I Just Want To Be Left Alone

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I really prefer to be alone. I hate trying to keep up with friends, and I don’t like putting an effort into making them, or finding things in common with other people. I typically don’t connect with people, and I don’t want to. I don’t dislike people, or feel like they are not good enough to be my friend, nor am I concerned that I am not good enough to be theirs. I just really enjoy being alone.

I am in college. I do have people who I talk to, but I find that after several minutes of conversation, I have “had my fill” socially, and excuse myself. I never feel isolated or lonely, but after brief conversation, I feel content, and want to go elsewhere, and be by myself.

Unfortunately, I think people mistake my desire for amiable interaction as an attempt at genuine friendship. People seem to like me, and make attempts to get to know me, but the feelings are not mutual. I like small talk, I am funny, friendly, attractive, and can be socially outgoing in small bursts. But I don’t like feeling that I can’t be friendly without attracting invitations to go places, or the dreaded exchanging of contact information. I have absolutely no social networking sites, I am a total hermit, and prefer to stay at home and read, and occasionally spend time with one extremely close personal friend. Aside from her, I feel no desire for companionship.

I have always been like this. I am not unhappy, I do not feel excluded, lonesome, or depressed about it. On the contrary, when aquaintances push me for social interaction, I feel aggrivated, uncomfortable, and pining for my solitude. When I go out with other people, I feel bored and sluggish, counting the minutes, and waiting for an opportunity to leave. I am not particularly shy, nor am I viewed as strange, or antisocial. I am normal and nice, but I really just want to be left alone.
One of my biggest annoyances is giving out my contact information. I hate being called, I hate getting text messages, and I REALLY hate the pressure to respond. Often, when asked for my information, I will give it (because I do not know how to decline politely) and ignore and avoid the person until they leave me alone, usually giving excuses like I’m at work a lot. I don’t have anything against these people, and enjoy talking to them occasionally around campus. They are understanding when I give excuses why I can’t talk on the phone or hang out. Whenever I get a call or text, I usually shut off my phone so I don’t have to think about feeling pressured to respond. Sometimes I will leave it off for days at a time, and turn it back on to see a handful of missed calls, texts, and voicemail, which only frustrates me further. Whenever I get a text or call from someone I don’t want to talk to, my heart races, I get chills, and my palms sweat. Maybe it’s some kind of social anxiety, but I don’t feel “anxious” in social situations, I like them in small amounts in a neutral environment, like my campus. But I hate being asked to go out off campus, and texting or talking on the phone feels tedious and forced. I like people, I just feel like my desire to interact with them is very, VERY limited. Is there any advice on how I can avoid meeting people, or how to tell them I don’t want to spend time together? How about getting rid of the ones who persistently attempt contact?

A. It seems as though you like superficial interaction but when the interaction becomes too personal or too deep you don’t like it. Deeper forms of interaction seem to cause you anxiety. As you described, when you receive a phone call or a text, you feel immense pressure; your heart races, you get chills and your palms sweat. That is the definition of anxiety.

Both preferring to be alone and having a lack of interest in social interaction, are symptoms of several mental health disorders including schizotypal, schizoid and avoidant personality disorder. Some individuals with autism also prefer to be alone.

It would be helpful to know more about what you were like as a child, what your childhood was like, what you do when you are alone, what you think about when you are alone, your dating history, and what you believe are the benefits of being alone.

It is quite possible that some people prefer to be alone at certain times. The question becomes why? If you see the benefit of being alone as not having to feel pressure from social interaction, then this is a sign of social anxiety. If you are choosing solitude as a lifestyle for the aforementioned reason, then it would seem that you are avoiding social interaction because it makes you feel uncomfortable. As you said, you do enjoy superficial interaction but it’s the more personal social interaction that makes you uncomfortable. You dislike it so much that you would prefer to avoid it altogether.

If you wanted to be alone because you were immersed in writing a novel or a major research project and solitude made it easier to concentrate, then you would have an understandable reason to want to be alone. The reason why you prefer to be alone is the key to understanding whether your desire for solitude is healthy or related to social anxiety.

From a mental health perspective, there is a basic assumption that social interaction is very important. Most theories of psychological development assert this. Existentialists in particular believe that the ability to connect with others is vital for healthy and successful human development. I do not believe you should be looking for ways to avoid people. Instead it would be healthier if you sought treatment to deal with the underlying anxiety that seems to be driving your avoidance of social interaction. Please click on the find help tab at the top of this page to find a therapist who specializes in the treatment of social anxiety. Please take care. I wish you well.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 20 Oct 2010

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2010). I Just Want To Be Left Alone. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/10/20/i-just-want-to-be-left-alone/