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The Isolation Dilemma

hideWhen faced with adversity, many of us find ourselves daunted.  We might feel depressed and hopeless.  And when we feel that way, we certainly aren’t in the mood for company.

But the more we isolate, the harder it is to pull out of the negative spiral in which we’ve find ourselves, and the harder it is to generate solutions.  There, in a nutshell, is the isolation dilemma.It can be depressing to face something that we don’t feel up to tackling.  We might feel weak, or ashamed.  And depression itself isn’t good for the self-esteem.

Feelings of shame make people want to hide.  We don’t want others to see how poorly we’re doing.  We might imagine they’ll blame us, as we’re very likely blaming ourselves.  It becomes a vicious cycle, where we’re trapped with our own low opinion of ourselves, and from that state, it’s difficult to return to a baseline of resourcefulness.

It’s very important to distinguish between our feelings and what is.  What I mean is, when we’re feeling low, we assume that we’re seeing things as they really are.  But in fact, it may be more that we’re seeing things as we fear we are.  We see the world as a reflection of our own low mood.

By recognizing that we might not be seeing the whole picture–by allowing for the possibility that our feelings are not an accurate reflection–we open up the space to talk to others.  Choosing someone who is compassionate toward us (maybe someone who’s felt similarly low at times in their own lives) can help.  It might feel like an emotional risk to be vulnerable and expose ourselves, but the bigger risk is actually hibernation.

By remaining isolated, we intensify the depression/shame spiral.  It will seem more and more real to us, harder to defend against.  We can become helpless before our own hopelessness.

Talking to a therapist and/or considering medication can also be useful, especially if you’re feeling an absence of pleasurable feelings, having changes in sleep and appetite, and deeply questioning your self-worth.  Of course, suicidal thoughts are an ultimate red flag that you need treatment.

Reconnecting with our more hopeful selves–through other people–can be crucial to healing.

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The Isolation Dilemma

Holly Brown, LMFT

Holly Brown is a marriage and family therapist in the San Francisco Bay area. She has a private practice in Alameda ( ). She is also a novelist ( Her latest is HOW FAR SHE'S COME, a workplace thriller which received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly: "This provocative tale will resonate with many in the era of the #MeToo movement."

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APA Reference
Brown, H. (2013). The Isolation Dilemma. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 18 Aug 2013
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