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Understanding and Overcoming Detachment in Society

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), social connections are essential for physical and mental health and well-being. Yet, social isolation and loneliness have become a global issue that deprives people of practical and emotional support to manage the challenges of daily life. As the WHO notes, approximately 1 in 4 older adults experience social isolation and 5 to 15% of adolescents experience loneliness. Therefore, finding support to overcome detachment in society can be vital to dismantling maladaptive coping strategies and improving your quality of life.

At The Guest House, we know having the support of others is crucial for healing and long-term recovery. Recovery is a process, a journey of continual growth and learning that you engage in throughout your life. Trying to go through treatment and recovery on your own leaves little space for healing. Engaging in healthy coping strategies and self-care is difficult when you have years of maladaptive thoughts and behaviors built up.

Alone, it can be harder to believe in yourself and continue to do the necessary work to support your long-term well-being. Moreover, without social connections, your sense of belonging is compromised. A loss of belonging in your community leads to detachment in society, which makes utilizing healthy coping tools more challenging.

Yet, you may wonder what exactly is detachment in society. How does detachment in society contribute to poor physical and mental health outcomes? What does it mean to have a sense of belonging? How can your sense of belonging be lost? Deepening your understanding of detachment in society and belonging can provide insight into the importance of social connection in recovery.

What Is Detachment in Society?

The terms social isolation and loneliness are often used interchangeably. Though social isolation and loneliness are different, they are related to each other and often co-occur. As the National Institute of Aging (NIA) notes, social isolation happens when you have little to no social contact and few regular interactions with others. Whereas, loneliness is the distressing feeling of being alone or separated from others. Thus, both are different as you can be socially isolated without feeling lonely or be surrounded by people but still feel lonely.

Moreover, regarding detachment in society, detachment is interconnected with social isolation and loneliness. According to the Journal of Affective Disorders, feelings of detachment and loneliness often overlap each other but are not necessarily concurrent with each other. Difficulties with loneliness are distressing feelings that arise from the perception that your desire for your social relationships does not match your real social relationships. Further, loneliness can encompass social and or emotional loneliness.

For example, you may have a lot of friends, but feel lonely because you do not have close relationships with your friends or you feel like your friends do not know you. Whereas, detachment in society is more closely associated with disengagement from your social life. Detachment in society is born when you no longer feel like you can find meaning in your life in social relationships with others. Thus, detachment in society is more closely related to social isolation.

As noted in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, there are two forms of isolation, perceived isolation and social disconnectedness. Perceived isolation is most commonly known and associated with loneliness. Through perceived isolation, you experience loneliness and perceive that you have a lack of social support. On the other hand, social disconnectedness or detachment in society is a lack of social relationships and low participation in social activities.

With more insight into what detachment in society is, you can better understand the roots of your challenges. Yet, you may still have questions about how to recognize detachment in society. You may be so used to your detachment, that it has become difficult to see the harm it is causing you. Thus, looking at the signs and symptoms of detachment in society can help you see its impact on your life.

Signs and Symptoms of Detachment in Society

As stated in the article “Understanding the Effects of Social Isolation on Mental Health” from Tulane University, social isolation in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. Everyone enjoys or can benefit from solitude occasionally as taking time for yourself can support meeting your individual needs. The meditative nature of some alone time can be rejuvenating as you give yourself the space to spend time with and process your inner experiences for deeper self-awareness and self-understanding.

For example, some solitude is particularly beneficial to introverts who are often overwhelmed by too much social interaction. Taking some time to be alone and or engage in solo activities allows introverts to recharge and better interact with others. However, detachment in society is a reflection of an unhealthy level of social disconnection from others.

Listed below are some of the signs and symptoms of unhealthy detachment in society:

  • Avoiding social interactions, including ones you once enjoyed
  • Experiencing feelings of anxiety or panic when you think about social interactions
  • More frequent cancellations of plans with others or in public places
  • Experiencing feelings of dread when you think about social activities
  • Feeling relieved when plans with others get canceled
  • Spending large chunks of time alone or having limited contact with others
  • Experiencing feelings of distress when you are in periods of solitude
  • Struggling to build and/or maintain relationships
  • Difficulty expressing your emotions or opening up to others
  • Feeling disconnected from others

Looking at the signs and symptoms of your detachment in society highlights the impact social disconnection can have on your well-being. Not only does detachment in society deprive you of meaningful connections but it also causes significant emotional and mental distress. Now that you have a better idea of what detachment looks like you can recognize the effects of detachment in your daily life, your mental health, and your physical health.

The Impact of Detachment on Your Well-Being

Social connections are typically indicative of mutual support from your social network members, which can support adaptive coping strategies and thus reduce stress responses. In addition, individuals with supportive interpersonal relationships typically experience less loneliness and increased self-esteem to manage challenging experiences and feelings. Therefore, the lack of social connection found in detachment in society contributes to increased stress. While unhealthy relationships can contribute to poor physical and psychological health outcomes, healthy supportive relationships can be incredibly impactful to your well-being.

According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, your happiness and sense of belonging are inextricably tied respectively to your need for other people and their acceptance, as well as your physical and mental health. As a result, your detachment in society increases your risk for challenges with mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. Moreover, challenges with mental health disorders like depression further diminish your sense of belonging to others. As noted in Frontiers in Psychology, depression can impede your ability to form we-experiences.

We-experiences happen when two or more people experience things together as a we rather than as an I. Through we-experiences, you engage in a sense of togetherness or belonging with others having the experience. However, unaddressed depression can impair your ability to engage in we-experiences because you are overwhelmed by feelings of difference and being misunderstood by others. When you feel like you do not belong, it becomes difficult to believe you are a part of the we in your community and society. Moreover, the psychological distress caused by disorders like depression and anxiety is exhausting, which decreases the emotional energy needed to face challenges and engage in social interactions.

Furthermore, your disconnectedness and isolation themselves can weaken or erode your ability to cope with hardships. When you are unable to adapt to difficult social interactions and situations, you are more likely to engage in unhealthy coping strategies. Unhealthy coping strategies can include avoidance behavior and substance misuse, which can develop into substance use disorder (SUD). The consequences of detachment in society on your mental health can create a kind of snowball effect that perpetuates self-defeating thoughts and behaviors that impair daily functioning and diminish your quality of life.

In addition to its impact on your mental health, your detachment in society alone can have a significant impact on your physical health as well. According to the NIA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), social isolation and loneliness can be a serious threat to your health and increase your risk for poor aging outcomes and early mortality. Listed below are some of the poor physical and aging outcomes that can impair your well-being:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Stroke
  • Weakened immune system
  • Cognitive decline
  • Dementia
  • Alzheimer’s disease

Looking at the physical and psychological health risks associated with detachment in society highlights the importance of connection. Through positive mutually supportive relationships, you can build resilience to the challenges of life. Yet, you may worry about how you got to this difficult place in your life. How did you become detached? Understanding the potential roots of detachment in society can give you insight into how to better cope. When you understand the roots of your distress and challenges, you can be better equipped to approach those challenges in healthier ways.

Roots of Detachment in Society

According to “Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults: Opportunities for the Health Care System” from the National Academies Press, there are a variety of risk factors that can contribute to social isolation and loneliness. The risk factors for social isolation and loneliness can stem from physical, psychological, psychiatric, cognitive, sociocultural, and social-environmental factors. Listed below are some of the risk factors for your social isolation, loneliness, and eventual social detachment in society:

  • Physical health factors:
    • Chronic diseases
      • Cardiovascular disease
      • Heart failure
      • Stroke
      • Cancer
      • Musculoskeletal disorders
      • Multiple sclerosis
      • HIV
    • Functional impairments
      • Hearing impairments
      • Visual impairments
      • Communication disorders
      • Frailty
      • Impaired mobility
  • Psychological, psychiatric, and cognitive factors:
    • Depression
    • Generalized anxiety disorder
    • Social anxiety disorder
    • Suicidality
    • Dementia
    • Alzheimer’s disease
    • Parkinson’s disease
  • Sociocultural factors:
    • Disruptive life events
      • Separation from family and friends
      • Loss of loved ones
      • Separation or divorce
      • Job loss
      • Chronic illnesses
      • Retirement
      • Remote work
      • Disabilities
      • Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)
        • Sexual, physical, and emotional abuse
        • Physical and or emotional neglect
      • Exposure to traumatic experiences
    • Lack of social support
      • Unhealthy relationships with family and romantic partners
      • Living alone
      • Acting as a caregiver for a loved one
    • Financial insecurity
    • At-risk communities
      • Exclusion and discrimination based on race and ethnicity
      • Immigrants and first-generation individuals
        • Communication barriers
        • Difficulty building relationships in a new location
        • Differences in community, family, and intergenerational dynamics
        • Experiencing discrimination and prejudice
      • LGBTQIA+ community
        • Exclusion and rejection
        • Discrimination and prejudice
        • Loss of support network
      • Exclusion, discrimination, and prejudice based on gender
      • Ageism
  • Social-environmental factors:
    • Limited opportunities to participate in social activities
    • Few educational resources
    • None or limited education
    • Lack of reliable or alternative transportation
      • Rural and lower-density neighborhoods
      • Affordability issues
    • Poor housing resources
    • Living alone
    • Dissatisfaction with living arrangement
      • Homelessness
      • Nursing home
      • Neighborhood violence
      • Poor accessibility
    • Rural setting
      • Longer distances between family, friends, businesses, and medical support
      • Limited public transportation options
      • Poor access to physical and mental health care providers
      • Unreliable or non-existent internet access
      • Feeling left out of the larger community events and resources
      • Fewer opportunities for connection, friendship, and community
    • Urban settings
      • Fewer reliable social connections with friends and family
      • Feeling more disconnected from others in close proximity
        • Lacking close connections within a multitude of social interactions
    • Suburbs
      • Lack of communal spaces to gather
      • Longer commute distances for socialization

Moreover, social disconnectedness in itself is strongly tied to traumatic and stressful life experiences. As the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) notes, experiencing disassociation after a traumatic event is not uncommon. It is not unusual to feel a lack of connection between your thoughts, memories, and sense of identity when you are under great distress. However, while many people recover with time from trauma, some may experience persistent derealization.

Derealization is a type of dissociation that leaves you feeling detached from the people, places, and things in your environment. When you feel detached from others and the world around you following trauma, it can increase your risk for mental health disorders and functional impairments. Some of the disorders you have an increased risk factor for with persistent derealization can include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other trauma-related disorders. Thus, seeking support for your physical and psychological distress can be instrumental in your long-term recovery. Recognizing the bidirectional nature of environmental, sociocultural, and physical and mental health risk factors with social isolation and loneliness further highlights the significance of social connection for long-term well-being.

Ways to Overcome Detachment at The Guest House

As the CDC notes, social connection is a deeply personal experience. Thus, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to overcoming your detachment in society. Yet, there are some common adaptive tools you can use to explore, increase self-understanding, deepen connections, and heal. Listed below are some of the ways you can work to foster deeper social connection and attachment for your long-term well-being:

  • Build healthy relationships
    • Devote time and attention to your relationships
    • Share your feelings
    • Be caring and empathetic
    • Diversify your connections by meeting new people
      • Wave and or smile
      • Strike up conversations with neighbors, co-workers, and or service workers
    • Share the activities you already do or invest in doing new activities with loved ones
    • Be responsive, supportive, and grateful for your relationships
      • Responsive
        • Ask for help
        • Accept help
        • Lean on others
      • Supportive
        • Give the gift of time doing something with or for them
        • Offer support like bringing them dinner or helping with a task
      • Gratitude
        • Thank them for being in your life
        • Bring up the positive things they have done
        • Reflect on how you think and feel about your connections
  • Engage in self-care
    • Reduce engaging in unhealthy or disconnected practices
      • Spend less time on social media
      • Limit how often you unnecessarily cancel plans
    • Reach out for support from healthcare providers
    • Establish healthy boundaries
    • Reflection journal
    • Carve out time in your schedule for self-care and social connection
  • Deepen mutually supportive relationships
    • Reach out for support
    • Provide support to others
    • Actively listen
    • Be accountable
    • Encourage
    • Be dependable
    • Share your experiences
    • Take steps to address conflict in healthy ways
    • Be respectively of each other when you disagree
  • Engage in social activities
    • Join social groups
      • Cooking classes
      • Book club
      • Sports groups
    • Get active together
    • Volunteer in your community

At The Guest House, we believe opening yourself up to others is an integral part of the journey to understanding your innermost feelings and healing from detachment. Thus, with a diverse variety of holistic therapies and modalities, you can build social connections. Through holistic care, we are committed to providing a safe and non-judgmental space where you can find a community of support. You are worthy of love, support,  connection, healthy relationships, and a fulfilling life. We are here to build a personalized treatment plan to support, guide, and love you back to health.

Detachment in society can make you valuable to mental health disorders and self-defeating behaviors like substance misuse. Moreover, detachment shares a bidirectional relationship with poor physical and mental health. Challenges with physical and mental health issues can increase your risk for isolation and loneliness, which can lead to social disconnectedness. Thus, social connection can have a significant impact on your physical and psychological well-being to lead a healthy fulfilling life. With a holistic approach to care, you can build tools to foster and nurture meaningful social connections with others. At the Guest House, you can explore a wide variety of therapeutic modalities to deepen your self-understanding and find community in recovery. Call us at (855) 483-7800 to learn more today.