Social isolation can lead to a variety of consequences in our lives. When we do not have access to healthy social networks, we run the risk of developing maladaptive behaviors, negative thoughts, and problematic emotions. If you struggle with your mental health, you may engage in isolationist tendencies as a result of feeling guilty, misunderstood, or depressed about your situation. To effectively heal from mental health disorders and associated social isolation, you must learn how to effectively build and maintain healthy social networks in your life.
Socialization: An Innate Human Experience
Humans are social creatures, and social relationships play an essential role in all aspects of our well-being. For instance, the relationships that we have with other people help us to deepen the relationship we have with ourselves. The perspectives we learn from others help us to form our beliefs and values. Meanwhile, our relationships provide shoulders to cry on when we are upset or cheerleaders to celebrate our accomplishments with.
Socialization is vital for not only our health but also our survival. For example, we can use our interpersonal connections to exchange goods and services needed to sustain our survival. Additionally, conflict management and communication skills help us to navigate feelings of anger, aggression, and disappointment healthily in our lives. Needless to say, socialization is instrumental for our growth, development, and overall connection to our life experiences.
Social Isolation and Mental Health Disorders
An article in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience: JPN explains, “Given the importance of social interactions for humans, it is not surprising that most psychiatric disorders involve some disruption of normal social [behavior], and that in several disorders abnormal social functioning is one of the central symptoms.” Isolationist tendencies are a common symptom of many mental health disorders. Ironically enough, however, it is often a lack of social support that informs the development or worsening of mental health disorders in the first place.
Your tendency to isolate may be motivated by a mental health disorder, such as anxiety or depression. However, it may also be motivated by feelings of low self-esteem. Further, you may isolate yourself because you consider yourself to be an outcast. Whatever your reason may be for isolating, it is essential to identify the root cause. This will help you increase your awareness of your isolating behaviors as well as limit the frequency of these behaviors by finding and utilizing alternative forms of coping.
Separating Social Isolation From Loneliness
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains the differences between loneliness and social isolation, noting the following:
“Loneliness is the feeling of being alone, regardless of the amount of social contact. Social isolation is a lack of social connections. Social isolation can lead to loneliness in some people, while others can feel lonely without being socially isolated.”
It is not uncommon for people to feel lonely, even amidst a room full of people. Likewise, breaking out of loneliness isn’t as simple as surrounding yourself with others. Rather, it requires utilizing resources, such as the Mindfuli app, to help you remind yourself that you are not alone in what you are feeling.
The Dangers of Social Isolation and Loneliness
There is a plethora of evidence that has linked social isolation and loneliness to serious health consequences. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) highlights several of the following health risks of social isolation and loneliness:
- High blood pressure
- Weakened immune system
- Cognitive decline
- Premature death
- Increased emotional distress
- Increased risk of substance abuse
- Increased risk of developing chronic diseases
- Maladaptive behaviors such as self-harm
How to Build a Strong Social Network
Building a strong support network may sound intimidating, but it is vital for your well-being. It is likely that you have at least one loved one that you feel you can truly trust. Begin to build your social network with this loved one. Consider sharing your motives for building your social network with them, such as explaining your concerns with your current isolationist practices. Chances are high that your loved one will be supportive of your willingness to seek out social connections.
There are many other ways you can build your social network in addition to utilizing your current interpersonal connections. For example, consider searching for online groups that peak your interests. Whatever your passions and interests are, chances are high that there is a social group that you can connect with online.
Here are some other suggestions for building a strong social network:
- Volunteer in your local community
- Participate in a club sport or join your local gym
- Meet your neighbors
- Join educational organizations
- Recognize your existing supports
- Learn what separates healthy relationships from unhealthy relationships
Utilize Professional Resources Provided By Mindfuli
In addition to the suggestions mentioned above, you can consider participating in therapy to address and navigate your isolationist habits. Mindfuli provides social and emotional support for individuals who are experiencing emotional distress through virtual therapy.
You may benefit from Mindfuli’s social isolation/loneliness treatment. During sessions, you will learn how to build and strengthen your social network through a variety of interpersonal skills. Additionally, you will learn how to challenge your current habits by participating in events and activities that lie outside of your comfort zone.
Another valuable therapeutic option offered by Mindfuli is family and relationship therapy. This therapy can help you address interpersonal conflict in healthy ways. It can also help you strengthen your existing relationships by providing you with the necessary communication skills.
Social isolation and loneliness can deeply affect your quality of life. Learning how to build and strengthen your social network is vital for your well-being. Mindfuli understands how tempting it can be to use isolation as a coping mechanism for anxiety or other emotions. This is why we provide virtual therapy options for those looking to heal from their mental health conditions and symptoms. By talking with a therapist, you can learn new strategies to avoid isolation and utilize your social connections to your highest advantage. The therapeutic alliance is at the heart and soul of the care provided through Mindfuli. To learn more about our virtual therapy platform, call us at (866) 973-4415.