Woman Sitting In The Shadows As A Symbol Of Social Isolation

How Social Isolation Affects Anxiety Levels & How To Start Getting Better

Sometimes, we are close to others physically, but psychologically we are far, far away.

We recommend helpful products in our articles. Read our full disclosure here. The content on this website is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

In the globalized, interconnected world of the 21st century, it may seem paradoxical that social isolation is a pervasive issue affecting millions of people worldwide.

Even with advanced technology to foster communication, people are increasingly feeling cut off from society.

This phenomenon, largely accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures, has far-reaching implications, especially on mental health.

One such mental health concern is how social isolation affects anxiety.

Understanding the complex relationship between social isolation and anxiety is crucial for devising effective interventions and preventative measures.

 

Cognitive Distortions

 

One of the ways that social isolation can impact anxiety is by contributing to cognitive distortions, which are skewed perceptions of reality.

Being alone for extended periods can give rise to negative self-perception and feelings of unworthiness or hopelessness, further exacerbating anxiety.

People who experience social isolation may start to think that they are alone because they are unlikable, thus strengthening the anxiety loop.

The term “cognitive distortions” refers to systematic biases in perception and thinking that can influence one’s interpretation of experiences, surroundings, and events.

These distortions can be a consequence of several factors, including trauma, stress, and in our context, social isolation.

Let’s explore this phenomenon in detail.

When an individual experiences social isolation, they can fall into the trap of harmful cognitive distortions.

These distortions can take many forms, such as overgeneralization, catastrophizing, personalization, and black-and-white thinking, all of which have the potential to amplify anxiety.

You can learn more about these distortions with our free Thought Workbook.

Negative self-perception and feelings of unworthiness or hopelessness are common cognitive distortions that arise from prolonged social isolation.

When people spend extended periods alone, they often engage in negative self-talk, fostering a self-image that emphasizes their perceived flaws and shortcomings.

They may start to believe that they are unworthy of social connections or incapable of maintaining them, leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy that keeps them in a cycle of isolation and anxiety.

 

Lack of Social Support

 

Social support is a critical factor in overall mental well-being.

It comprises various forms of assistance provided by members of an individual’s social network.

Emotional support contributes to feelings of belonging and reduces loneliness, enabling individuals to better manage anxiety.

However, when individuals experience social isolation, they may lack this emotional buffer, leading to increased feelings of stress and anxiety.

Here are some examples of the specific support individuals receive when they socialize.

 

1. Instrumental support

 

Instrumental support can be as simple as helping with errands during a stressful period or offering financial assistance in times of need.

Without this form of support, individuals may feel overwhelmed by daily tasks and challenges, which can contribute to higher anxiety levels.

 

2. Informational support

 

This kind of support can empower individuals to manage challenging situations, thereby reducing anxiety.

It includes advice, suggestions, and information that a person can use to address problems.

Socially isolated people might lack access to such helpful information, increasing their sense of helplessness and anxiety.

 

3. Appraisal support

 

The appraisal support involves information that is useful for self-evaluation purposes.

It can promote self-growth and confidence, helping an individual understand where they stand and what they can improve.

The absence of appraisal support can lead to feelings of self-doubt and increased anxiety.

 

Decreased Exposure Therapy

 

Exposure therapy is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) that aids individuals in overcoming their fears by allowing them to confront and control their distressing or anxiety-inducing situations gradually.

In exposure therapy for social anxiety, treatment usually starts with less anxiety-inducing social scenarios and then gradually proceeds to more challenging situations as the individual’s ability to cope improves.

However, in cases of social isolation, individuals have limited opportunities to apply exposure therapy principles.

The lack of social contact reduces the chances for them to gradually face and overcome their social fears.

As such, their anxiety may remain unchallenged and could even escalate over time.

Social isolation can also lead to avoidance behavior.

In the absence of regular social interactions, individuals may find it easier to avoid situations that make them anxious.

While this might offer short-term relief from anxiety, in the long run, it can reinforce fears and increase avoidance tendencies.

This lack of exposure can maintain or heighten the cycle of social anxiety.

 

Seeking Treatment

 

Therapy is one of the best ways to treat various anxiety disorders.

Online anxiety treatment can serve as an effective starting point for individuals with social anxiety.

Digital platforms provide a less intimidating environment compared to face-to-face therapy sessions.

Engaging in therapy from the comfort and safety of one’s own home can ease the pressure and fear associated with entering new social situations, such as a therapist’s office.

This gentler introduction can enable those with social anxiety to take the first crucial steps toward managing their anxiety before gradually progressing to more challenging social scenarios.

However, if this approach is not enough to lessen your anxiety, it’s important to talk to a professional therapist face-to-face to make sure you are getting help at the level you need.

Co-authors at ShineSheets.com

"We love to research problems, examine studies, analyze solutions, and share with you ideas that make life healthier. You can learn about us and our editorial standards here. Have suggestions or feedback to share? Send us a message!."

We care about your opinion.
Share your thoughts about this topic in a comment below.

Leave a Comment

*To keep the discussions friendly and spam-free, your comment will be visible here as soon as it's approved by our moderators. Thank you for commenting!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

FREE Printable Gratitude Journal For Your “Thank You” Practice

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.

Mindfulness For Self-Improvement: 4 Beautiful Ways It Can Help You To Be Your Best Self

Mindfulness is a scientifically proven, helpful way to improve the quality of your life.

Always Expecting The Worst: 12 Ways To Stop This Negative Cycle

Expecting the worst every time? Yes, that's an issue.

7 Signs of a Toxic Person & How to Deal with Them

Remember that you deserve to be treated with respect and kindness.

How To Manage Holiday Stress: 5 Ways To Actually Enjoy Your Holidays This Year

You can make your holidays better, even if they usually suck for you.

How to Finally Start Feeling Your Self-Worth

Self-worth is so important... But has yours been gone for a while?

3 Most Common Causes Of Stress + Helpful Relief Strategies

It's necessary to constantly work on lowering our stress levels.

How To Stop Binge Eating: Gentle Ways To Deal With Overeating Triggers

How to stop binge eating and get rid of this discrete issue - for better mental & physical health.

40 Things To Be Grateful For + Printable Gratitude List

This gratitude list is our free and natural antidepressant.

9 Unique Therapies To Try For Improved Mental Health

Your mental wellness is always in your hands - and it can be improved.

How To Stop Anxiety From Ruining Your Life

You are more than your anxiety.

How To Protect Your Mental Health During The Global Crisis

Difficult times can take a toll on you. Here's how to stay sane.