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Is Social Isolation a Problem?

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From a teen in the Philippines:  I don’t take Social Isolation for 3 years as a serious problem. But everyone around me begs to differ. By ‘everyone” I meant my mother, as my father works overseas. But nonetheless, I found myself curiously fascinated by my lack of concern for my health, social and physical. It’s not because I don’t care for any of those, but rather the prospect of doing so seem bothersome. Maybe “not caring” and “not bothering” are the same sentences in different context. And maybe it is. I just find the word “not caring” a bit strong, as I do care to some degree, just don’t care “enough” which is one way you can put it.

And there seems to be no shortage of teenage boys, especially around my age (18-25) who found themselves voluntarily or involuntarily (Depends really on who you ask) isolated from society. In Japan, they even have a term for this: A “hikikomori”, which is just a fancy word for a “loser”, and I’m sure most of us who fit in this broad genre already accepts that. Which is why I’m having doubts whether to post this question or not, and waste someone’s time. You’ve heard of this already: “A teenage boy is aimless and doesn’t know what to do with his life? What a surprise..and that’s a completely valid thought. Someone like me, who thinks he has potential but completely squanders it on trivial pastimes, is in fact, not in high demand. We’re practically the opposite of extinct.

But I digress, I tend to rant and just say whatever’s on my mind when I find someone to talk to (If anybody would even read this that is), which is a rare occurrence, and I find this process calming, even if the listener/reader doesn’t necessarily exist. You might also notice I sound a bit inconfident which is not a word, but you know what I mean, and you’re correct. My self-esteem, if translated into a value, should be in the negatives at this point in my life. A shame really, but I think acknowledging this fact is important, and I try my absolute best to not lower my self-esteem further by going into “Teenage Self-Diagnosed Depression”. Which is a word I use when someone on the internet or real life acts all depressed and whatnot, and overall be pretentious to everyone around them. I especially find this grating with teenage girls, but let’s not go into that territory and just focus on the question, which is not being explicitly asked for about 3 paragraphs now.

So, I just turned 18 July this year, which is not even celebrated because of financial issues, but this really didn’t bother me one bit. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had a memorable birthday party since I was 7. I don’t exactly remember when my inability to socialize and talk to people started, but it has to be when I was 16 years old at least. Partly because of my inherent addiction to the internet, which is not a surprise. Honestly, I don’t even think of it as an “addiction”, but rather a necessity as my hobbies are VASTLY different from those around me, especially here in the Philippines. That’s not to say my hobbies are far superior, I actually find it more boring in comparison (If you’re curious, it’s Tabletop Roleplaying Games, Tabletop Board Wargaming and Tabletop Miniature Wargaming. Which are all hobbies that usually require 2 or more people. Something I don’t have in my disposal). Once again, this doesn’t really faze me in any significant way. It MIGHT make me sad sometimes, as I do in fact want a companion, but it won’t make me go into instant depression and post it on social media.

As you can tell, I really have no sympathy for most of these people. BUT, I do think this social isolation, is draining my will to live. Not in any suicidal way mind you (Although I thought of it at one point, which is the stupidest thing I’ve ever thought about), but in a purpose sort of way. In a nutshell, I don’t know what to do with my life. I don;t go to school at the moment, I don’t have any productive hobbies (I have a piano, but I barely use it. Due to the fact I have no motivation to learn it), I don’t have relationships, I’m severely underweight and can’t take care of my body (I’m 45 – 49 kg in the BMI, which is classified as underweight),

I even forget personal hygiene, mostly because of my internet addiction and unsorted sleep schedule. Sometimes I wake up at night and sometimes I wake up in the morning, noon or afternoon. My life’s all jumbled in a mess of ambitions and ideas (I wanted to be a programmer, who also knows how to play the piano), virtually dreams that are not being fulfilled because I can barely find the time to get off my seat and clean my bedroom. So (And yes, I know I’m being a hypocrite), because of this, I think I’m depressed. Just denying it. OR maybe not? Maybe I’m just being a crybaby. Which is probably the case. Some people struggle to eat yet they’re still smiling, some people have no basic needs yet they’re still joyful. I should be grateful, but I find it harder and harder everyday to do so when I can’t even use these advantages to avoid being homeless in the future.

I understand I basically just vented my frustrations in here, and I do apologize, for wasting your time. This type of questions probably get asked 5 times every 1 minute, and don’t misunderstand that I feel like a superior “loser” by posting such a blatant inquiry. I’ve searched the website for questions similar to this, but they don’t feel personal enough (Obviously), which is a bit narcissistic of me. But trust my words when I say I identify as a pawn in a chess game, something that can be removed and I’ll barely, if at all, change the overall outcome of the game (Of course this is just an exaggerated analogy, but I hope my point gets across). Maybe I just really wanted someone to talk to, if I’m being honest with myself, but that’s besides the point. I’ll finally get to the crux of the question…

So my main question is: Does social isolation for 3 years affect me in any significant way? How can I change this type of living? And how do I deal with my inability to do any productive things with my life? Basically, how do I deal with a lack of motivation and concern for my well being?

Is Social Isolation a Problem?

Answered by on -

A.

You didn’t waste my time. But you did certainly take the long way around to ask your question. So — yes, social isolation does affect a person — as it already has affected you. How do you deal with it? You already started by writing your letter to us here at PsychCentral.

I do have to wonder: How are you managing to support yourself living as you do? Either you are independently wealthy or someone is enabling you. If the latter is the case, you are not as socially isolated as you think. It looks to me like your mother hasn’t given up on you if you continue to have a roof over your head and something to eat — or not eat. My guess is that your parents don’t know what to do but hope and hope that you will snap out of this if they just climb into your discouragement with you and leave you alone. That approach avoids fights but it does leave you alone and lonely.

For that reason, I see this as a family case. You need help out of your depressed rut. Your family needs help finding a way to love you and help you without enabling your depression and dependency.

At 18, it’s time for you to get going on adult life. My guess is that you are paralyzed by fear of what that entails. When people are afraid they generally respond with a fight, flight, or freeze reaction. In your case, you are fleeing by freezing. You have allowed yourself to think that if you do nothing, you can’t make a mistake. In some ways it works but the strategy has turned on itself. Now, not doing anything is the mistake. It’s taken on a life of its own. You are depressed and your life is depressing.

You need help facing your fears. You need support to rejoin the social world and to become the fully functioning adult you can be. That means dealing with your sleep disorder. That means engaging in your hobbies for real. (There are millions of kids who enjoy LARPing in the woods and then hanging out. You could be enjoying their company.) That means taking steps to become independent – which means dealing with your social anxiety and either going to school or going to work (or both). None of this is news to you. But maybe I can give you an idea or two about how to approach it:

Your self-esteem will not improve if you hide in your bedroom. It will improve if you start being a contributing member of your family.  If you wait until you feel good to do anything, chances are you will remain stuck.  Feeling good comes from doing things that are worthwhile. A place to start would be to set your alarm for the morning, get up and take a shower, then do something, anything, that is life-affirming, even something as mundane but important as doing your laundry. You can build from there.

Your family needs help to stop feeling so helpless to help you. They need new tools to support you in dealing with your depression instead of leaving you alone. You didn’t choose to share your relationship with your father. If it is a good one, he may be at a distance but he can still be helpful, both to you and to your mother, through video calls and emails. He just may need some guidance about how best to help.

It’s a tall order for anyone — and any family — to make such a significant change. That’s why I think it’s a team effort. You and your family need the support and practical help that a mental health professional can provide. I hope you will talk to your mother about finding a licensed family therapist to get the advice and support you all need and deserve.

If it has become too hard to talk to her directly, please show this letter to your mother. I suspect she is discouraged and scared. Maybe hearing what I have to say will give her some direction in how to help both of you.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Is Social Isolation a Problem?

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2019). Is Social Isolation a Problem?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 22, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2019/09/21/is-social-isolation-a-problem/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 19 Sep 2019 (Originally: 21 Sep 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 19 Sep 2019
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.