Philosophy and Psychology mixed together

Being alone, or ostracized, is a fear most humans share in one form or another and a new Study from Purdue University the effects of ostracism shows that the pain of being alone leaves deeper and more long-lasting scars than a physical injury.

Often underestimated

Usually ostracism, when it is not self-imposed, is a relatively invisible form of bullying which, due to the fact it leaves no scars or even bruises, is largely underestimated. Being ostracized by your friends, your co-workers or even your family can lead to depression and according to a psychological sciences professor, Kipling D. Williams, people in general and clinicians in particular need to be made aware of this to counteract depression

Man sitting alone

Picture by JB London - Flick

When someone is being ignored or shunned the part of the brain that registers physical injury, the dorsal anterior cortex, also registers this social pain. There are three stages of ostracism:

  • Initial act (being excluded)
  • Coping
  • Resignation

The reason for why it hurts to be excluded is because it threatens your basic human needs such as self-esteem and belonging. Research has shown repeatedly that even if you were excluded for a short time or even by a stranger the reactions are strong and possibly harmful.

In a computer game designed by Williams he has showed that even so little as two or three minutes of being excluded leaves the subject with lingering negative feelings. This study was repeated with over 5000 people and the effects are consistent regardless of the participants personality-type.

The study also showed that people cope in different ways such as mimicking, obeying orders and generally being compliant to the groups needs and views. If the subjects feel that there is little hope of being included they might even resort to aggressive behaviors When enough time has passed people might end up in the third stage, resignation.

At this stage people are generally more aggressive towards others and also less helpful. Anger and sadness are also increased and long-term ostracism can lead to depression, alienation and a feeling of being unworthy.

People who have been ostracized for a long time might seek to belong in more radical groups and this can in turn lead to negative consequences.


I don’t think anyone finds it odd that being ostracized is actually hurtful but the effects, or potential effects, caught me by surprise. That it could lead to sadness is no surprise but so far as depression? That is scary.


Comments on: "Effects of being alone are painful and long-lasting" (2)

  1. The feeling of not being accepted, is far more overwhelming than being insulted or physical attacked. As it is easier to question an attack or insult.

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