How extroverts experience loneliness and how to handle it

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By Fournine

Dec 31, 20215 mins

How extroverts experience loneliness and how to handle it

Extroverts are often thought of as the life and soul of the party. They thrive in the company of others and seemingly despair when faced with a lack of social contact.

On the other end of the spectrum are introverts. Those who fall into this category often avoid social interaction. The reason for this is simple: unlike extroverts, introverts typically lose their energy when they are in company and feel revitalised when they are on their own.

It is precisely for this reason that introverts tend to spend more time on their own, while extroverts seek out the company of others.

Though it's natural to assume that because introverts are the ones who are alone most often, they would be more likely to experience loneliness, this is decidedly not the case.

It's important to remember that while introverts can experience loneliness, for the most part, they feel more at peace when there's no one else around.

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As for extroverts, their energy comes from interaction with other people, but when that source of energy is unavailable for whatever reason, it can lead to the individual feeling extremely lonely.

Integrative psychotherapist Gustavo Camilo tells Four Nine: "Extroverts experience loneliness when the frequency of interpersonal contact is disrupted. When loneliness is enforced, they can experience a sudden 'loss' of interpersonal connection, leading to depression."

He adds: "Validation, processing of emotions, feelings, and sensations tend to happen in the presence of the other. Without the other, there is no 'mirror' to reflect these experiences, and this at times can create overwhelming feelings."

Of course, one of the primary reasons that this "interpersonal contact" has been unattainable - to a large extent - for nearly two years now is the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Through the enforcement of lockdowns and social distancing, extroverts the world over have been deprived of interaction with others, and it has left them feeling isolated.

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In fact, Camilo tells us: "During the pandemic, several of my extrovert clients initially experienced high levels of anxiety due to the lack of social interaction."

But it certainly doesn't take a pandemic for an extroverted person to feel lonely. Extroverts may, in theory, thrive when they are around other people, but if their relationships aren't in any way meaningful, they may feel just as lonely as they would on their own.

While it's easy to make the assumption that extroverts are content as long as they're around people, the truth is, friendships that are superficial do not adequately satisfy an extrovert's need for social interaction.

Movies and TV shows, particularly those in the teen and young adult genre, tend to stereotype the brooding, mysterious, quiet characters - the introverts - as being profound enough to reject non-meaningful relationships. Meanwhile, the "popular" outgoing kids - the extroverts - choose their friends based on status as opposed to genuine closeness.

But in reality, both introverts and extroverts seek fulfilling relationships. The main difference is that extroverts could be more at risk of feeling lonely around other people simply because they spend more time with people - including those they do not have meaningful relationships with.

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There are plenty of other reasons why an extrovert might feel lonely. For example, an extrovert who works long or perhaps unsociable hours is less likely to see their friends and family on a regular basis.

Working a long shift can drain anyone of their energy, but if you're someone who craves social interaction and cannot attain it due to work commitments, you may never get an opportunity to replenish your lost energy.

While some people make friends at work, if you happen to work at a more formal company or if your job does not involve much contact with people, there may be little opportunity to quench your need for camaraderie.

Moving to a new city or perhaps even an entirely different country can also be very difficult for extroverted people if they don't know anyone in their new area.

They may have forged meaningful relationships back home, but a Skype call and a few WhatsApp messages here and there aren't going to make up for the lack of contact with their now not-so-nearest and dearest.

A sudden loss of physical contact with people you had previously seen on a regular basis would hit anyone, but particularly extroverts, extremely hard.

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Now, if you, as an extrovert, are at a point in your life where you're lacking meaningful relationships and you're desperately craving them, there's only one thing for it - start proactively seeking them out.

Of course, this could be a little tricky considering we're still in the middle of a pandemic - particularly with the exponential rise of the Omicron variant.

You'll obviously have to work within your particular circumstances and your particular government's guidelines regarding the pandemic, but if you're able to and feel comfortable doing so, try making new connections.

You can do that in a number of ways. For example, you can strike up a conversation with someone at work, and if you feel there is potential for a friendship, ask them if they'd like to grab lunch together in your break.

You could get chatting with one of your neighbours and perhaps even invite them for a drink or a movie if you hit it off.

If these options aren't for you, consider setting up an account on Meetup.com, joining groups related to your interests, and participating in virtual or real-life meetups.

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Perhaps you feel that, at one point, you had meaningful relationships with people but fell out of touch with them. Try reaching out to them and asking if they would like to hang out or catch up on a video call.

You could also try and learn to enjoy your own company by taking up solo hobbies - in fact, Camilo tells Four Nine that he feels it is a "myth" that extroverts cannot "enjoy times of solitude."

He says: "As extroverts are continuously monitoring and being monitored by the other, chosen moments of solitude may bring a growth to their intellectual, spiritual, emotional and creative capacities."

In fact, author Francesca Specter has written a whole book dedicated to the concept of enjoying solitude, coining the term "alonement" to describe the joy of spending time alone. Some solo hobbies you could try out for size include reading, cooking, working out, photography, or even creating your own content on TikTok or YouTube.

Hopefully, you will eventually find a solution that works for you and your particular circumstances. But if your loneliness persists, you might want to think about talking to someone at a support service such as the Samaritans (by calling 116 123), your GP, or a counsellor or therapist.

You can find more information on urgent support for mental health here.

Featured image credit: Tetra Images, LLC / Alamy


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