Photo By Khaled Reese via PEXELS
Once in a while, people tend to seek solitude and take a break from their rumbling social lives, but as the adage goes, too much of everything is poisonous.Past evidence from researchers has suggested that too much solitude can be unhealthy and the psychological effects of this can last a lifetime.
In fact, social withdrawal is a common symptom for people who have anxiety problems.Causes of social withdrawal vary from person to another, and there could be a myriad of causes.Because social relationships are an essential aspect of human life, the effects of social withdrawal have to be fully studied and understood.
Researchers from Buffalo University, armed with past theory and research on the effects of social withdrawal, conducted a study to investigate the relationship among three subtypes of social withdrawal, namely shyness, avoidance, and unsociability.They are related to the Behavioral Approach System and the Behavioral Inhibition System.
The Behavioral Approach System acts as a regulatory tool on one's approach behaviors and desires while the Behavioral Inhibition System regulates avoidant behaviors and desires.The researchers were also interested in whether these three withdrawal subtypes are uniquely related to different theoretically inclined outcomes during emerging adulthood.This developmental period has been a gray area for researchers, receiving very little empirical analysis from studies.
Shyness is the type of withdrawal associated with people who withdraw out of fear or anxiety.Avoidance is associated with people who appear to withdraw because they don't like social interaction.However, some people withdraw due to their preference for solitude which is unrelated to any fearful preferences they might have.These persons enjoy their own time, say, reading or working on their gadgets.Unsociability is this form of withdrawal, and past research has shown it's unrelated to negative outcomes.
The study was conducted on 295 participants who were all emerging adults.They were urged to complete a self-report on measures assessing different motivations for social withdrawal.The factors were aggression, anxiety sensitivity, creativity, social anhedonia and BAS/BIS.The researchers used a structural equation model to analyze the data.
The study's findings challenged theoretical models which assume that specific and varying combinations of BIS and BAS point to different withdrawal subtypes.There was also revelations on new evidence of specific and non-specific associations, including the evidence of a potential benefit associated with unsociability- creativity.
The findings were published in the journal, Personality and Individual Differences, and it was the first study on social withdrawal to have a positive outcome.Julie Bowker, an associate professor and lead author of the study, said: "When people think about the costs associated with social withdrawal often they adopt a developmental perspective." She also claims that during childhood and adolescence, the idea is that if you are removing yourself too much from your peer, then you are missing out on positive interactions like receiving social support, developing social skills and other benefits of interacting with your peers. "This may be why there has been such an emphasis on the negative effects of avoiding and withdrawing from peers," says Bowker.
Photo By Wouter de Jong via PEXELS
The study also linked shyness and avoidance to creativity, but Bowker expressed her fears that shy and avoidant individuals are at a disadvantageous position to use their solitude time happily and productively maybe due to the distractions caused by their negative cognitions and fears.Overlaps in the types of social withdrawal were also found.Some people may be high on shyness but may also have some unsociability tendencies.However, results from the study show that when the research controls for all the subtypes, the three types of social withdrawal are related in a different way to the outcomes.Unsociability was not only found to relate positively to creativity, but other findings also showed that there were other special associations such as a positive link between shyness and anxiety sensitivity.
Bowker added, "Over the years, unsociability has been characterized as a relatively benign form of social withdrawal.But, with the new findings linking it to creativity, we think unsociability may be better characterized as a potentially beneficial form of social withdrawal."
This research has helped the understanding of those people who prefer to spend time with themselves and shows that there is an upside to social withdrawal.Bowker's study has helped to understand some of the actions that some scholars have undertaken, from Thoreau's retreat to Walden to Thomas Merton's working as a cloistered monk.It has shown that there is a benefit in withdrawing to nature or reconnecting to the self, which had not been something that had been well investigated.
Bowker concluded that although unsociable youth spend more time alone than with others, we know that they spend more time with peers.They are not antisocial. "They don't initiate interaction but also don't appear to turn down social invitations from peers.Therefore, they may get just enough peer interaction so that when they are alone, they are able to enjoy that solitude.They're able to think creatively and develop new ideas – like an artist in a studio or the academic in his/her office," she added.