The COVID-19 pandemic has had lasting effects on the way society operates. One of the most notable changes is the shift to working from home for many individuals and digital social events via Zoom rather than in-person gatherings. While these changes allow people around the world to connect virtually, there are limitations to this method of socialization.
So how are remote relationships affecting mental health and people with a borderline personality disorder? BPD loneliness is a significant issue in the post-pandemic era.
Isolation’s Effect on Mental Health
Social isolation isn’t always a negative experience. Some people enjoy spending time alone for meditation, relaxation, and mentally recharging. This is especially true for introverted individuals who rely on time by themselves to regain their energy following social activity. However, the pandemic and social distancing guidelines have emphasized social isolation within society, resulting in some negative effects on people’s mental health.
People with persistent depressive disorder (PDD) and borderline personality disorder (BPD) are at an increased risk for prolonged loneliness and isolation, according to a 2020 study. While spending time alone can be a positive experience, there are warning signs that indicate you may be feeling isolated:
- Avoiding social interactions you previously enjoyed
- Canceling plans and feeling relief
- Having limited contact with other people
- Feeling distressed when you’re alone but dreading social interaction
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s possible you’re experiencing a level of isolation that’s harmful to your mental health. Professional support is available for managing conditions like BPD that increase feelings of loneliness.
Physical Distancing and Your Mental Health
As part of the country’s methods for combating COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) consistently encouraged physical distancing guidelines throughout 2020 and 2021. These guidelines were based on the idea that large droplet transmission of COVID-19 was limited to 6 feet, so staying 6 feet away from others would protect you from contracting the disease.
Although these measures were intended for public health protection, they may have had a devastating effect on mental health in the long term. A 2021 study on the impacts of social distancing on the mental health of children and parents found that these protocols could induce fear, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder behaviors.
Another study from August 2020 suggests that social distancing results in a loss of sense of community and presents a risk of increased social rejection. Lack of interaction at schools prevents children from making friends and building social skills. In youth, the lack of socialization also increased instances of anxiety and feelings of isolation.
How Does Physical Distancing Affect BPD Loneliness?
Approximately 1.4% of the U.S. population experiences BPD, and 75% of these people are women. However, there is research suggesting men are just as affected by BPD but are commonly misdiagnosed with PTSD or depression instead. These individuals may have unstable relationships in which they frequently swing between extreme emotions about someone. They also experience real or imagined feelings of isolation.
BPD isolation is a key aspect of the disorder where individuals experience feelings of abandonment and loneliness. When already struggling to maintain and develop social relationships, the need to socialize remotely via Zoom or while distancing may seem like an insurmountable challenge.
People with BPD, no friends or limited social interaction are feeling the effects of physical distancing more significantly than others.
An Epidemic of Loneliness Exacerbated by the Pandemic
While the pandemic affected people all over the world physically, an emotional and mental health epidemic was simultaneously taking place. BPD and isolation are big concerns even as COVID-19 case numbers begin to decline. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, BPD is caused in part by environmental factors and traumatic events.
A report from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2021 found that 36% of Americans felt serious loneliness. This includes 61% of young adults and 51% of women with young children. The pandemic has exacerbated the separation friends, families and school-age children have from their peers in a way that’s potentially harmful to mental health. While social distancing measures are necessary for physical health, the authors of this Harvard report suggest the mental repercussions need to be considered as well.
- Identity-related problems
Social distancing and pandemic lockdowns affect all these areas in some way by limiting interpersonal experiences in a face-to-face setting.
How To Identify Isolation Has Become an Issue
Someone with an avoidant or isolated personality disorder is likely to feel the effect of remote relationships more strongly than the average person. To identify whether your remote communications and relationships are taking a toll on your mental health, consider whether you:
- Spend too much time on social media, creating feelings of isolation or division
- Dread in-person interactions or phone conversations
- Avoid responding to text messages or other forms of digital communication
- Experience anxiety or feelings of distress when spending time alone (Check out our 6 Tips for Overcoming Anxiety That’s Hurting Your Relationships)
Also, ask yourself whether the people you’re attempting to maintain remote relationships with are putting in the same level of effort. If you’re giving time and attention and not receiving it in return, the relationship is unlikely to benefit your mental health. Reciprocity is a critical element of a successful remote friendship, romantic relationship or even professional relationship.
Does This Need To Be Resolved, or Are Some People Just Lone Wolves?
The lone wolf personality type is used to describe someone who has a limited interest in building social relationships and prefers to operate independently. This is seen as unusual because wolves typically prefer to work as a pack, similar to how humans thrive in communities.
One social experiment found that 15% of participants preferred to work individually rather than foster relationships and be part of a team. However, this number represents a minority, suggesting most people aren’t spending time alone by choice. Their isolation is due to the effects of the pandemic and sometimes mental health conditions like borderline personality disorder. Therefore, many individuals require assistance in fostering a sense of community post-pandemic and rebuilding social circles they’ve lost.
Help Is Just a Phone Call Away
Ask yourself: “Am I lonely or isolating myself? Do I need help?” Social isolation is challenging to deal with and overcome. Treatment options like psychotherapy and group therapy can help you develop the tools to cope with these feelings and engage in interpersonal relationships again.
If you’re struggling with anxiety, feelings of fear or OCD due to the pressures of physical distancing guidelines, FHE Health offers services to help manage your condition. Meditation, yoga, medication and cognitive behavioral therapy are just a few options available to you.
At FHE Health, our counselors are ready to take your call 24/7. Start your mental health journey today to combat social isolation and BPD by contacting us at (833) 596-3502.