Social Isolation in Adolescents

Social isolation in adolescents need not be a problem in the first instance, but it should be closely monitored. Learn more.
Social Isolation in Adolescents
Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 23 February, 2023

At a time when young people seek to reaffirm their identity and personality, sometimes adults are too quick to let go of their hands. This is how we come to naturalize the social isolation of adolescents. But when should we pay attention to it and when does it become a risk factor? Let’s take a look at some clues.

What we should know about social isolation in adolescents

First of all, it’s important that we try to understand what adolescence is. It’s a developmental stage where identity and autonomy are the main issues at stake. Who am I? What and I like? How do I want to be? These are some of the questions that haunt the heads of adolescents. Here are some of the causes that help to explain their social isolation.

Physical and emotional changes

As happens to us adults, teenagers sometimes choose social isolation in the face of the emotional turmoil they’re going through. Often, they feel happy, sad, powerful, and small all in a matter of hours. Dealing with these changes is complex, so they prefer to withdraw into their world, usually in their room, where they feel safe.

A teenager lying on a couch looking at her phone.
In general, when going through a stage full of changes, uncertainty, and insecurity, the response of adolescents is isolation.

Problems in their relationships

On the other hand, the decision to isolate sometimes has to do with something that’s happening in their relationships. For example, they don’t feel comfortable with their group of friends, they’re the victim of bullying at school, or they’re going through a breakup, among others. Some of these situations deserve some kind of intervention, while others have more to do with letting time pass and offering to talk if they need to.

Low self-esteem

In other cases, isolation also has to do with the adolescent’s self-concept, that is, with the way they feel about themself. Adolescence is also a time marked by many noticeable physical changes that can affect security and self-esteem.


Finally, there’s a social factor that increasingly influences the habits of adolescents: The use of technology and the new relationships that are shaped by it. While it can be an ally, it can also make face-to-face encounters difficult, as adolescents resolve many activities virtually.

This can often lead them to feel uncomfortable or unsure of how they should relate in face-to-face encounters. Digital norms are often very different from real ones. Undoubtedly, this is a predictable consequence, as social skills also need to be learned, trained, and tested.

What can we do about social isolation in adolescents?

A teenage girl looking out the window looking sad.
Prolonged situations of social isolation in adolescents are considered a risk factor. That is, they can lead to anxiety, distress, discomfort, or depression, so it’s important to monitor the situation.

It’s worth noting that isolation doesn’t always have to be a problem. Before defining it as such, it’s useful to observe to what extent it’s something that’s temporary or a situation that causes discomfort in the adolescent.

In this regard, observing that the young person would like to socialize, but doesn’t do so because they feel shy is one thing. But noting that they prefer to be alone because they need to relax is another. In any case, before considering it as a sign of alarm, it would be better to follow up. Some measures that you can take into account are the following:

  • Identify the causes and recognize whether it’s a desired situation or not. In this regard, you must broaden our field of observation. It’s not only a matter of seeing how they behave at home, but also what may be happening at school or in other areas.
  • Suggest that the adolescent participate in different activities. For example, joining a sports club, taking language classes, or volunteering. If they have difficulty socializing, you can suggest that they invite a friend or cousin to participate in the proposal. If it’s still difficult to make progress, you can be the one to accompany them at least the first few times.
  • Talk to them. Getting closer, sharing, asking them about their emotions, and telling them about our experiences as teenagers is a good option. Even though we often think they’re running away from us, we’re still their main support figures. It’s best to leave the door open for dialogue and listening.
  • Avoid questioning and persecutory dynamics. In this way, far from generating a climate of trust, adolescents feel that we’re invading them.

Virtual relationships don’t compensate for real relationships

Adolescence is also characterized by the strong presence of technology. Young people take refuge for a long time in social networks, videos, and streamings of their favorite characters. Sometimes they even have a very active social life, but in a 2.0 format.

However, we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that virtual relationships are resolved on a different plane than face-to-face relationships. In face-to-face interactions, other skills are brought into play and interpersonal and psychosocial competencies are developed that end up defining our identity and self-esteem, among other things.

That’s why it’s important to know that technology must have a time and a space. We shouldn’t treat it like an enemy, but we should regulate its use.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Morey, A. G., Cabrera, R. C., Quintana, D. P., & Cruz, J. A. (2020). Aislamiento físico en los hogares a causa de la COVID-19: efectos psicológicos sobre niños y adolescentes cubanos. Revista cubana de psicología2(2), 51-68.
  • Contini De González, E. Norma, Coronel, Claudia Paola, Caballero, Silvina Valeria y Lacunza, Ana Betina (2012). Soledad y aislamiento en adolescentes: evaluación de niveles de riesgo. IV Congreso
    Internacional de Investigación y Práctica Profesional en Psicología XIX Jornadas de Investigación VIII Encuentro de Investigadores en Psicología del MERCOSUR. Facultad de Psicología – Universidad de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires.
  • Tapia, María Lourdes; Fiorentino, María Teresa; Correché, María Susana Soledad y tendencia al aislamiento en estudiantes adolescentes. Su relación con el autoconcepto. Fundamentos en Humanidades, vol. IV, núm. 7-8, 2003, pp. 163-172 Universidad Nacional de San Luis San Luis, Argentina.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.