Lonely or Alone? Teens and Solitary Time – Part 2

Nick gets his window seat
Do you know how to tell if your teen is lonely or depressed? (Photo credit: Qfamily)

In our previous Lonely or Alone? post, we introduced the idea that when our teens seek solitude and spend time alone, it is not always something parents should be concerned about.  There are both healthy and unhealthy reasons that teens separate themselves from their family.  It is common for teens that are shy or introverted to seek more alone time then their more outgoing and extroverted peers and siblings.  Teens also need time on their own just like adults do.  Spending time with other people takes energy and everyone needs downtime to process their own thoughts and let down their emotional guards.

Unfortunately, there are as many unhealthy reasons for teens to separate themselves from others as there are healthy reasons.  For parents, the key is to understand how these are different and when spending time alone can be a warning sign that something else is going on or that their teen is not okay.  To help you understand if your teenager is lonely or just spending time alone, here are the most common unhealthy reasons teens shut other people out.

Outcast and Outsider

Unfortunately, the teen years revolve around social interaction with peers and popularity matters more during these years than at any other time in life.  If your teen is feeling like an outsider, is treated like an outcast, is being bullied, or can’t find a place to fit in, they may be spending so much time alone because of these factors.

These feelings can easily spiral out of control because popularity during the teen years often comes down to who you hang out with.  If you have seen any of those teen movies where the bookish girl becomes popular simply because the popular boy starts paying attention to her, you understand how this works.  The problem is, it also works in the opposite direction.  The more unpopular a teen becomes, the less people will be willing to be seen with them, hang out with them, or be willing to be their friend.

If your teen is lonely because they are a social outcast, you need to help them understand that there is nothing wrong with them and that there are places where they will fit in. You just need to work together to find the people who get them.

Withdrawing From Their Life

Another unhealthy reason teens seek solitary time is when they are extremely unhappy after being betrayed, violated, rejected, or disappointed.  Circumstances may leave your teen feelings anxious, discouraged, guilty, shameful, or like they are a failure.  These extreme feelings can be so overwhelming and intense that the teen withdraws, allowing depression to control their emotional state and seeing their world as a hopeless place.   This creates an environment that has no room for other people and no energy for the kind of social interaction that could combat the negativity.

If your teen is withdrawn and seems to look at life through sad, hopeless glasses, it is time to seek professional help from a mental health professional.  If you have any questions about behavior you see exhibited in your teen, give one of our certified counselors at Doorways a call today. We would love to help!

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