I Want or Need to Be Alone
From a teen in the U.S.: I am a total hermit, and prefer to stay at home and occasionally spend time with one or two extremely close personal friends. Aside from them, I feel little desire for companionship. (Sometimes I simply don’t like the idea of it. I find myself wishing I had a boyfriend but when the opportunity for one pops up I completely avoid it or back out even though I enjoy that person).
When I am invited places, even by my extremely close friends, I back out. I make up some kind of excuse as to why I can’t spend time with them, and then spend that time alone in my room (when this happens I very rarely leave my room/bed, spending up to 7 hours at a time alone).
Sometimes I regret turning down the chance to hang out with someone, but I do it time and time again. I feel like it is not normal, especially for a teenager, to never want to hang out with my friends and to constantly wish I was alone. every once in a while I will feel lonely but i would rather continue to be alone than do something with others.
When acquaintances/friends push me for social interaction, I feel aggravated, uncomfortable, anxious, 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 sometimes enjoy talking to individuals who I don’t know online; Not at all extensively, but just occasional small talk in the comment section of a video, picture, or person on live stream.
For the past few days, however, it seems that even doing this has been limited. It is extremely difficult to fully explain this situation. From parts of this account, it sounds as if I’m just the type of person who keeps to myself, and perhaps thats true, but I believe its more than that.
I fear that I’ll never date, never get married, and completely isolate myself from everyone because of this. I’m continuously thinking about my future. Sometimes it’s just an image of me living alone in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes it is a wonderful picture of success, with me making my passions a career and being surrounded by loved ones, but as of right now I can’t see myself ever getting past this need to be isolated.
A: It’s difficult to assess the seriousness of this on the basis of only a letter so let me just share a couple of thoughts.
People by nature tend to fall somewhere on a scale from introvert to extrovert. It may be that at least part of this is that you are on the introvert end of the scale. There is nothing wrong with that! But, the larger culture celebrates extroverts. In high school, the general idea is that everyone is supposed to be outgoing and popular. Of course, not everyone can be. Not everyone wants to be. So let’s at least assume that part of what goes on is that you have a more restrained approach to life. One thing that supports this is that you do have a couple of close friends and that seems to be enough for you.
As for being out with others: I wonder if you have developed the skills you need to be comfortable out in the social world. Introverts can and do learn how to manage social situations enough so that they can be successful in their careers and can find loving relationships. Notice that I said “skills”. Skills are behaviors you can learn (like how to make small talk, how to be an active listener, how to be a good communicator, etc.). As you get more practiced in these skills, you will be more comfortable being with people for longer periods of time. But you will still need your alone time to “recover” from a lot of social interaction.
The line in your letter that does worry me is your statement that you can spend hours holed up in your room and in bed. Yes, you may need time to recharge your social batteries but it would do a lot more for your self-esteem if you would use that time to pursue an interest or to do something to make the world a better place. Think about ways to support a cause or candidate or to educate yourself about something you are genuinely interested in. You will feel better about yourself than if you just hang out wondering if there is something wrong with you. An important bonus is that it will give you more to talk about when you are with people.
I hope this is helpful. I wish you well.
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2017). I Want or Need to Be Alone. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 20, 2017, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2017/03/19/i-want-or-need-to-be-alone/