Why Teens Desire Solitude

In this article, we're going to talk about loneliness and adolescence. We'll explain when a teen's desire for solitude is normal and when it should ring alarm bells.
Why Teens Desire Solitude

Last update: 17 September, 2022

The desire for solitude by teens is natural and even necessary for their psychological development. In fact, it has several positive effects, such as being a good help in reinforcing autonomy, as well as generating a space for them to reflect.

However, personal relationships are also necessary and beneficial during adolescence. In fact, teens need to find a balance between their inner lives and their relationships as this contributes to their mental health.

Loneliness

According to an article written by Carvajal and Caro (2009), loneliness is “an experience known to all human beings” and is  “inherent to the need to belong”. It can also be defined as “a subjective experience of lack of connection with others, both in terms of the quantities of social relationships and their quality”.

In reality, it’s possible to be surrounded by many people and feel deeply alone. Consequently, the feeling of loneliness depends to a great extent on the connection we have with others and on the sense of perceived social support.

unmotivated teenager
The desire for solitude in teens is common.

Teens are more vulnerable to feelings of loneliness

According to Carvajal and Caro, adolescence is also a stage in which we’re especially vulnerable to feelings of unwanted or unsought loneliness. The curious thing is that feelings of loneliness, in one way or another, are a constant in our adult lives, it’s just that somehow we’ve learned to manage them. In fact, we’re not uncomfortable being alone and often even enjoy solitude. 

However, teens are especially sensitive to developing feelings of loneliness compared to other age groups. According to the Sant Joan de Dèu Hospital in Barcelona, different studies, such as one conducted by Goosby et al., 2013, and one by Lodder et al., 2016 suggest that:

  • Between 21 and 70 percent of teens feel lonely sometimes.
  • Between three and 22 percent of adolescents experience loneliness on a regular basis.

In addition, several studies have described how loneliness is a risk factor for mental and physical health.

Although it’s often thought that loneliness is a synonym for the feeling of solitude, loneliness isn’t the same as feeling alone or wishing for loneliness. In this article, we focus on teens’ desire for solitude. It concerns their need to be alone, in search of intimacy and their internal world.

Why do teens desire solitude?

The desire for solitude in teens is common. At this stage, which is full of changes of all kinds (physical, emotional, social), although teens need to connect with others and cultivate their relationships, they also seek moments of solitude. So what’s usually behind their need to be alone?

According to experts, spending time with their thoughts without social distractions can also be restorative, building their confidence and making it easier for them to set boundaries.

How to accompany a teen in their desire for solitude

If your own teen has told you that they need moments to be alone or, they haven’t said it directly, but you sense it, you should make sure you’re there for them. Respect their needs without judging them and make it easy for them to have their moments alone.

Also, make sure you respect their privacy in their day-to-day routine. For instance, knock on their door before entering their room, talk openly with them, and ask if they want to be alone or be with the family.

worried teenager
It’s important to respect teens’ moments of solitude

The benefits of solitude for teens

As we mentioned earlier, solitude has multiple benefits. For this reason, it’s important that teens are able to cultivate it gradually. Here are some examples of the benefits:

  • Solitude allows the teen to think, reflect, and create.
  • It offers a space for them to get to know themselves.
  • It allows them to cultivate their interests and hobbies. In fact, to discover what they like and don’t like.
  • It favors recharging their batteries. After all, social contact and interpersonal relationships are all very well, but they can be overwhelming and exhausting at times.

Teens feel less inhibited when alone

On the other hand, solitude also helps teens discover new interests and ideas without worrying about the opinions of others. This was revealed in a 2006 study, in which researchers concluded that teens feel less inhibited when they’re alone.

Therefore, if your teen wants to be alone, and unless they have a particular problem that’s making them want to be alone (if this is the case, you must find out more), don’t worry. Remember that

“In many moments, their only company will be themselves, and they need to start growing and feel safe in that condition.”

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  • Goosby et al. (2013). Adolescent loneliness and health in early adulthood. Sociology.
  • Larson, R. (2006). The Emergence of Solitude as a Constructive Domain of Experience in Early Adolescence. Child Development. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.1997.tb01927.x
  • Lodder, G. M. A., Goossens, L., Scholte, R. H. J., Engels, R. C. M. E., & Verhagen, M. (2016). Adolescent loneliness and social skills: Agreement and discrepancies between self-, meta-, and peer-evaluations. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 45(12), 2406–2416. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-016-0461-y