Is it Okay to Want to be Alone?

Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

You don’t feel like seeing people lately. In fact you just want to be alone, all the time. Is that okay?

Is it normal to want to be alone? Or should you be worried?

The art of being alone

Being alone is not in itself a bad thing. To the contrary. It’s a healthy experience.

When we are alone, we finally have time to hear our own thoughts and feelings. To recognise who we really are, outside of the social circles we inhabit. To see our own personal values.

Research even shows that highly intelligent types experience greater life satisfaction if they spend time alone, over always being around others.

It's also very much a healthy thing to not always be in a relationship. Time between romances means we can do things for ourselves, and remember who we are. If we only take our sense of self from relationships, we need to look at our tendency to be codependent.

Alone vs lonely

And alone does not mean the same thing as loneliness.

We can be reading a book alone, or thinking of our dreams, and suddenly feel very connected to the entire world. On the other hand, we can be in a crowd, surrounded by so called friends, and feel lonelier than we have ever been.

But some people are scared of being alone. We feel pressured to pretend we are happy, and that’s easier if we are constantly around others who help us maintain the act. We don’t want to be alone and face our own darker emotions and thoughts.

When being alone goes wrong

Being alone is healthy if it is a choice we have made, and we have positive relationships we can then go back to.

It's not healthy if we use aloneness to hide from our issues, or if relating to others is what triggers them.

If we are hiding from the world because we feel ashamed and unworthy, or like nobody really likes us? Then our aloneness can go from positive to negative.

Questions to ask about being alone

  1. What do you do when you are alone? Are you creating, reflecting, being? Or are you zoning out, dissociating, wallowing?
  2. Are you alone as you want to be, or as you feel you have to be?
  3. Does being alone mean you have more to offer others when you go back to socialising, or that you feel even more anxious and awkward?
  4. Are you only alone to practice destructive habits like self harm, drug taking, overeating, or alcohol abuse?

Aloneness and mental health issues

Not wanting to be around others can be connected to:

  • depression (I am such a horrible person it’s better I leave others alone)
  • anxiety (other people stress me out so much I have to hide)
  • intimacy issues (I don’t want anyone to see the real me)
  • low self-esteem (nobody really likes me anyway)
  • counter-dependency (I don’t need anyone I want them to stay away)
  • social anxiety (it feels dangerous to be around others).

Social anxiety and hiding away

Social anxiety means that the very thought of having to be around others and talk and interact floods our body with fear. We have increasingly negative and illogical thoughts about what could happen if we went out and put ourselves in a social situation. So we stay alone at home where it feels safer.

It often gets really lonely if you have social anxiety. It’s not that you don’t want to have someone to talk to, or feel loved. It’s just that it feels too hard to seek out connection.

So I have to be around others?

Some of us are naturally introverts who need time alone to thrive. And there is nothing wrong with preferring your own company.

And even an extrovert who prefers to be around others needs some alone time to stay in touch with themselves.

But science shows that even if we are introverted, we need connection. We might need different amounts of it, but we do need it. Healthy connection is now connected to better physical health, longevity, and less mental health problems.

If your aloneness is just a way to hide away as you feel bad about yourself and your life, then it’s important not to cut yourself off. If it feels too hard to reach out to someone you know, then reach out to a professional who could understand. This might be a free helpline, or a counsellor or talk therapist.

Ready to stop hiding away and start connecting? Book a therapist now and get talking.

Andrea M. Darcy is a health writer with training in person-centred counselling and coaching. She loves being alone. Find her on Instagram @am_darcy

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