Do you ever feel you're the only one not getting involved in social activities? Is your idea of a good time eating ice cream and binging on Netflix? We've all had those days when we just need some down time. But is it normal to have no social life at all?
Opinions vary on the importance of having a social life. Having social relationships is psychologically healthy. Not having social relationships, especially in the long term, seems to have an effect on self-esteem, job or work performance, and overall communication skills.
Further, scientific evidence has found health disorders in people who have little to no social relationships. But while individuals with no social life may experience some medical issues, this is not always the case. And of those who did experience some physical health concern, 46% saw a decrease in the negative health effects with intervention.
It's important to understand the difference between having no social life and being in social isolation. Many people enjoy working in private settings and have hobbies that can be done alone. For people like this, having no social life may not be an issue.
On the other hand, social isolation is characterized by a state of complete or near-complete lack of contact between an individual and society. Individuals who experience social isolation have no relationships with family or friends and little to no contact with society.
Some people prefer to be alone, and we all need time to relax and recharge. However, there may be times when there is more going on than just needing some personal space.
Occasionally feeling uncomfortable in social situations is not uncommon. However, when social situations become stressful, or when they impact daily activities or work, you may be experiencing social anxiety disorder. People who have social anxiety disorder are often afraid to interact with others. The fear of being rejected, judged harshly, or overlooked by others drives them to isolate. When these feelings become so overwhelming that they impact daily life, such as school or work attendance or performance, it is advisable to seek the help of a professional.
Those with social anxiety disorder experience feelings of worry or doubt in all or most social situations. These situations can include giving a speech in public, making small talk with an acquaintance, or even using a public restroom.
Common signs of social anxiety disorder include:
"If you've attempted to have a social life but feel too overwhelmed, consider talking to a counselor. Counselors and other mental health professionals can help you get to the root of your social anxiety or uncertainty and develop a plan of action to help overcome those issues."
There are a number of methods you can employ to treat the symptoms of social anxiety.
Speaking with a counselor alleviates issues by both giving the patient tools to manage social anxiety, and by actually introducing conversation into their life, during which the individual can practice being in potentially triggering situations. With psychotherapy, those situations can become less triggering by helping the individual understand the thoughts and behaviors underlying their fears.
Control Your Breathing
Being relaxed will go a long way toward helping you manage stressful social situations. One way of lessening tension in your body is by controlling your breathing. Try this breathing exercise: breathe in slowly through your nose, for 4 seconds; hold your breath for 2 seconds; and then exhale slowly out of your mouth for 6 seconds.
Caffeine may feel like your lifeblood, but it can elevate your heart rate and make your anxiety even worse. Try to cut back or even eliminate caffeine, and switch to tea or other decaffeinated beverages.
Physical activity has been shown to decrease feelings of anxiety, and increase overall wellbeing. If you are struggling with anxiety, consider becoming a runner, joining a gym, or practicing yoga. Oftentimes, you’ll also be practicing socializing when you’re out getting exercise—and, of course, doing something great for your body.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleep deprivation has been linked to a number of mental health issues, and can exacerbate the feelings of anxiety that come from social situations. Get on a consistent sleep schedule, and try to maintain it.
Put Yourself in Social Situations
Exposing yourself to situations that may not be comfortable is a great way of confronting your social anxiety. You may realize that those scary scenarios you imagined would play out never come to fruition. You can practice by starting a conversation with the clerk at the grocery store, or reaching out to an old friend for a chat.
We all want to be alone sometimes. As long as you can balance your alone time with times of interaction with others, there's no reason why it should be a problem. Remember that humans thrive on engagement with others. Whether it's a phone call, a lunch date or just enjoying a cup of coffee with a friend, keeping your mind engaged will help you grow.
Sometimes having no social life is a choice. You may be one of those people who simply likes to be alone. However, sometimes isolation is caused by anxiety. If you feel you're experiencing symptoms of social anxiety disorder, there may be underlying conditions that should be evaluated. Remember, your doctor and other support staff are there for you.
If you've attempted to have a social life but feel too overwhelmed, consider talking to a counselor. Counselors and other mental health professionals can help you get to the root of your social anxiety or uncertainty and develop a plan of action to help overcome those issues. If you don't feel comfortable meeting with someone in person, consider online therapy.
Research points to online therapy as an effective way of dealing with uncomfortable feelings that arise from social situations. One study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, found that symptoms of social anxiety disorder were significantly decreased in individuals who participated in internet-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Notably, researchers were examining the long-term effects of online therapy, finding that the benefits of treatment were sustained at a 5-year follow-up. Researchers noted that internet-based CBT can result in “large and enduring effects.” This is in line with a growing body of research suggesting that online counseling is an effective way of managing an array of mental health issues.
As discussed above, online therapy platforms provide increased access to mental health services that can help your social interactions become more pleasant. If you’re already having difficulty in social situations, you may not be comfortable meeting with a therapist face-to-face. With BetterHelp, you can participate in counseling from the comfort of your own home, or anywhere you have an internet connection. The licensed, professional counselors and therapists at BetterHelp will guide you through a treatment plan that will get to the root of shyness or other emotions related to social anxiety. Consider the following reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.
"Dr. Murphy has been very helpful in identifying issues and behaviors that led me to withdraw from my relationships and now she is helping me to repair them."
"Patricia is excellent, very knowledgeable, empathetic, and helpful. Her professionalism helped make my journey less lonely, and gave me so much more clarity."
Living with social anxiety disorder or introversion can be difficult in a world that values outgoing people, but you don't have to do it alone. Trained, compassionate professionals at BetterHelp are always available to help you find a better, more engaged life. Take the first step.