Quick Facts

  • Social isolation refers to losing one’s connection to normal social networks
  • Social isolation can occur due to a loss of mobility, unemployment, or health issues
  • It can involve social withdrawal where the individual avoids people and activities that they once enjoyed
  • Social isolation and withdrawal are common after brain injury
  • Social isolation is closely related to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and a sense of less control over one’s life

What does it
look like?

  • Disengaged in previously enjoyed activities
  • Change in emotional response to relationships and social engagements
  • Cancelling appointments, visits, and not returning emails or phone calls

Possible Causes and Complications

Possible causes:

  • Reduced sense of self-worth
  • Reduced tolerance to stimulation (people/environment)
  • Avoidance of uncomfortable situations which may trigger symptoms (e.g. headaches)
  • Changes in personality traits and/or cognitive function due to their brain injury
  • Difficult adjustment to sense of self after injury (old me/new me)
  • Mood related issues (e.g. anxiety and depression)
  • Fear of others not accepting the ‘new me’

Possible complications:

  • Changes to social network, such as a loss of friends or relationships
  • Loneliness
  • Self-medicating with alcohol and drugs
  • Less willing to access rehabilitation supports

What can we do?

  • Look for opportunities where you can engage in activities with one another (e.g. TV, movies)
  • Respect the amount of time an individual is willing to participate in activities before they want to withdraw from the situation
  • Encourage an understanding that rehabilitation is a process and it takes time to adjust
  • Monitor symptoms and contact the treating physician if you become concerned
  • When possible, encourage an activity that reduces isolation
  • Encourage the individual to step out of their comfort zone and get involved with with activities and programs they enjoy
  • Encourage the individual to ask for and accept help
  • Seek counselling and support within the community such as peer support groups

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to replace advice from a medical doctor. Consult a health care provider regarding specific medical concerns or treatment.