Individuals typically experience adversities in life, called developmental conflicts. If these conflicts are not resolved, a person may continue to struggle. If one resolves such matters, though, they can achieve psychological skills embedded for the rest of their lives.
In the 1950s, Erik Erikson, a well-known theorist of psychosocial development, formulated eight stages of human development, from infancy through adulthood. Under Erikson’s theory, people typically experience different psychosocial crises according to each stage, and these crises can have positive or negative effects on an individual’s personality.
Erikson’s Eight Stages Of Psychosocial Development
Erikson’s eight stages are as follows:
The Uniqueness of the Sixth Stage of Psychosocial Development
During Erikson’s sixth stage of psychosocial development, people may start to share themselves more intimately with others. Some may find themselves longing for someone to spend their time with, someone with whom they can share their sorrows and successes. However, some avoid intimacy or engaging in relationships and retreat into isolation.
Erikson theorized that close and committed relationships are vital to people when they enter adulthood. Often, these relationships are romantic, but friendships are just as important. Maintaining successful relationships indicates that a person has resolved the developmental conflict of intimacy versus isolation; however, those who have not experienced successful relationships may feel isolated and struggle to develop close friendships or romantic relationships.
Risk Factors for Loneliness or Social Isolation
Loneliness is a subjective experience of isolation and is not about simply “being alone.” Many people can experience loneliness even in the middle of a crowd. Some may feel as though they cannot be understood by others or feel pressure to present themselves in a way that does not feel authentic to who they are. Persistent loneliness can have an impact on both mental and physical health. Cardiovascular function, stress hormones, and immune function are affected by chronic loneliness, leading to anxiety and depression.
Other contributing factors to loneliness include marital status and socioeconomic status. People who have experienced an unhappy end to a relationship, such as separation from a spouse, divorce, or becoming widowed, are also at greater risk of loneliness. Additionally, low socioeconomic status can contribute to insecurity over satisfying basic needs or engaging with a social circle.
Impact of Social Isolation and Loneliness
Social isolation can set the stage for loneliness, which can lead to depression. Loneliness can be considered both a cause and a consequence of mental health. If a person is experiencing depression, low self-esteem, or feelings of anxiety may lead them to remove themselves from otherwise positive relationships. Some people experiencing loneliness may also struggle with sleep regulation, diminished physical activity, impacts to their immune and circulatory systems, changes in cognitive function, and self-destructive behaviors.
In other words, when the need for social relationships is not met, people can feel as if they are falling apart, both physically and mentally. Chronic loneliness can have long-term negative effects if it remains unaddressed. Fortunately, advances in talk therapy and other forms of psychological medicine mean that if you are trying to cope with loneliness or social isolation, you no longer have to face it alone.
Modern Epidemic Of Social Isolation Can Lead To Depression
The number of people who describe themselves as lacking meaningful social support is increasing, to the point that some researchers describe social isolation as a “modern behavioral epidemic.” As more individuals experience social isolation and loneliness, depression has also become more prevalent.
Depression may be present if someone has experienced severe or lasting loneliness. Emotional symptoms of depression can include feelings of inadequacy or self-loathing, loss of interest in previously enjoyed pastimes, and further withdrawal from social life. They may have a pessimistic approach to situations or feel irritable or sad. Depression also can present through physical symptoms—such as headaches, back pain, muscle aches, and fatigue—and behavioral symptoms, like changes in appetite and sleeping habits.
If you consider yourself within Erikson’s sixth stage of psychosocial development but fear that you have not yet developed intimacy, then know that you are not alone. Feelings of isolation are as common as they are treatable, and talk therapy can effectively aid many people experiencing loneliness. Whether your loneliness has developed recently or has been around for a while, feeling this way does not mean you are fated to live a life of isolation or depression; it just means that you might need to try something new or seek some additional help continue on your way. Assistance from a mental health professional through an online therapy service like BetterHelp could be a good fit.
Online therapy is convenient and confidential; because you can arrange your sessions with a therapist around your schedule and lifestyle, you can meet whenever and wherever you’d like, and you can keep the entire process as private as you wish. Even if you are experiencing depression and don’t want to leave your home or meet face-to-face, you can work with a therapist at BetterHelp by video chat, phone call, or text messaging. Here are reviews from BetterHelp users who have worked with online therapists to deal with loneliness.
I was hesitant to start therapy for a variety of reasons. However, my main anxieties stemmed from the fear that a therapist might not deal with my internal crazy. Eventually, I took the courage to start therapy with Minnie, and she has exceeded my expectations. Her outstanding knowledge and expertise blew me away, ultimately shifting my mindset from complete isolation into a realm of hope, positivity, and mental well-being. My conditions with trauma, OCD, and anxiety had taken over my life, and I never thought cognitive behavioral therapy would make a difference in such a short amount of time. Yet, with Minnie’s unquestionable sympathy and support, I noticed a huge spiritual and psychological growth within me.
Carolyn is super understanding and is a great listener. She made every session feel comfortable as though you were talking to a friend. She always provided me with little tasks that helped me work through my concerns. She is very supportive and drew from her own experiences to help me make sense of mine, which made me feel as though I was not alone.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Are The Stages Of Intimacy?
Different sources may offer different answers to this question, but romantic relationships generally experience five stages of intimacy.
How Long Should You Wait To Sleep With Someone?
In developing a strong intimate romantic relationship with someone, sex is often an important factor. You may wonder about the right time for sexual intimacy; this timing can depend on your personality and faith, as well as those of your partner. Whenever you are ready to initiate sex, each of you should provide consent, respect each other’s boundaries, and agree proactively upon a form of protection against STIs (and unplanned pregnancy, if applicable).
Maybe you enjoy sex and don’t mind taking that step early in a relationship, or perhaps you intend to remain celibate until marriage. It is important to keep in mind that some individuals are asexual, meaning that they do not experience sexual attraction or the desire for sexual activity; note that being asexual is different and separate from being aromantic. If you or your partner are asexual, then you may want to have additional conversations about this particular form of intimacy.
How Can You Remember Erikson’s Stages?
If you need to memorize these stages—for an exam, for instance—you might find an audiovisual resource like this video helpful. However, everyone has their way of remembering. For some, flash cards let them remember things. For others, just studying the hard facts is good enough. You must know which method of studying works best for you and focus on that.
At What Age Is Personality Fully Developed?
Each human being’s personality is wholly unique, so there is no set age at which a personality is considered “fully developed.” You will develop traits and values that will inform your personality throughout your life, but your brain will have fully matured by about age 30. The life experiences that most people take in by that age make major personality changes beyond age 30 much less likely. If you’re dissatisfied with a component of your personality, though, talking to a therapist and making small changes can help at any age.
Does Personality Change With Age?
Typically, your personality does undergo some changes as you get older. A 40-year-old person probably acted quite differently as a teenager or a young adult than they do at present. Personalities can evolve with time, usually for the better, as individuals’ life experiences help them to mature and broaden their worldview. Sometimes, medical or psychological disorders can cause personality changes that may be problematic or concerning. If you or a loved one experiences changes to your personality following a diagnosis or injury, you should consult a mental health professional.
Are There Any Criticisms Of Erikson’s Theory Of Psychosocial Development?
No major psychological theory is without its detractors, and Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development is no different. Here are a few common criticisms of Erikson’s theory:
Does this mean that Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development is wrong? Not exactly. Any theory may have shortcomings or oversights, and Erikson provided a useful framework that can be expanded upon and tweaked as our understanding of human development continues to expand.
What Are Some Examples Of Role Confusion?
In psychosocial development, role confusion is when a person, typically a teenager, does not achieve their own identity and bends to the will of others around them. Role confusion can have several potential causes and effects:
What Makes An Intimate Relationship?
Erikson’s theory revolves heavily around intimacy in relationships as a form of development, but sometimes intimacy is confusing. Intimate relationships are different, though not exclusive of sexual relationships. You may experience emotional intimacy with a romantic partner, but you may also experience it with a close friend or family member. Here are some key components of an intimate relationship:
You can have more than one healthy intimate relationship as long as you respect your loved ones’ feelings and time. Intimate relationships are a sign of strong mental health in any marriage or other close relationship.
When Is Young Adulthood?
The term “young adulthood” comprises Erikson’s sixth stage of psychosocial development. Young adulthood as an age interval is subjective; while some people may define this period from one’s late teens through their twenties, others may have a much later cutoff, saying that it ends at age 40. The psychosocial objective of this stage is intimacy instead of isolation, and you are never too old to pursue this goal.
If you are experiencing feelings of isolation in your life and long for intimate relationships with others, know that you truly are not alone. Help is available, and many other people have felt similarly to you and found a better path forward. You can take the first step today.