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Isolation in Children & Teens

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Adolescents, teens, and young adults are glued to their mobile devices twenty-four, seven. They text and Snap Chat, post to Instagram, YouTube, Messenger, Tumblr, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook. With all these opportunities to connect, how could a 16-year-old possibly be lonely? With world-wide access at their fingertips, how could an 18-year-old feel he didn’t belong? Despite a string of “Dot Com” men and fans of “a networked society,” children, adolescents, teens, adults, and the elderly require human contact for healthy brain development and good mental health. Prisons nationwide have found reducing the number of inmates in solitary confinement makes safer prisons. Homeschooled students are involved in extra-curricular activities and sports through religious and community organizations.

When kindergarten through twelfth grade went on-line, parents and educators feared children would experience seclusion, isolation, and loneliness. Recent polls show parents of children attending public, charter, and private schools have those same fears, especially parents of children with special needs. Regardless of the educational option a parent chooses, bullying, substance abuse, child abuse, internet safety, and teen pregnancy top the list of fears. Many parents fail to understand the mental and physical destruction of isolation. Diagnosing isolation and loneliness in children, adolescents, and teens can be challenging. Many of the symptoms are similar to depression, mental illness, and behavioral disorders. The therapists and counselors of Improving Lives Counseling Services have the training, knowledge, tools, and expertise needed to diagnosis and treat autophobia (a fear of solitude) and related phobias.

Monophobia is an acute fear of being alone and having no one, despite being surrounded by family and loved ones. Tendencies to isolate, seclude, and shelter are often triggered by a fear of not being liked, of never having friends, never fitting in, or ever finding love. Sitting alone for extended periods of time, refusing to interact with family members, declining invitations, and backing out of activities once enjoyed can be attributed to loneliness. Parents often make excuses, not wanting to face the disconcerting truth; their straight A student, the one who excels in sports or the arts, the one mom and dad are proud of, the kid who is dependable, responsible, and self-assured, knows something is wrong – wants to be “found out,” wants help, guidance, treatment, and support.

As adults, the chronically lonely have higher blood pressure, are more vulnerable to infection, and more likely to develop dementia. In children, adolescents, and teens, loneliness affects sleep patterns, reasoning, weight control, hormones, and immune systems. They have difficulty making decisions and completing projects, are often fatigued, and may spend days in bed. Scientific studies reported in Psychology Today found: “… social isolation can exacerbate feelings of low self-worth, shame, depression, and other behavioral and mental health disorders.” Seclusion and isolation can be involuntary or voluntary; loneliness is a state of mind which can result from seclusion and/or isolation.

Low self-esteem, physical isolation, psychological disorders, appearance, health, race, religion, culture, living conditions, economics, and socio-economics can cause loneliness. Health risks range from antisocial behavior, alcoholism, drug abuse, high levels of anxiety, to stress, self-mutilation, and suicide. Loneliness, if not treated can continue into adulthood. Improving Lives Counseling Services treats mental health disorders, behavior disorders, and diagnoses and treats the phobias related to seclusion, isolation, and loneliness. The most popular boy, the prettiest girl, the student body president, valedictorian, quarterback, and bully can experience chronic loneliness. Early diagnosis and treatment can save a life. Call us.