Coping Strategies: Solitude vs Isolation

This week is a bit crazy for me.  I hate Halloween.  So do my alters.  It brings back terrible memories and causes all kinds of stress.  So we decided to post early just in case something distracts us from the usual routine.

What is Solitude?

My alters and I consider solitude an essential part of our self-care.  It is dedicated personal time (or quiet time) every day where all of us get to be alone at home or in a safe place to recharge and rest.  The environment is low stimulation, and we get to choose to be together or by ourselves in our safe spaces.  We can sleep the whole time, cook, bake, knit, etc.  But, essentially, it is our body/self away from other people and living beings and able to relax any way we want by choice.  And we stay connected via telephone, email, text messaging, social media, etc.  And if we want to go out, we do.  Another part of solitude comes from being busy at work and wanting to focus on the tasks at hand so do not interact with others as much.  Finally, sometimes we are busy taking care of our inside world when we are flooded.  On those occasions, we turn inward for short periods of time to take care of ourselves and each other and seem distracted or distant from everyone else.

What is Isolation?

Isolation for us is deliberately avoiding people, relationships, interaction with others because of fear (even if the fear is not recognizable at the time).  It means staying closed off from people and connections instead of making friends or being active in ways that we used to enjoy.  It means not reaching out or asking for help because that stops us from ever being rejected or failing or being hurt again.  Isolation means staying at home and not doing anything fun or enjoyable; not relaxing or recharging; not practicing self-care.  But mostly, Isolation means hiding from life.  Because if we avoid being part of life, we can’t fail again.

Why is one Positive and the other Negative?  How can one tell?

My therapist says I can tell if solitude or isolation are helpful if I feel better after practicing it.  And harmful if I feel more anxious or frustrated with myself and my environment because I am letting my past keep me from doing what I want to do.

Solitude is essential because it gives me time with my alters and by myself – time for us to not have to hide from the rest of  the world – so we can act as we please and switch as often as we like and hold conversations with each other without having strangers look at us like we’re crazy for having conversations with invisible people.

Sometimes solitude slips into isolation because I am mildly agoraphobic and cannot leave my residence when I have intense panic attacks, flashbacks, body memories, or triggers going on inside.  The safest thing for me to do is stay inside and practice self-care.  One day or one weekend by choice is fine.  3 days or 4 days because I am afraid to be seen even though I am in a safe neighborhood but want to go out is a form of isolation.  This usually occurs during holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving, etc.


A lot of self reflection and thought helped me understand that I have an introverted personality.  This means I get my energy by having dedicated alone time at regular intervals – for me at least an hour every day.  This does not mean I prefer not to be around people or parties or events.  It doesn’t mean I am not talkative or friendly or a people person or shy.  it does mean I prefer small groups to large crowds; interesting and deep conversations to chitchat and small talk; being around people I know and feel safe with instead of a crowd of strangers.  It also means I like being alone as much as I like being around people – sometimes more than I like being around people.

Being a trauma survivor has made me reserved and skeptical of people; not comfortable in strange environments or crowds of people; feel unsafe around strangers or anyone who sets of my internal alarms; and need to not feel trapped anywhere ever.  It has taught me to appreciate having a safe space or haven to go home to – one that is completely mine and under my control so I don’t have to worry about enemies intruding on my boundaries and taking what’s mine.

The line between isolation and solitude can be thin sometimes.  But it exists.  And when I go too far in one direction or another, my friends and support network are around to help pull me out.

Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, I honestly believe everyone can use a little personal time to take care of themselves.