THE DANGERS OF SELF-ISOLATION DURING AND AFTER THE CORONAVIRUS (COVID 19) PANDEMIC

Self-isolation is the purposeful action of shutting ourselves away from others, be it family, friends or colleagues The need to avoid human interaction with others, whoever they may be. This can cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, known as PTSD. PTSD affects around 10% of the population at any given time.

We all crave alone time sometimes particularly when we have been in a stressful situation or going through a crisis in our lives. And this is perfectly healthy. However, those who self-isolate completely retreat into themselves, allowing the stress involved in seeing others and taking part in normal activities to prevent participation in previously pleasurable behaviours.

Self-Isolation can, in itself, bring on mental illness, particularly with those of us who already have a tendency to seek solace through solitude. Let’s be very clear, social isolation has debilitating effects on our mental health and can quickly lead to depression and post-traumatic stress.

The effects of Self-Isolation are, losing interest in personal hygiene, poor nutrition and diet, general deterioration of our personal environment and, when we refuse or are unable to connect or interact with others, will create a sense of emotional isolation. First, those of us who are self-isolating will often find ourselves consumed by challenges, rather than working to find the strength to get help. As isolation accelerates, finding the courage to get therapy will become far more difficult particularly when everything around us is shut down and we do not have access to G.Ps or A&E centres. So, taking action early is often the best way to get in front of the challenges we may be experiencing.

What happens when we self-isolate? Well, in most instances it is either a mental or physical need to be alone with no interaction with anyone, whoever they may be. It is the desire to not, or the fear of, triggering events. Those of us who intentionally self-isolate will be their way of dealing with a deep previous trauma or feeding their depression. However, when self-isolation is forced upon us we can find that our coping mechanisms are no longer working and take us into a state of trauma or depression. Instead of wanting to be alone we find that we are forced to be alone which has a very different dynamic. Self-isolation is most dangerous for those of us who already struggle to manage their feelings and where being alone is like self-medicating.

Some people use Self-Isolation as a coping mechanism which may seem harmless, but this is generally not the case.

Isolation in some cases will pose a threat to physical health and mental wellbeing. Isolation can easily and quickly lead to depression, which can then make our work seem too much of a challenge, leading us into financial problems and a lack of self-care.  In such cases people may often become preoccupied with thoughts of suicide which, if allowed to continue, could lead to actually turning those thoughts into action.

In a time of forced Self-Isolation a feeling of loneliness can bring back early memories of trauma which will suddenly, once again, seem very real. Traumatic experiences will actually alter the way our brain functions. Also, very importantly, it can cause friction with loved ones or people with whom we are sharing our living space. If we are not observant to this, and understand what is really going on inside us in that moment, it can cause a lasting damage in the relationship we have with those people.

It is difficult to help friends or loved ones at a time when we are forced into Self-Isolation but we can encourage them to accept that help is out there for them.  When trying to help someone for whom we care, we do not need wisdom or experience but, by simply being very present and listening to them can be massively encouraging. Finding the will and self-belief to get help can encourage an individual to let go of  the pain that accompanies these feelings and traumatic memories to achieve a sense of acceptance and learning to adapt to our current situation and circumstances.

Talking and sharing our feelings of loneliness or reliving past traumas can  make us feel very vulnerable but a psychotherapist or counsellor, particularly one who has experienced similar feelings and trauma, will help you feel less alone and enable you to develop a mental immune system to effectively fight and gain victory over these debilitating feelings which can seem very real at the time.

It is not possible to physically see a psychotherapist in the current situation but I have, over a number of years, found video sessions very helpful and these can sometimes have more benefit than both parties being physically present. This first came about by having clients who had to travel for their work and particularly those from the music and film industries who would often be on location filming or touring stadiums worldwide but would not want to interrupt their sessions with me.

If you are struggling at this time get in touch and let me determine whether I can help you.

Richard Gosling

www.sustainable-empowerment.co.uk