Loneliness as a Component of Psychiatric Disorders

Richard Booth, PhD


Medscape General Medicine. 2000;2(2) 

In This Article

The Social Skills Dimension

This model argues that adequate social skills constitute the basis for getting along well with other people in our everyday lives. However, not everyone is socialized in an environment that is conducive to teaching effective interactive strategies, and some people learn quite inappropriate modes of interacting with others. While Bell and Roloff[17] examined interactional competence in the "dating marketplace," Jones[9] has explored the area of social skills as they relate to loneliness perhaps more than most other researchers. Jones and colleagues[18] found that lonely people paid less attention to their partners in dyadic conversations, changed the topic more often, and asked fewer questions about their partners than did nonlonely people, suggesting a lack of interpersonal sensitivity and a tendency to conduct unfocused conversations. Horowitz and coworkers[19] asked people about the types and severity of their interpersonal problems. In 13 social problem areas, lonely people indicated they had more difficulties than nonlonely people. Brennan[20] found that loneliness was related to low social risk-taking coupled with inappropriate demonstration of social skills. Lonely people are frequently cognizant of these limitations and tend to describe themselves as socially or interpersonally incompetent.[9] These feelings and perceptions of inadequacy may not be unlike those seen in the Avoidant Personality Disorder, particularly when one also considers the inhibitory function of the shyness that is often related to loneliness.[21]