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Solitude is a state of seclusion or isolation, i.e., lack of contact with people.

It
may stem from bad relationships, loss of loved ones, deliberate
choice, infectious disease, mental disorders, neurological disorders or
circumstances of employment or situation (see castaway).

Short-term solitude is often valued as a time when one may work, think or
rest without being disturbed. It may be desired for the sake of privacy.

A distinction has been made between solitude and loneliness. In this sense,
these two words refer, respectively, to the joy and the pain of being
alone.[1][2][3][4]

Contents

 1Health effects

 2Psychological effects

 2.1Positive effects

 2.2Negative effects

 3Other uses

 3.1As pleasure

 3.2As punishment

 3.3As treatment

 4See also

 5References

 6External links

Health effects[edit]
Symptoms from complete isolation, called sensory deprivation, often
include anxiety, sensory illusions, or even distortions of time and perception.
However, this is the case when there is no stimulation of the sensory
systems at all, and not only lack of contact with people. Thus, by having other
things to keep one's mind busy, this is avoided.[5]

Still, long-term solitude is often seen as undesirable,


causing loneliness or reclusion resulting from inability to establish relationships.
Furthermore, it might even lead to clinical depression. However, for some
people, solitude is not depressing. Still others (e.g. monks) regard long-term
solitude as a means of spiritual enlightenment. Indeed, marooned people have
been left in solitude for years without any report of psychological symptoms
afterwards.[citation needed]

Enforced loneliness (solitary confinement) has been a punishment method


throughout history. It is often considered a form of torture. In contrast, some
psychological conditions (such as schizophrenia[6] and schizoid personality
disorder) are strongly linked to a tendency to seek solitude. In animal
experiments, solitude has been shown to cause psychosis.[dubious – discuss]

Emotional isolation is a state of isolation where one has a


well-functioning social network but still feels emotionally separated from
others.[citation needed]

In the last few years, however, researchers like Robert J. Coplan and Julie C.
Bowker have bucked the trend that solitary practices and solitude are
inherently dysfunctional and undesirable. In their groundbreaking work The
Handbook of Solitude, the authors note how solitude can allow for
enhancements in self-esteem, generates clarity, and can be highly
therapeutic.[7] In the edited work, Coplan and Bowker invite not only fellow
psychology colleagues to chime in on this issue, but they also invite a variety of
other faculty from different disciplines to address the issue. Arguably the most
interesting of these alternative views comes from Fong's chapter on how
solitude is more than just a personal trajectory for one to take inventory on
life; it also yields a variety of important sociological cues that allow the
protagonist to navigate through society, even highly politicized societies.[8] In
the process, political prisoners in solitary confinement were examined to see
how they concluded their views on society. Thus Fong, Coplan, and Bowker
conclude that a person's experienced solitude generates immanent and
personal content as well as collective and sociological content, depending on
context.

Psychological effects[edit]
Breslover Hasid practicing hitbodedut.

There are both positive and negative psychological effects of solitude. Much of
the time, these effects and the longevity is determined by the amount of time
a person spends in isolation.[9] The positive effects can range anywhere from
more freedom to increased spirituality,[10] while the negative effects are
socially depriving and may trigger the onset of mental illness.[11] While
positive solitude is often desired, negative solitude is often involuntary or
undesired at the time it occurs.[12]

Positive effects[edit]
There are many benefits to spending time alone. Freedom is considered to be
one of the benefits of solitude; the constraints of others will not have any effect
on a person who is spending time in solitude, therefore giving the person more
latitude in their actions. With increased freedom, a person’s choices are less
likely to be affected by exchanges with others.[10]

A person's creativity can be sparked when given freedom. Solitude can increase
freedom and moreover, freedom from distractions has the potential to spark
creativity. In 1994, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi found that
adolescents who cannot bear to be alone often stop enhancing creative
talents.[10]
Another proven benefit to time given in solitude is the development of self.
When a person spends time in solitude from others, they may experience
changes to their self-concept. This can also help a person to form or discover
their identity without any outside distractions. Solitude also provides time for
contemplation, growth in personal spirituality, and self-examination. In these
situations, loneliness can be avoided as long as the person in solitude knows
that they have meaningful relations with others.[10]

Solitude can be positively used to pray: the devotion of the Rosary helps the
person to pray with a feeling of being accompanied by Jesus and the Virgin
Mary in the contemplation of the mysteries of their life with a great sense of
peace; the Rosary fills with prayer the days of many a contemplative, or keeps
company with the sick and the elderly.[13]

Negative effects[edit]
Too much solitude is not always considered beneficial. Many of the negative
effects have been observed in prisoners. Often, prisoners spend extensive time
in solitude, where their behavior may worsen.[11] Solitude can trigger
physiological responses that increase health risks.[14]

Negative effects of solitude may also depend on age. Elementary age school
children who experience frequent solitude may react negatively.[15] This is
largely because, often, solitude at this age is not something chosen by the child.
Solitude in elementary-age children may occur when they are unsure of how
to interact socially with others so they prefer to be alone, causing shyness or
social rejection.

While teenagers are more likely to feel lonely or unhappy when not around
others, they are also more likely to have a more enjoyable experience with
others if they have had time alone first. However, teenagers who frequently
spend time alone do not have as good a global adjustment as those who
balance their time of solitude with their social time.[15]

Other uses[edit]
As pleasure[edit]
Howard Pyle's 19th century illustration of a marooned pirate.

Solitude does not necessarily entail feelings of loneliness, and in fact may, for
those who choose it with deliberate intent, be one's sole source of genuine
pleasure. For example, in religious contexts, some saints preferred silence and
found immense pleasure in their perceived uniformity with God. Solitude is a
state that can be positively modified utilizing it for prayer allowing to "be
alone with ourselves and with God, to put ourselves in listening to his will, but
also of what moves in our hearts, let purify our relationships; solitude and
silence thus become spaces inhabited by God, and ability to recover ourselves
and grow in humanity. "[16] The Catholic devotion of the Holy Rosary includes
the most beautiful prayers to meditate in solitude the mysteries of Jesus and
Virgin Mary's life, feeling in Their company; it’s a devotion to which is
associated the divine grace and that causes an effective change of the
emotional and spiritual state.[citation needed]

The Buddha attained enlightenment through uses of meditation, deprived of


sensory input, bodily necessities, and external desires, including social
interaction. The context of solitude is attainment of pleasure from within, but
this does not necessitate complete detachment from the external world.
Solitude and the Sea, a theme by Jacques Bodin

This is well demonstrated in the writings of Edward Abbey with particular


regard to Desert Solitaire where solitude focused only on isolation from other
people allows for a more complete connection to the external world, as in the
absence of human interaction the natural world itself takes on the role of the
companion. In this context, the individual seeking solitude does so not strictly
for personal gain or introspection, though this is often an unavoidable outcome,
but instead in an attempt to gain an understanding of the natural world as
entirely removed from the human perspective as possible, a state of mind
much more readily attained in the complete absence of outside human
presence. In psychology, introverted individuals may require spending time
away from people to recharge. Those who are simply socially apathetic might
find it a pleasurable environment in which to occupy oneself with solitary
tasks.

As punishment[edit]
Isolation in the form of solitary confinement is a punishment or precaution
used in many countries throughout the world for prisoners accused of serious
crimes, those who may be at risk in the prison population, those who may
commit suicide, or those unable to participate in the prison population due to
sickness or injury. Research has found that solitary confinement does not deter
inmates from committing further violence in prison.[17]

As treatment[edit]
Psychiatric institutions may institute full or partial isolation for certain
patients, particularly the violent or subversive, in order to address their
particular needs and to protect the rest of the recovering population from
their influence.