Isolation is the inability of an individual to maintain genuine contact with others or society at large. It is one of the key reasons people experience depression and often keeps people depressed. Depression and isolation have rapidly risen during the past twenty years.
Isolation is one of the most common factors across a wide range of mental health issues. It can be hard to break out of social isolation, especially if anxiety disorders are present.
Isolation can include many hours, days or weeks spent at home alone or with minimal visitors. This is often coupled with insomnia, tiredness and incessant thought. Isolation is a defence mechanism; people feel ashamed of what they are going through and don’t want to let anyone into their life.
Isolation also reinforces the sick person’s belief about the world and their place in it, strengthening negative assumptions which often perpetuate depressive conditions, like “no one cares for me, notices me or really loves me”. These are negative self beliefs which need to be challenged with positive healthy self talk. Using cognitive behavioural therapy is helpful in this instance.
As John Donne wrote, “No man is an island”. People are not meant to live, think and breathe by themselves. They are meant for community, interaction with others. Isolated people often feel powerless against the adverse forces in their lives that encourage unhealthy individualism and self-gain at at costs.
Simple tasks like going out for bread and milk become incredibly difficult.
Social isolation can contribute toward many emotional, behavioural and physical disorders including anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorders, addictions, substance abuse, violent behaviour and overall disease. Social isolation affects a wider range of people and influences the life of individuals in diverse ways including in the work environment, school and others. *
Why depressed people isolate
It is easy to isolate when you don’t have many friends. It has been shown that lonely people have lessened reward pathways in their brain, so they often don’t feel satisfied. How Stuff Works has an excellent article on how brain functioning is altered when isolated. For more information read our article on loneliness.
Bullying at school
Problems at school can influence the development of mental health problems later in life. School can be a cruel place for many people. Raging hormones, peer pressure and the need to be popular drives many people to perform acts of bullying in order to fit in. Victims of bullying can feel isolated and abandoned. These fears often dictate future interactions with the world. Counselling and psychotherapy may be needed to work through experiences of bullying.
The unemployed or those who work positions of low rank can be ashamed of what they do, making it hard to face the world and others.
Protection from further hurt
People isolate to avoid the possibility of any further hurt or rejection, in an attempt at controlling their environment.
Chronic Pain does not affect everyone with depression, although statistics show that those who struggle with depression often have an existing chronic pain condition. These conditions include back pain, jaw tension, headaches and arthritis. This drives people to avoid social situations and environments where they feel they can’t escape, especially if their pain becomes too much.
Social networking sites, online movies and video games make it convenient to spend time isolating. These electronic services often cause harm to isolated people who can lose themselves in vain attempts at gaining recognition and acceptance online.
Many people spend time mentally isolating and going over current pains and hurt. Unfortunately, this often results in painful ways of thinking, like constant revenge fantasies, the indulgence of anger and righteous indignation.
How to Beat Isolation
Because isolation is primarily a social deficiency, social connections need to be enhanced when suffering depression and isolation.
Mutual Support groups
Meeting other people with similar problems can help overcome isolation. 12-step programs are particularly effective at changing lives and sending people on a spiritual path of growth and recovery.
Make relationships a top priority
To have a friend be a friend. Do your best to listen to others. Even though you may not feel like it, you presence can greatly nourish others, in spite of your social position and painful feelings.
Make effort to get out of the house
Even if it’s just for a 5 minute walk, something is better than nothing. Experience the sun on your face, feel the freedom in the outdoors.
Minimise Facebook, Twitter and computer games
These electronic platforms are OK when used as in healthy ways. Otherwise they pull people into unhealthy ways of interacting with the world and secluding themselves from reality.
References and further reading
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