Social interaction is critical to one’s well being, but some individuals withdraw from society preferring an isolated existence. Various situations might cause someone to become reclusive, but living a solitary life can be detrimental to their health.
What is a Recluse?
Do you remember that old man who used to live down the street when you were growing up? He peeked out the window when you rode your bike near his home, but he rarely came out of the house? He probably had a reclusive personality and everyone might have referred to him as a hermit.
You might know someone right now behaving just like that old man in your past. They might pass on party invitations, and stay to themselves on the weekends. While a little “alone” time is good for everyone, too much might indicate a problem. These individuals may have become a recluse to escape attention, because they become anxious in a crowd or fear judgment by others. They might choose to be a loner to hide an addiction, because of a phobia or even because of Post Traumatic Stress.
Reclusiveness and Mental Health
Friends celebrate life’s victories with us as well as help us weather life’s storms. Someone who is reclusive rarely has many friends, which MayoClinic.com reports can erode mental health. Their article, “Friendships: Enrich your life and improve your health” provides a list of benefits to forming friendships, including therapeutic conversation, boosting happiness, improving self-worth, and reducing stress. Personal connections are powerful anti-depressants, and depression and anxiety are often found in someone with reclusive tendencies.
Physical Health of a Hermit-type Person
Someone void of friends may develop unhealthy eating or drinking habits, ignore health issues and become depressed. Without friends to encourage him to find solutions, someone reclusive may ignore issues until they develop into serious conditions beyond repair.
The Health Habits website talks about reclusive behavior in their article “Loneliness worse for your heath than smoking and obesity.” In the article, they write about Dr. Cacioppo, a distinguished professor at the University of Chicago, who began studying a field they called “social neuroscience” over twenty years ago. His studies showed that a life of solitude can lead to a host of health issues in addition to mental problems like depression and sadness. Cacioppo’s research uncovered the fact that social isolation or “loneliness” disrupts a person’s perceptions about life, how they behave and their physical well being, and can even lead to early death. Physical health issues from reclusiveness can include high blood pressure, increased stress levels, weakened immune system, insomnia, food cravings and addictions
Neil Diamond may have made being a “Solitary Man” sound romantic and honorable but, in reality, it is a self-imposed prison with a life sentence. If you know someone who has become reclusive and has withdrawn from life into their shell, find a way to interact and become their friend. Even one friendship can help improve their chances for a longer life.
Wikipedia: John Cacioppo
Health Habits website