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Unraveling the Effects of Social Isolation: From Symptoms to Solutions

Recognizing Social Isolation Symptoms

Human connection and a sense of community are critical for us to thrive. It allows us to feel connected to others, have acceptance, and be supported by others. Social isolation is having a complete or near-complete lack of contact with others and society. While spending alone time is normal, social isolation is an unhealthy detachment from others and can lead to loneliness. The effects of isolation can include developing mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and anxiety, as well as chronic health conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

In today’s digital world, specifically smartphones, many more people are prevented from making personal connections. Many people choose to reach for a smartphone whenever they have a free moment, which worsens social isolation and loneliness. A 2017 study found that young adults with high social media use felt more socially isolated than those who used these platforms more casually. Social media can make people feel like they are missing out on social events, which leads to feeling excluded, stressed, and insecure.

Social isolation and loneliness often go hand in hand. While many people choose to spend more time alone to recharge, isolation is more about escaping and avoiding. For individuals who enjoy their time alone, the line between isolation and being true to themselves can be blurred. An indicator of unhealthy self-isolation is feeling numb, drained, and miserable when alone. Connecting with others is important for our overall mental and physical well-being. Social isolation and loneliness can lead to experiencing various physical or mental problems. Some social isolation symptoms include:

  • Mental health issues include anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and paranoia.
  • Physical symptoms include headaches, aches and pains, fatigue, and even flu-like symptoms.
  • Sleep problems, either not being able to sleep or sleeping too much.
  • Changes in appetite, like either eating too much or too little.
  • Substance abuse because loneliness often leads some to drinking too much, misusing medications, or taking drugs.
  • Negative feelings, such as feeling hopeless or worthless. In some cases, people may have suicidal thoughts or tendencies.

Can Isolation Lead to Insanity?

The adverse effects of social isolation on mental health can be severe. Social isolation has been suggested to trigger psychosis, including hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions, especially in those predisposed to mental health disorders like schizophrenia. There may be several reasons why social withdrawal can lead to psychosis, including increased stress levels. Socially isolated people may also begin to confuse where reality ends and imagination begins. A lack of contact with others can also lead to paranoia and delusions, as individuals may begin to distrust others and believe they are persecuted. 

Contact BeWellLine by calling our help center at 866-349-0854 to learn more about using virtual mental health services.

Exploring the Causes of Social Isolation

There are many reasons why a person can become socially isolated. Sometimes, there are direct and obvious causes, such as divorce, illness, or living in a remote location. In other cases, it happens gradually as a result of other problems in a person’s life. Some of the causes of social isolation include:

  • Illness: People will self-isolate when they are sick, either not to spread the illness or because they do not feel well. Social isolation can be far more prolonged and devastating for individuals with chronic illnesses or mobility issues.
  • Life events: Such as divorce or moving to a new city. In these cases, people do not have a social network and can become isolated.
  • Mental health issues: Social isolation is often a common symptom of many mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. Individuals may feel too sad, hopeless, or uninterested in being with others. People with anxiety or social anxiety have a fear of being around other people or a fear of being judged or humiliated. Severe mental health disorders like schizophrenia can lead directly to social isolation or cause people to be embarrassed about their symptoms to be with others. Sadly, social isolation can worsen mental health symptoms in these cases.
  • Trauma: It is common for people who have experienced a traumatic event to self-isolate as a way to cope. They may struggle to trust others or avoid social activities that may trigger traumatic memories.
  • Societal factors: A person may become socially isolated because their community does not accept them or have been outcasts, such as kids in school who are bullied and excluded from social groups.

The Relationship Between Social Isolation and Loneliness

Social isolation and loneliness can go hand in hand. However, some people with a healthy social network feel lonely. Being socially isolated and feeling lonely can further exacerbate mental health issues. It is easy to be confused about why you cannot connect with others and question your self-worth, which can spiral into depression. Loneliness can also activate anxiety, leading to muscle tension, digestive issues, and headaches. Lonely people are also more likely to develop a substance use disorder, as they use drugs and alcohol to cope with negative feelings. 

Contact BeWellLine by calling our help center at 866-349-0854 to learn more about using virtual mental health services.

Diving into the Types of Social Isolation

There are two types of social isolation – intentional and unintentional. Intentional isolation is when you consciously withdraw from social interactions or human contact. For example, someone with social anxiety disorder may avoid socializing or going out in public to deal with their symptoms. They feel that as long as they don’t interact with others, there is no fear of being embarrassed or judged by others. Unintentional social isolation is when you do it inadvertently. For example, a person who is an introvert may begin to withdraw more and more, mistaking their need for need alone time for unhealthy social isolation until they begin to see the negative effects of isolation.

Examples of Social Isolation in Today’s World

People may become socially isolated because of circumstances beyond their control. Some examples of social isolation in today’s world include:

  • Elderly isolation: Elderly people are especially prone to isolation, as they do go to work anymore, the death of a spouse and friends, and disability.
  • Remote work: Remote work has led to many becoming self-isolated because they no longer have face-to-face contact with coworkers or on their commute to work.
  • Pandemic-related isolation: Self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic caused many people to become lonely and experience varying mental health issues.
  • Social media isolation: Smartphones and social media apps have often replaced face-to-face interaction, leaving people feeling isolated and lonely, especially seeing other people post social interaction.
Unraveling the Effects of Social Isolation: From Symptoms to Solutions

Navigating the Negative Effects of Social Isolation

Prolonged isolation can have a negative impact on your body, mind, and mood. Chronic social isolation can cause mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and, in extreme cases, psychosis. Physical effects of isolation may be due to the stress experienced or lack of motivation towards healthy habits, such as eating well and exercising. People who are socially isolated may have cognitive decline, poor cardiovascular function, and impaired immune function. Social isolation can also leave people at risk for suicidal thoughts or tendencies.

Overcoming Social Isolation: Steps Towards a Healthy Social Life

Overcoming social isolation may not always be easy, and it may take small steps to get back to socially interacting. Some ways to overcome social isolation include:

  • Change your environment: Go out of your comfort zone to where you can meet new people, which can include taking an art class, joining a running club, or volunteering in your community.
  • Take care of your health: Make sure to eat well and get regular exercise, as these practices can help combat mental health issues and improve your self-confidence.
  • Connect with friends and family: When feeling lonely, make time to reach out to loved ones and plan a social outing with them.
  • Get a dog: Not only do pets provide companionship and unconditional love, but having a dog gets you outside and can provide an easy way to make connections with other dog owners.
  • Find a support group or meetup: There are many support groups for people experiencing loneliness and MeetUp groups for people wanting to make new friends.
  • Talk to a therapist: If you are still experiencing feelings of loneliness and mental health issues, it is important to reach out to a mental health specialist, like a therapist. They can help you through mental health issues, provide coping skills, and guide you out of social isolation, especially if it is due to an underlying mental health disorder.

Utilizing California’s Free Emotional Support Resources

California residents can access BeWellLine, a free emotional support chat and phone line available 24/7. Peer support specialists are available to get you through any type of issue, including social isolation and loneliness. Whether you just need someone to talk to or would like ways to manage your issues, BeWellLine can help you. Our trained peer support counselors can be someone to talk to at any time, provide advice and resources, and even refer you to higher levels of care. If you are experiencing social isolation or loneliness, please do not hesitate to contact us by visiting or by calling 866-349-0854 today.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Effects of Isolation

What are the effects of isolation on mental health?

Humans are social beings and need meaningful contact with others to live fulfilling happy lives. Social isolation can lead to several mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders.

What are some common symptoms of social isolation?

Social isolation can lead to several mental and physical issues. Unhealthy self-isolation can leave you feeling drained, miserable, and lonely. You can experience feelings of anxiety, depression, and paranoia, as well as physical issues like aches and pains, fatigue, and headaches. People may also have changes to their sleep or appetite, either too much or too little of each. They are also more likely to engage in substance abuse, such as drinking too much or misusing medications.

Can social isolation cause insanity?

The effects of social isolation on mental health can be severe enough to trigger symptoms of psychosis, such as hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions. People who are socially isolated can experience higher levels of stress, be confused about where reality ends, and imagination ends, and distort time, all of which can trigger psychotic episodes, especially in those who have an underlying mental health condition such as schizophrenia.

What are some common causes of social isolation?

Some of the most common causes of social isolation include an illness, life events like divorce or moving to a new city, mental health issues such as depression or social anxiety, trauma, and societal factors like being bullied or outcast from social groups.

How does social isolation relate to feelings of loneliness?

Social isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness. However, some people can be very socially active and still experience loneliness. Both loneliness and social isolation can lead to similar mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression.

What are some types of social isolation?

Social isolation can be intentional or unintentional. Intentional isolation, for example, is someone with social anxiety who consciously avoids people. Unintentional isolation maybe someone who is introverted and slowly has had less human contact.

How can one overcome social isolation?

Overcoming social isolation may not be easy; it may mean having to go out of your comfort zone and make an effort to see people, even when you are depressed or anxious about it. You can begin by taking care of your health, such as eating well and exercising, which will improve mental health symptoms and self-confidence. Some ways you can overcome social isolation are by volunteering, taking a class, or joining a sports club. Make an effort to connect with friends and family, even if it is just going out for a walk. If you continue struggling with feelings of isolation and loneliness, it may be time to talk to a therapist who can help you work through underlying issues and provide coping skills for combating social isolation.

What resources are available in California for someone experiencing social isolation?

BeWellLine is a free emotional support chat and phone line available to all California residents. Peer support counselors are available to help you through any issue you may be facing while providing advice and coping skills to overcome social isolation. They are also available if you are feeling lonely and simply want someone to talk to. Services are available 24/7 by visiting or by calling 866-349-0854.

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