Lonely or Just Alone?

October 28, 2010 Angela McClanahan

There are people who think loneliness and children with psychiatric illness go hand in hand in a vicious circle--a child's illness causes him to withdraw; his withdrawal causes society to retreat from him even further. There are others who define themselves as introverts and insist they are not "mentally ill," they are "just" introverts.

Which came first--the introverted chicken, or the mentally ill egg?lonely1

At Bob's parent/teacher conference last week, his teacher mentioned he still struggles with participating as part of the class. She mentioned examples--he prefers to sit at his desk or in a chair while the rest of the students are in group on the floor; he often likes to sit in a back "quiet corner" to work, rather than at his desk (the desks are grouped in pods of six).

This isn't news to me. I've noticed Bob tends to be a loner. In the past, his violent outbursts scared his peers. Never sure what to expect from Bob, they eventually started to keep their distance. On the other hand, kids seem to gravitate toward him, and understandably so--he is, all parental prejudice aside, a physically attractive kid. He also has a wicked sense of humor and seems to have a sense of knowing about him. Kids may be intimidated by him, but they are also drawn to him.

It isn't just other kids keeping away from Bob--Bob tends to prefer being alone. He has a very low tolerance for what he considers ignorance. His peers irritate him. Where his classmates might gravitate toward him, Bob gravitates toward older boys. Unfortunately, despite his intelligence and sophisticated sense of humor, Bob is still relatively immature, a turn-off for older kids.

Is Bob alone because of his psychiatric illnesses (bipolar disorder and ADHD), or would he be lonely without them? Is he lonely at all, or does he prefer his own company to that of anyone else?

lonely2I think the answer is compound. There are facets of Bob's illness that cause him to withdraw from others and vice versa. At times, that mutual withdrawal can cause him to feel lonely. However, other parts of Bob's personality don't mesh with a high volume of social interaction, causing him to crave solitude.

As he grows older, I can see him already coming to terms with these traits in himself. He's already figured out when to suck it up and join the group (i.e., at school) and when he can gracefully bow out of it. He's learning how to let people in while keeping them at a safe arm's length. Hopefully he'll continue to hone these skills as he matures, and be able to find a balance.

APA Reference
McClanahan, A. (2010, October 28). Lonely or Just Alone?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 17 from

Author: Angela McClanahan

November, 12 2010 at 7:44 am

I have a 17yo daughter with ADD. Her kindergarden and first grade were awful for her. She was in an open classroom and not on medication. She
requested a classroom with walls and a door and has excelled in school
academically but dislikes the noise and confusion in the classrooms.
She states that she is also a loner, an introvert and quickly spots others that have the same traits. She loves art, science, reading, and is addicted to computer games and reading. Her social life has slightly increased this year. We have been blessed.

October, 29 2010 at 3:07 am

Like you, I have a son similar to Bob. My son has ADHD/FAE/RAD. The odds of him being dx'd with BP are very high. I also have similar dx's. What you wrote in your blog I get in very many ways- due to my son and also from myself, from memories as a child and living with it all as an adult.
As I watch my son grow over the years things improved. There is hope. There will always be the 'topic' that all the other family members would rather avoid. It is very difficult to stand alone for him/I both. He loves it that I 'understand him'.
You are a great mom. You see him in a light that is hard for others to see. It is not an easy life at times but there is joy. When there is joy- run with it and fly it like a kite! :)

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