Humans are social beings who tend to seek the company of others who are similar to them. Relationships and being a part of a group gives a sense of belonging, stability and helps fulfilling one’s needs. A sense of support does not only develop from the presence of others but also from the perception of the individual that others indeed provide support and help. Social support is important and beneficial especially during ambiguous or difficult times. There are different categories that fall under the term social support (Yule, 1998). Emotional support refers to the requirement that a person is accepted and valued for who he or she is. Practical support refers to financial and material assistance. Cognitive support describes the act of giving advice, opinion and guidance. This form of support helps the person to assimilate new information to existing beliefs and to re-appraise the situation. Receiving support is a dynamic processes in which needs of both sides are being met.
Social support that is perceived as effective and satisfactory increases self-efficacy, (Maris et al., 2000), self-esteem, motivation, perseverance,coping abilities and the perception of control over the environment (Adair et. al., 1998). Close relationships provide a safe haven in which one can reveal one’s inner struggle, vulnerabilities and ask for help. Close, confiding and reciprocal relationships have been linked to greater life satisfaction; fewer feelings of inferiority or inadequacy and less reported loneliness (Antonouci, 1990). Social support promotes psychological well-being.
Even though social support is known as being a beneficial resource to people, many individuals, especially ones who have psychological problems tend to avoid it and isolate themselves. The decision to socially isolate one’s self may have many origins such as fear of rejection and criticism, fear of losing control over negative emotions felt or fear of exposing oneself to re-traumatisation. Sometimes being alone reduces the feeling of being vulnerable and enhances the sense of being more in control.
Avoiding others may a be short term solution for some but gradually the individual will start feeling alone in the world, disconnected from others and more depressed. The lack of support resources will increase the risk of developing and sustaining psychological disorders. Beside support, our relationships also provide us with a sense of meaning, purpose and nourish a person’s spiritual life. Without these components, life will become more meaningless, empty and uninspiring. It is therefore important to reconnect to others, especially in our time of need and to try to improve the quality of life lived.
If you are experiencing psychological problems, try to find a support group. Reach out to others who are in the same situation. Others who share similar experiences, thoughts and feelings may end up being your best source of empathy and support. It is often a great relief to know that you are not the only one who has these symptoms. You may also be able to eventually develop friendships with other people in the group, which will help you to reverse the process of isolation.
If socializing is not a part of your regular behavioural pattern, then you might need to make an extra effort. It may be difficult, uncomfortable and even challenging at first, but it is worth the effort. You can start by making a plan and setting time in your schedule for social activities. Stick to the plan even if your impulse is to cancel and be alone. It can start small, like a 5 minutes telephone call and then gradually build it up. Start by choosing the company of people you know, trust and feel comfortable with. Sometimes it helps to concentrate on the activity rather than on the interaction with the other person (I.e choose going to a movie together). It is also important not to sit at home alone every day. Sometimes the sight of other people and the daily interaction with others i.e in the post office or bank can also provide some sense of socialization. Start with short outings and with each outing increase how long you stay out. As you feel more comfortable, increase the level of your interaction. You can also start a new hobby, a sport which requires the presence of others; participate in church activities or even volunteer in the community. Get together with a group of people and work toward a goal you believe in. It will help you feel a part of something and feel good about yourself for contributing.
Finally, a strong family network will give you support and will strengthen your resilience. Build and nurture your relationships within your family and remember ask for help when you need it.
Adair, J. G., Belanger, D., & Dion, K. L.(1998). Advances in Psychological Sciences. Sussex: Psychological press.
Antonucci, T. C. (1990). Social support and social relationships. In R. H. Binstock and L. K. George. Handbook for aging and social science. San Diego: Academic press, Inc.
Maris, R. W., Berman, A. L., & Silverman, M. M.(2000). Comprehensive textbook of suicidology. New York: TheGuilford press.
Yule, W. (1998). Post traumatic stress disorders: concepts and therapy. New York: John Wiley & Sons.