Teen Space

Why it’s so easy to feel alone

Lonely university student sitting apart from other students
Photo: © Wavebreak Media Ltd / 123RF Stock Photo

Shania stood in the corner of the room, which may have had 35 children, all her age. A dozen girls were dancing to some Bollywood hit, a few were discussing an upcoming sports event, some boys were focused on food, many others twiddled around with their phones and a handful were absorbed in a movie playing on a distant screen. This was a friend’s birthday party and these 15-year-olds had met up for the evening. It was uncanny that Shania felt like she did not belong. There were enough activities to engage anyone; sufficient people to connect with, a fun environment to rejoice in, but she clearly felt she didn’t fit. It was uncomfortable. Maybe nobody else noticed her awkwardness as they were too engrossed within themselves. But she was there in the group of 35. Alone.

Have you ever endured any of this?

  • Discomfort while talking to your own friends?
  • Feeling that nobody, no one understands you?
  • Inability to talk openly in social situations?
  • Sensing that nothing anyone says is interesting?
  • Feeling detached, dissociated or disconnected?

I would not be surprised to know that several of us feel this way. We do have friends, family, neighbours, classmates, teachers, acquaintances, sport buddies; at least a hundred different people whom we interact with every day. Yet we feel out of place. And it’s not a nice feeling. So what is it that really glues us to this world and the people in it? Why do we sometimes feel like aliens on this very planet, outsiders in our own home and strangers among our own friends?

Feeling connected

Findings from the study of brains of rodents to highly evolved animals like human beings, have affirmed that we all like to feel connected to those around us. We just need to be linked to other human beings. Brain research shows that the moment we perform an activity alone, immediately the social part of our brain gets activated to ascertain how it would be to do this activity socially. Our brain just doesn’t want us to be alone!

Have you noticed that when you get a new haircut you wonder if your friends will like it? Or when you get your report card you think about how your folks would feel about your performance? Or when you may have done something wrong and nobody’s seen you, you still wonder what would happen if you were caught?

Our brain chemicals help direct these social bonds. The more we spend time with people, communicate with them, and have pleasurable interactions; greater volumes of happiness and connectivity chemicals are released and we build more and more networks just by making a start.

We’re more social than we realize.

Feeling disconnected

Now that we know we’re chemically-run creatures and our brain substances help make social grids within our minds, a derangement in these would mess up this web and allow us to feel disconnected. Maybe an anxious social interaction at some point in the past could have made us insecure about people’s intentions. So we retain that memory and cease to feel good even with friends who might have our best interests. We begin to think negative and release more negativity and stress chemicals in social situations.

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Dr Shefali Batra is a Psychiatrist and Mindfulness Coach. Connect with her on Instagram @drshefalibatra and read more about her work at drshefalibatra.com.

Dr Shefali Batra

Dr Shefali Batra is a Psychiatrist and Mindfulness Coach. Connect with her on Instagram @drshefalibatra and read more about her work at drshefalibatra.com.