Understanding Social Isolation

                 Understanding Social Isolation

By : Debdattya Mitra

The world has witnessed a global health crisis due to the menacing effect of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Besides the rising number of cases, people have faced significant  changes in the psycho-social aspect. A huge number of people are quarantined in their homes as the government had to implement social distancing to  contain the spread of the disease.

Human beings are essentially social creatures who have a primal need to go out and form groups. Being connected to others socially is considered a fundamental need- crucial to both well-being and survival.

This act of socialisation has been put on hold which in turn has affected people over the world in different ways.The human mind is often affected by a crisis, be it in any aspect.It may improve the arousal of danger and the ways of dealing with stress are influenced generally which brings about panic. The rational thought processes that assist us with adapting to the circumstance are replaced by biased and faulty decisions. 

We are on the whole now acquainted with the word social isolation, but might not have an objective understanding of what it means and how it affects our mind.

What is Social Isolation?

Social isolation  can be described as the absence of social interactions with other individuals. It is also seen that there is a significant lack of engagement in social events and gatherings. The socially isolated individuals portrays inadequacy in fulfilling quality relationships.

Ego-dystonic Isolation

This is a type of social isolation where the individual tries to avoid or escape the isolated state. This is classified into two types:one is where the isolation is forced due to the outside environment. The other type is when the individual is isolated due to oneself.

The COVID-19 has forced billions of people to isolate themselves from others, maintaining distance in public places. Social Isolation has various impacts on the human mind and the way it is manifested in the behaviours.

Social isolation is  often used reciprocally with loneliness, though the two seem similar, they do not essentially mean the same thing. Loneliness is the subjective experience of a particular situation. 

It is an emotional manifestation of the situation. A person can feel lonely in a crowd as well and not necessarily socially isolated.

We might be connected with advanced technology but it is seen that virtual social gathering has failed to reduce loneliness. There is a lack of satisfaction in the virtual meeting because humans communicate not just verbally but with body language as well, sometimes physical touch is also necessary for us to feel satisfied with the conversation.For Example, We get birthday wishes from so many people we might not even know, but we cannot help but notice that those wishes means very little to us, we might just crave for that one warm hug and the birthday feels complete. This phenomenon is called the loneliness paradox.

Causes Of Social Isolation

The current global health crisis being one of the most recent causes of social isolation is not the only reason.

There are many contributing factors for people being socially isolated

  • Loss of mobility
  • Long term health issues
  • Unemployment
  • Loss of loved ones

How does Social Isolation affect us?

Health Risk

  • Social isolation increases the risk of premature death for different reasons
  • It is seen that there is a significant increase in cardiac mortality.
  • Many individuals suffer from dementia due to isolated life.
  • Social isolation specifically impacts elderly individuals as well.

Emotional effects

  • Being isolated makes us feel alone and helpless this sense of anxiety is a common by-product of the situation
  • Boredom is a common consequence of isolation, with limited access to various activities individuals often suffer from boredom. 
  • The concept of boredom often leads to frustration and anger which makes people defy the restrictions imposed.

Social  effects

  • Absence of activities at home often has detrimental effects which leads to domestic violence. 
  • Due to lack of interactions with others, communication skills deteriorate.
  • Lack of physical activities leads to poor lifestyles and eventually poor health.

Psychological Effects

  • There is an increased prevalence of mood disorder as there is a constant fear being alone. The domestic violence which increases due to isolation also contributes to the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness.
  • Lack of physical exhaustion due to staying at home often leads to difficulty in sleeping patterns.
  • Individuals who are quarantined or isolated might experience post traumatic stress. 

While we have discussed the detrimental effects of social isolation, we should also understand that voluntary solitude acts as a fodder to creativity, it enhances the insight as we can give time and attention to minor details in our life. Many people have flourished during the time of isolation. Vanaprastha which is one of the four stages of life mentioned in the vedas states the transition from the householder’s life to a search of spiritual liberation. Everybody might not be searching for spiritual liberation but we surely seek for some understanding and awareness which can be provided by the self imposed isolation. 

Way forward

How can you curb the ill effects of social isolation?

  • Maintain a routine- having a routine gives us a purpose and a goal for the day which makes us more efficient.
  • Trying to learn new skills-New skills helps us to engage our brain, trains it to take up new challenges. 
  • Contact your loved ones- With the advanced technology in hand talking to people we love gives a sense of warmth and reassures the belongingness need.
  • Pick up the old hobby- the old hobby of singing or cooking that has been brushed to the corner of our priority list, now is the best time to bring it back and engage. This is a form of self love that you show yourself.
  • Enjoy the company of yourself- We forget to spend time with ourselves. Spending time alone is not necessarily being bored. Be at peace with yourself.
  • Try to curb the inputs of social media- Consuming too much information in this age of technology is common but this might cause a lot of emotional issues like stress, panic.

Changes have always accompanied the human race, we have always shown immense and unthinkable resilience to adverse scenarios. This has been possible only because of the sheer ability to adapt. Human brain is capable of adapting to novel situations very quickly, as we do that there are some negative effects which hinders our functionality. But at the end only humans have the capability to survive such changes.