We all want some peace and quiet now and again, but like all things, self-imposed isolation’s effectiveness is all in the dose, and there are certainly doses which can not only be harmful to one’s mental health, but potentially catastrophic.
The Need for Social Interaction
Human beings are social animals, and with that we naturally crave social interaction with others and a sense of belonging within social groups. According to behavioral psychologists, experiments on ostracization have shown us how deep this need goes. Put an individual in a ring of people where a ball is thrown between everyone and tell all but that one individual that at some point in the middle of that game, the ball will no longer be thrown to them. Once the individual catches on that they are being deliberately excluded from the game, a powerful combination of sadness and anxiety will begin to manifest. This can be seen in our daily lives, where the passing interaction of going to the shops is needed as well as regular deeper connections with people that know our lives, such as friends or family.
The Effects of Extreme Isolation
Across the United States, nearly a third of a million inmates in state prisons are placed in solitary confinement. This is a horrifying number when one considers the effects of solitary confinement on the human brain. Anxiety and stress are only the beginning of the descendent, followed swiftly by rapid loss of the inmates’ grasp on reality. This can begin with paranoia and delusions, followed by auditory and visual hallucinations and, eventually, psychosis. In extreme cases, where inmates are placed in solitary for months or even years, this psychosis can manifest in the form of violence or suicidal ideation, as the victim begins to see death as the only escape from total insanity. Unsurprisingly, there are many across America that are seeking to end solitary confinement as a practice, and there are conversations within the UN regarding its legal status as a recognized form of torture.
How Covid Didn’t Help
When the pandemic hit it fell to governments across the world to make a terrible choice. Data from Wuhan at the time showed that social distancing was highly effective, and in the absence of a vaccine, the only effective means of reducing the number of coronavirus cases. Unfortunately, this in effect exchanged one pandemic for another, as mental health cases of generalized anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, clinical depression and even psychosis skyrocketed. It was seen how beneficial getting out into nature was and there was a rise in the desire to improve outdoor spaces. This need has not gone away with the rise of the vaccine, having an outdoor space that is calm and welcoming can be beneficial for reducing stress and anxiety. To make the most of the space you have, you can contact deck builders St. Louis or local to you to provide a comfortable place for seating – either just for you or to invite people over.
Get Out and See People!
The moral of this story? By all means take some time out when you feel overwhelmed but be careful not to overdo it! If you do not feel capable of simply going out to meet people, then join clubs and increase social interactions that way. A walking club for instance is a great way to slowly get to know others and you can talk as you walk as much as you like to or simply be on the fringe of a larger group with similar interests.