses.
  • INTJ: People with INTJ personality types are predisposed to social isolation because they prefer their own company over socializing. Their independence is a strength but to the detriment of their emotional intelligence.
  • INTP: Those with INTP personality types are susceptible to social isolation because of their innate introversion. INTPs generally withdraw from most social interactions, and because of their extreme daydreaming, they are often lost in thought.
  • ISTP: ISTP people have a higher risk of social isolation because they are a reclusive bunch. Other people often see their extreme introversion as being antisocial.

How to prevent social isolation?

There are two ways to prevent social isolation and improve your social skills. First, it’s important to take time and effort to care for yourself. Try eating healthy, getting enough sleep, exercising, and pursuing any activity that is enjoyable and can help create a sense of calm. Taking outdoor breaks can also have a positive impact on your mental health, lowering the risk of loneliness. Second, it’s essential to connect with other people and maintain meaningful relationships. Find new ways to come together. Try checking in with family members and friends, commemorate special occasions with loved ones, and maybe go out into the neighborhood once in a while. If you find connecting with others challenging and stressful, it could help if you improve your social skills.

What are the phases of socialization?

There are five different phases of socialization. At each phase, a person internalizes the system of roles depending on their status. Below are the five socialization stages.

  • Primary stage: The first socialization phase starts from childbirth and continues until the child reaches a year old. The primary phase is the first stage of identification in children. At this stage, a child seeks to establish an oral dependency, develop cognitive skills, and social behaviors.
  • Secondary stage: The secondary socialization phase starts soon after the child experiences the world outside of the home. Children start learning how to communicate during the secondary stage, and they begin to internalize the separate roles between a child and their mother. They also learn how to define what is right and wrong during this socialization phase.
  • Adult stage: The adult stage is a fundamental part of a person’s social development. It’s during this stage that they begin to learn social hierarchy and identify their social role within a group. The adult stage of socialization leads a person to discover their unique social needs.
  • Anticipatory stage: The anticipatory stage extends throughout each social stage. As socialization increases through life, the appropriate behavior changes. The anticipatory stage is how a person learns to mimic the behavior of other people to fit in with different groups.
  • Resocialization stage: The resocialization stage consists of a major change to a person’s social skills. This change in socialization is extreme and requires learning entirely new ways to socialize.

Why is social isolation bad for a person?

Social isolation is bad for a person because it is closely linked to increased risks of mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. Numerous studies document robust evidence stating all reasons why social isolation is bad for your health and well-being. Chronic isolation can also put you at a much greater chance of having diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. There is evidence that links social isolation to an increased risk of premature mortality. In fact, social isolation and loneliness are more deadly than other mortality risk factors like obesity, inactivity, and cigarette smoking.

Is your personality type a cause of soical isolation?

Yes, your personality type can be a cause of social isolation. You may prefer being alone and be less motivated to seek out social engagements, ultimately causing social detachment.Introvert-dominant types of people truly enjoy spending plenty of time alone, at least to different degrees. For instance, INFJ, INFP, INTJ, INTP, and ISTP personality types may have unexpected bouts of intentional and extreme isolation. These personality types tend to seclude themselves from others and don’t mind feeling isolated for an extended period.

Meanwhile, people with ISTJ, ISFJ, and ISFP personality types don’t mind having space and independence and may require a bit of isolation to feel recharged. However, they don’t enjoy feeling isolated for extended periods and will feel stagnant or depressed when alone for too long.

Does technology cause social isolation?

Yes, technology causes social isolation. Although technology is effective in helping maintain social contact and ties for people away from each other, it can also cause people to be less interactive. People can be together, sitting right next to each other without saying one word to one another because they are either playing games, listening to music, or scrolling through social media. That said, you can avoid social isolation by limiting the use of technology at only appropriate times, like when you are alone and bored, or in case of emergencies.