Are you feeling disconnected from your friends and family?
Maybe you feel misunderstood or like no one “gets” you. Or perhaps you feel emotionally “empty” and don’t have the bandwidth to engage with people as you normally would.
We explore some of the potential causes of disconnection and signs of social withdrawal, and offer advice to nurture fulfilling connections here.
Potential causes of feeling disconnected
It’s normal to feel less close to your loved ones from time to time.
This may not necessarily be due to a disagreement or falling out. How connected you feel to others can be impacted by many factors and depends heavily on your circumstances.
These are just a few potential causes.
While friends and family can provide much-needed support when we’re stressed, it can get to a point where we’re so burnt out that we can no longer actively engage socially. If work, study, parenting, your relationship, or other stressors have become overwhelming, you may find it harder to connect with your friends.
Experiencing a life-changing event
Loss, moving, changing jobs, or the end of a relationship are emotionally and mentally exhausting. It’s easy to detach or withdraw when you don’t have the energy to spend on other people. You may also feel disconnected from your peers after experiencing such a big change.
Feeling like you’re on a different path to your peers
Similarly, it may be hard to feel understood by and close to someone if they can’t relate to your experience. Perhaps you can feel your friends without children disengaging when you talk parenting. Or maybe your siblings in high-powered careers don’t seem to understand your choice to casually freelance while travelling. Feeling misunderstood by the people around you can cause you to disconnect and disengage emotionally, thinking “why bother?”.
Despite being created to encourage connections regardless of your location, social media can certainly have the opposite effect. It’s important to remember that social media is often a highlight reel of other peoples’ lives; it’s often not entirely reflective of reality. It’s also important not to let virtual interactions replace real conversations or quality time.
The rise of social media has been a fundamentally multifaceted phenomenon… The evidence suggests that social media use is strongly associated with anxiety, loneliness, and depression. – Centre for Mental Health (UK)
Living or working in a remote area
Being far away from friends and family, feeling exhausted by shift work, and relationship problems due to the pressure of FIFO work can cause you to shut down socially.
Working from home
The COVID pandemic made the home office much more common. While there are plenty of benefits, being in our own home all day without those office chitchats makes it incredibly easy to feel disconnected from the world.
Mental health issues
Mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and mood disorders can cause social withdrawal and isolation. Socialising can feel like a chore when you’re struggling with your mental health, and it can be hard to be truly present with others when your mind feels messy.
Signs of social withdrawal
Feeling disconnected often goes hand in hand with social withdrawal. This can be a risky cycle given the physical and mental health risks of social isolation and loneliness.
Here are some of the common signs of social withdrawal:
- Spending less time with your friends and family than usual
- Finding excuses to decline invitations
- Preferring to spend time alone
- Experiencing FOMO (fear of missing out)
- Your “social battery” feels flat
- Feeling excluded by friends and family
- Feeling like you can’t relate to your peers
- Feeling numb or empty.
How to form fulfilling connections
When you notice yourself feeling disconnected, there are some steps you can take to feel connected again:
Reach out to friends and family. Let someone know how you’re feeling. Even a short phone call with a loved one can help you feel a bit more connected. Being honest and vulnerable about how you’ve been feeling can be a great first step to increasing the emotional intimacy in that relationship.
Make plans based around your circumstances. They say that life gets in the way of living. If certain circumstances like an injury, bad weather, or demanding work shifts are the cause of your isolation, there are some steps you can take to adapt. Try having a Zoom happy hour with friends, or letting friends and family know your work schedule so they can include you in plans.
Take a break from social media. Research shows that FOMO is indeed real. It’s defined as “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent,” and social media is extremely good at causing this feeling. Ironically enough, sometimes disconnecting can make you feel more connected. Put your phone down and meet with someone important to you face to face.
Incorporate connecting into your daily routine. If working from home has got you feeling lonely and out of touch, see if you can spend more time in a local community working space. If you have friends who also work from home, you could have a work-from-home day together.
Practise saying yes. Sometimes a bit of time with friends or family can help us feel like ourselves again – even if we’re not in the mood. It’s okay to be gradual and start with plans that are not too socially overwhelming or exhausting. Being around loved ones might be the perfect pick-me-up.
Prioritise self-care. Socialising with others is extremely difficult when we don’t feel like ourselves. Practising self-care can be a rejuvenating mood-booster. Dedicate time to relaxing, taking a bath, listening to your favourite podcast, or all of the above. If you’re worried about your mental health, talk to your GP about a mental health care plan.
Talking to a counsellor may help you with feeling more connected. Our experienced counsellors can help you explore your concerns and possible solutions in a safe and supportive environment. You can learn more about our counselling service here, or call 1300 364 277 to make an appointment.