Teen lying on a bed, looking at a smartphone, which may indicate feelings of isolation as discussed by Key Healthcare

You might be shocked by how different your child starts behaving in their adolescence. Whereas in the past, your child might have been bursting with energy, now you might have to make an effort to get them outside the house, maybe even their room. It’s like their childlike wonder was replaced by teenage isolation. If you’re wondering what could cause your child to shy away from the world, then keep on reading.

Teenage isolation: The basics

During their formative years, some teenagers are constantly facing social challenges and feeling insecure. When these issues start setting in, teens might be subjected to social isolation. A study at the University of Michigan confirmed that teens have an intense fear of rejection from their peers. The study also suggests that the part of the brain that activates physical pain is also the same one that triggers social rejection. Teens choose to isolate themselves instead of going through humiliating or painful experiences. They see isolation as a way of protecting themselves from traumatic experiences or social anxiety due to a lack of social skills.

Effects of teenage isolation

It is difficult to know how to approach your teen when they’re constantly shutting you out and avoiding interactions with you. However, this should not deter you from trying to help them.
Here are some of the effects of a teenager leading an isolated life:
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • Using or abusing substances.
  • Being depressed and anxious.
  • Stress increase.
  • Lack of interest in life.
  • Neglecting self-care and personal hygiene.
  • Loss of appetite.
Not only does loneliness affect the physical aspects of your teen’s life, but it also disrupts mental functioning. Prevent any detrimental effects from manifesting in your child by taking immediate action.

Teenage isolation: Is your teen just introverted?

Between performing well in school and nurturing relationships in their social circle, teenagers look forward to enjoying their precious alone-time. Your teen can be considered introverted if they prefer to “recharge” by spending time alone rather than with family or friends. Some teens may project extroversion in school to try to fit in, so it is difficult to tell where exactly in the spectrum they might be. Most people are right in the center between introversion and extroversion. It would be helpful to talk to your child about the activities they enjoy and the people they are involved with. Although your teen may be introverted, they still need some connections in their life.
Benefits from connecting with others include:
  • Empathizing with others and avoiding trust issues.
  • Higher functioning immune system.
  • Improvements in cognitive functioning.
  • Fewer feelings of anxiety and depression.
  • Better emotional regulation.
  • A more optimistic mindset.
  • Longer life expectancy.

Teenage isolation and technology

The digital age, although revolutionary, certainly didn’t help with teenagers’ isolation. Virtual connections have substituted real ones. The Internet has become a haven for socially awkward teenagers who can connect with their peers without having to leave their rooms. When the pandemic hit in 2020, staying home and looking at a screen became the norm for socialization among teenagers.

The problem, besides physical inactivity, lies with teens getting addicted to the use of technology and social media. Studies have demonstrated that receiving likes on social media activates dopamine release in the brain. This means that continuous exposure to online interactions can rewire the brain into seeking out instant gratification. Some studies have even found that internet addiction in teens has similar effects as drug addiction.

Teenage isolation and depression

It is crucial to distinguish teenagers depression from the occasional bad mood. Depression induces intense feelings of despair and sadness that can paralyze enough to leave your teen in a sort of catatonic state.

Some of the relevant signs you should look out for in your teen are:
  • Alcohol or drug abuse as coping mechanisms.
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities.
  • Appetite changes, such as not eating regularly or binge eating.
  • Lack of energy.
  • Inconsistent sleeping patterns.
  • Feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and despair.
  • Irritability, frustration, and a sense of worthlessness.
  • Sudden aches and pains.
  • Difficulty focusing on tasks.

As soon as some of these signs start showing in your teen, visit a doctor to get proper teen mental health treatment. Likewise, you might also find our 5 ways on how to get over depression.

Helping your child deal with isolation

Here are some ways for you to improve your teen’s mental health and help them deal with isolation:

Talk to your teen

Be aware of what’s happening in your teen’s life. You can start by inquiring about how they’re doing in school. You can also ask about their hobbies and their social groups. Just remember to be open-minded. Being heard and accepted is something that many teens need but often cannot get. If you provide them with an open platform for sharing their thoughts, you can get an insight into their problems. It is very important to understand your child’s brain.

Encourage them to unplug

Unplugging can promote family bonding as long as the rest of the family leads by example. You can enforce limited screen times by collecting electronic devices during meals. Banning any distractions from the dinner table will encourage verbal communication.

Promote the benefits of extracurricular activities and volunteering

Helping others can be a source of self-satisfaction for your teen, especially if the activity aligns with their beliefs. Try looking for worthwhile, enjoyable volunteering activities. You can even join in to spend time with them while doing something good for the community. A win-win situation for everyone. Aside from checking out local shelters and charitable foundations, you can also encourage your teen to participate in after-school activities such as sports or clubs. Joining a club is an excellent way to connect with peers and practice socialization skills.

Exercise together

One of the ways of nourishing mental health is through exercise. Doing this together can be another form of bonding for you and your teen.
You can go on hikes if your teen prefers the outdoors. The scenic views can provide a relaxing feeling. Otherwise, if they want to stay at home and do something less strenuous, you can both do yoga. Yoga therapy is a form of meditation can help them practice mindfulness and silence their inner turmoil caused by the outside world.

Teenage isolation: The conclusion

It is important to note that teen isolation is not necessarily a bad thing, nor does it last forever. Maybe your child needs to step out for a moment from their overwhelming responsibilities. Or perhaps they are just dealing with some personal issues, and they need to reassess their life. Regardless of what your teen might be going through, know that they can recover and lead a more connected life with your support. If you feel like your teen is depressed, and needs therapy, consider our teen IOP program.  We offer free consultations and have helped hundreds of teens over the years.