Can't Connect With Others?

by Andrea M. Darcy
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Often feel lonely, and yearn for friends, or want a partner? But always find yourself rejected? Or find connecting with others simply too difficult?

What is connection, really?

Connection is not just about being around people. In fact some people with many friends have no connection in their life. Hence the expression, ‘'lonely in a crowd’ .

Connection is a two-way street, where two people are open and available to learning about and understanding each other in a compassionate and empathetic way. It can be a small moment like a smile, or a long conversation, or a lifelong relationship.

It also involves being fully yourself, and accepting others being fully who they are. If you are not fully yourself people can't connect to you because they can't tell who it is they are actually trying to connect with.

Why is connecting with others hard for you?

Some of us are naturally shyer, more sensitive, or more introverted than others. You might have a smaller circle of friends, but these things don't tend to stop connection with people you care about.

If your inability to connect with those around you is a persistent problem, it's more likely to relate to your childhood, and mental health issues that have developed since. Or it might be becuase you have a personality disorder.

Mental health issues that lead to connection issues

What sort if issues can lead to difficulties connecting?

1. Depression.

When we are depressed we can feel totally misunderstood, or not want anyone close to us as we are sure they'll see us as flawed. If you have suffered mild depression your entire life it can definitely leave you with connection issues.

2. Low self-esteem.

If we feel not good enough for others, we can keep ourselves hidden and avoid solid connections.

2. Fear of intimacy.

Fear of intimacy can have many disguises. It can look like perfectionism, workaholism, always being on the go. Whatever it takes to avoid connecting with others.

4. Childhood trauma.

Often fear of intimacy rises from childhood trauma arising from things like physical and sexual abuse. Trauma means we develop limiting beliefs that we are unworthy and unloveable.

5. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

Sometimes it's not a distinct trauma that leaves us unable to connect to others, but a series of difficult experiences like neglect, a parent who is mentally unwell or an addict, violence at home, or parents who divorce.

6. Attachment issues.

Attachment issues arise from parenting that didn't provide what a child needs. If your primary caregiver didn't provide you with the unconditional love, acceptance, and safety a child needs, if they were unreliable, or made you 'earn' love, you can end up struggling to 'attach' to others. In other words, have a healthy connection.

Disorders that affect connection

The two most known personality disorders are perhaps narcissistic personality disorder and borderline personality disorder. In the first you would struggle to see others as equal to you, and in the second you'd be so worried about being abandoned you'd push and pull in relationships. So both make connection hard.

In fact all personality disorders leave you with connection difficulties. A personality disorder means you see yourself, others, and the world from a perspective that is outside the norm. So understanding others and feeling understood both become a real challenge.

Autism spectrum disorder is not a personality disorder, but it definitely affects connection. People on the autism spectrum struggle to understand emotions and social cues.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health concern that many people don't realise affects relationships. Those who have adult ADHD can have low self-esteem when they pick up on the fact that others find them overwhelming, and can withdraw socially.

Can therapy help me connect with others?

Yes. Therapy is at heart a relationship, so each session sees you work at relating. And then certain types of therapy focus more on relating that others, including:

Tired of feeling lonely and disconnected? Ready to face your fear of intimacy at last? Find a therapist that is right for you at a price you can afford using our easy booking tool now.

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