Withdrawal: When Social Isolation Is A Sign Of Deep Malaise

Last updated by Lauren Hart

I went through a period of withdrawal around the time when a friend of mine passed away. I’d just finished my studies, and although I was offered a permanent job, I chose to turn it down. I stayed at home on my own for several months with very little contact with others. Luckily, my closest friends helped me get through this very complicated time. Withdrawal isn’t just being alone, it’s also a sign of deep malaise. How can we define it? What are the causes? How can you get through it? Discover my testimonial on withdrawal.

Withdrawal: When Social Isolation Is A Sign Of Deep Malaise

What is withdrawal?

Withdrawal is when we cut ourselves off from the outside world and those around us. It’s not wanting any more contact with others and taking refuge in our own world 😥. It’s real social isolation that isn’t trivial. I experienced it after my friend died several years ago. I didn’t go out much, I didn’t go to parties anymore, I always found excuses to avoid family gatherings, etc. I had no desire to see other people, including those I love. I wasn’t in a relationship and I didn’t want one...

👉 When withdrawal sets in, there are tell-tale signs that don’t lie:

  • You don’t feel like doing anything,
  • You stay locked up at home,
  • You feel unable to get out of bed (this is clinophilia),
  • You don’t try to reach out to others,
  • You don’t want to show interest in the outside world,
  • You may tend to prefer living at night,
  • You feel empty.

Withdrawal and solitude

It’s important to distinguish between withdrawal and solitude. I’m an introvert, I’ve always liked spending time by myself. Indeed, being in contact with others drains my social battery. That’s why I like to be alone most of the time or only in the company of my partner, who is like me (like attracts like as they say 🙊)!

Enjoying being alone is very different from withdrawal and the period I experienced. Even if I’m physically alone, I’m always in contact with those around me. This wasn’t the case when I was unwell. I didn’t even want the slightest contact, I felt empty, devoid of any desire to communicate 😔.

The causes of social isolation

There can be many causes of withdrawal. For me, it was clearly a symptom of depression due to my friend's sudden and violent death. I was unable to go through the stages of grief, so much this ordeal was an emotional shock. It can therefore appear after a trauma, even if it doesn’t happen directly afterward. In fact, the aftermath can occur several months or even years after the ordeal.

👉 Children who have suffered neglect or abuse may show signs of withdrawal only when they become adults, for example…

A lack of self-confidence or aninferiority complex can also lead to withdrawal. We don’t feel comfortable enough with others, we feel like we don’t measure up. Often, this is accompanied by thoughts like “no, I’d rather not see them, they’ll think I’m stupid 😖”. This hides a fear of what others think, especially their judgments!

The consequences of withdrawal

Being socially isolated is comforting, it’s like being in a bubble. You feel like there can’t be any suffering. However, this is only a feeling that hides the real consequences of withdrawal. We need others for our psychic construction and mental well-being 🤕. Human beings need to constitute themselves based on their social relationships.

Therefore, isolating yourself only increases psychological disorders like depression and social phobia. Anxiety also increases, the fewer social contacts we have, the more scared you become of it 😰. It’s a vicious circle you have to get out of to find a balance, but how can you do that?

How can you stop closing in on yourself?

It’s not easy to get out of this spiral. I was lucky to have people around me who didn’t want me to cut myself off anymore, but this isn’t the case for everyone, especially when it’s a question of established solitude. You really need to want to overcome this withdrawal and start a process. The hardest thing is to take the first steps and make contact again ☎️.

👉 To do this, I would say that you already need to start by reconnecting from a distance: catch up on the news, phone or write to your close ones. By establishing contact again, you show a real interest in others, which encourages them to come back to you. Gradually, the link will be re-established, and you’ll be able to envisage going on little outings that don’t exhaust you too much psychologically. You also need to find your balance and set your limits, some social contexts don’t suit everyone.

👉 In the case of a total break with your close ones, it’s necessary to find other social links. The Internet is full of sites and forums on different topics. For example, if you’re passionate about video games, the Twitch community is very welcoming and caring. Eventually, you’ll manage to create links with people who you have a real affinity with. This is how I’ve been able to make new friendships sometimes.

Find a suitable therapy

However, this always seems easier said than done. Sometimes we’re so hampered by our demons that everything becomes insurmountable. If this is the case, you mustn’t hesitate to start psychotherapy. Interpersonal therapies (IPT) or cognitive behavioral therapies (CBT) are suitable for identifying the origin of the withdrawal. From there, the professional will be able to guide us and help us out of social isolation.

It took me years to consult a psychologist, but doing so helped me to move on with my grief and social difficulties. I felt understood and genuinely supported, so don’t hesitate if you feel the need.

Editor’s note: A downward spiral that you mustn’t allow to take hold

Withdrawing into yourself offers an air of comfort, but it cuts us off from the world and from others. Little by little, we get trapped in a dangerous spiral, so we mustn’t let this situation become entrenched over time. It’s not easy to get out of it, you need to take it step by step with the help of a specialist. If you’re currently suffering and withdrawing into yourself, don’t wait to make an appointment with a psychologist. Together, you’ll put your malaise into words and gradually put in place new habits that will allow you to open up and reconnect.

🤗 Understanding yourself, accepting yourself, being happy... It’s here and now!


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Article presented by Lauren Hart

Writing is a beautiful means of expression that I cannot do without. It has allowed me to channel my hypersensitivity, plus I love writing about psychology and personal development. For me, self-understanding is the best way to move forward!

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