Are you asking yourself questions like: “Why doesn’t anyone like me? Is it because I am un-lovable? Have I done something to make everyone go away? Why am I in this situation all alone?” If so, you may be working through feelings of social anxiety.
Social anxiety: It’s a sad epidemic.
Two in five Americans claim they sometimes or always feel their social relationships are not meaningful, and one in five say they feel lonely or socially isolated.
An astonishing 275 million people suffer from anxiety disorders worldwide. And although there are plenty of ways to connect online, in person, and via social media, when we experience a lack of relationships and feelings of isolation and depression, we may need support.
Social and emotional support enables us to thrive or survive. In fact, according to Psychology Today, social wellness is one of the key components of improving your overall mental health and wellness.
A survey of more than 20,000 adults shared:
“Almost half reported feeling alone, left out, and isolated. Moreover, loneliness has been linked to worsening physical conditions.”
Developing and nurturing supportive social relationships enables a healthy lifestyle while being alone and isolated causes problems of social anxiety, loneliness, and depression.
Social Isolation and Depression
Social isolation involves solitary environments that are devoid of social relationships, whether it is forced upon someone or chosen. A person might experience social isolation if they:
- Spend long periods alone
- Avoid being in social situations due to a mental condition or disorder
- Experience fears of abandonment or social anxiety in social interactions
- Have very superficial or limited social engagement
- Lack of social relationships
- Develop severe loneliness and distress
Not having people to support you through the rigors of life, or even to relish in your achievements, can have a profound effect on your health. Social isolation, or living without close relationships, can have adverse effects regardless of what age you are, what your background is, or what your social-economic status might be.
We are social creatures by nature. And research shows that being alone for just a few hours can lead to things like anxiety, a distorted sense of time, and even hallucinations for some.
The Dangers of Social Anxiety and Depression
Recent studies concerning lack of social support and health risks of social isolation share that:
“Individuals with family and friends they can count on to help them in times of trouble are consistently more likely to be satisfied with their personal health. And research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, and Alzheimer’s disease.”
Other physical risks of social isolation and depression include:
- Chronic Stress. Higher levels of inflammation in the body and chronic release of stress hormones.
- Development Issues. Social exclusion for extended periods can have a profound effect on brain health increasing the risk of developing a disability.
- Diabetes and Chronic Disease. A higher risk of Type 2 diabetes and other chronic illnesses are prevalent in those who live with chronic stress, social anxiety, and depression.
- Lack of Focus and Attention and Low Self Esteem. Social concerns can distract individuals from making focused and attentive decisions, recollecting details, and actively participating in positive life connections.
- Sleep Disturbances. Social anxiety, isolation, and depression can lead to sleep disturbances which may cause more health challenges.
That’s why it’s important to consider the most effective treatment for social anxiety and to be aware of resources like ChatOwl’s free app that can be there for you at any time of the day or night. But first, let’s examine more about the common physiological causes of social isolation and the effects of social media on isolation and depression.
Physiological Causes of Social Isolation
If a person is not exposed to the proper amount of social interaction, it can lead to social isolation, depression, and feelings of loneliness. And loneliness leads to an increased amount of perceived stress. For evolutionary reasons, the function of the “fight or flight” response involves the protection of the individual from a situation they might find themselves in.
When a person experiences prolonged isolation, it negates the body’s need for social interaction. And that can lead to the brain perceiving the situation as threatening, therefore, engaging the flight or fight response.
During the flight or fight response, the brain releases hormones that seek to protect the individual from danger. These hormones signal the body to either leave the situation or to prepare to defend itself.
But the hormones released are supposed to work only short-term. If that response is chronic, then studies show it can increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease, infection, elevated blood pressure, mortality, and cognitive decline.
Social Media’s Effects on Mental Wellness
Intuitively, it would make sense that social media brings the world together through social platforms where people can interact at any time online and connect with others. But research would suggest that the opposite is true.
One study even revealed that adults ages 17-32, who used social media regularly, reported more feelings of social isolation. Those who used it most were three times more likely to experience adverse social effects than those who did not. But although there is a correlation that does not mean that social media causes social isolation.
It might be that those who turn to social media looking for interaction regularly have a predisposition for feelings of loneliness and depression, not the other way around. Now, let’s examine some ways to overcome social isolation.
Ways to Overcome Social Isolation
With each new day is a new way to overcome feelings of isolation and loneliness. It’s important to engage in positive life choices and opportunities to make meaningful social ties and establish healthy connections.
The Most Effective Treatment for Social Anxiety
While there are a number of ways to deal with social anxiety, realization is the beginning of self-care and overcoming isolation and depression.
When you begin to feel lonely, recognize that something in your brain has been triggered to make you feel that way, not because you are actually alone or isolated.
Your brain is designed to be aware of the danger. And being alone can be scary. So, the brain’s function is to pay attention to when you might be vulnerable and act on it.
When you begin to feel lonely, the rational part of your brain searches for reasons why you are feeling the way you do–lonely, depressed, discouraged, or unloved.
In essence, your brain confuses fact with feeling, and then it becomes a more significant issue. When you have feelings of loneliness, remember it isn’t real; it is your mind, and do not accept it as reality. Instead, take the necessary steps for the most effective treatment for dealing with social anxiety and depression.
1. Reach Out to Those Around You. When you feel lonely, your natural reaction might be to feel bad and retreat from your social connections. Rather than accepting the pretense that you aren’t liked, reach out to people. Connect with new people on social media, email, or text those you love. Friends and loved ones will likely convince you that your feelings are just that, feelings, not fact.
2. Be Aware of Your Self-Defeating Thoughts. There is an inner voice that tells us things about ourselves, and, unfortunately, that self-talk is usually our worst critic presenting the worst-case scenario. Stop listening to the negative scenarios your brain may be creating about feelings of loneliness and evaluate what is really going on in your life with a winning spirit.
3. Take Actionable Steps to Fight Emotional and Mental Habits That Lead to Feelings of Loneliness. Loneliness stems from established emotional habits. And realizing this makes it easier to deal with related feelings. Regular and healthy social engagement with friends and family is important so even if it doesn’t feel like it is the time to connect, it is precisely the time to reach out to friends–old and new. Phone, email, FaceTime, Skype, or Zoom to catch up with classmates, neighbors, and those who boost your self-esteem regularly.
4. Find Someone Who Can Relate. Although the phrase is, “misery loves company,” in reality, its people who think alike gain benefit from being with other people that they understand and who understands them. Find support groups and people with whom you have something in common, like hiking, journaling, or painting. Making a strong connection with people you feel at ease with is essential to feel a part of something.
5. Don’t Back Out. You don’t have to be the most social person in the world, but if you tell someone you are going to meet them for lunch, meet them for lunch. Even if you have to give yourself a little bit of a push.
6. Join a Cause or Volunteer to Make a Positive Difference. Being a part of something is a great way to develop a sense of belonging. If there is something you are passionate about or a cause that you really care about like pet adoption, recycling, or helping at a food pantry, get involved regularly. You will be amazed at how quickly you can go from lonely to fortunate when you care about the misfortunes of others.
7. Get Professional Support! Virtual therapy is available via ChatOwl as a free downloadable app, and it can help you while you’re waiting for an appointment with an in-person therapist. ChatOwl’s virtual therapeutic free app approach provides you the resources you need for examining and addressing symptoms of social anxiety, loneliness, isolation, and depression as you focus more frequently on combating negative internal thoughts.
As millions of people in the world experience feelings of isolation and loneliness, remember you are not alone. If you’re feeling socially isolated, try to remember that your brain could be tricking you for evolutionary reasons. So, if you recognize and ignore triggers that push you to false conclusions about how you feel, you can overcome them.
Instead of asking all of the “why me” questions, begin to tackle the problem with the most effective quick relief remedies for social anxiety.
ChatOwl’s virtual apps’ usefulness in addressing how to navigate social anxiety, isolation, and depression can help you more readily alleviate anxieties and concerns and be on the path to a happy, connected social life.
Remember ChatOwl is here to help you with a ready-to-access tool that works on both iOS and Android devices. For professional support, try our free, virtual app today.