What Is Alienation?
Alienation occurs when a person withdraws or becomes
isolated from other people and his or her environment. People who are alienated
will often reject loved ones or society, and feel distant and estranged from
their own emotions.
Alienation is a common human condition that can affect
anyone. There are many potential causes. It is a sociologically and
psychologically complex state. In addition to having social and psychological
implications, alienation can affect health and aggravate existing medical
conditions, both mental and physical.
Types of Alienation
Alienation is a complex and pervasive condition. Sociologist
Melvin Seeman identified five types of alienation that have been used as
starting points for research. They are:
A person believes that his or her actions have no effect on outcomes.
A person is unable understand his or her situation and doesn’t know what to
believe or expect.
A person feels disconnected from social norms or believes that social rules for
behavior have broken down. This might cause the person to believe that socially
unapproved behavior is necessary in order to achieve goals.
A socially isolated person puts low value on the goals and beliefs of his
or her given society. Isolated and detached people may create their own value
Alienated people may feel disconnected from themselves. In such cases, they may
not be able to find activities that are interesting to them.
Alienation is common among adolescents. Teenagers may distrust
adults or the values they were raised with. Teens can often feel isolated from
their parents, teachers, and peer groups. They may feel anxious about their
social skills or physical appearance. Teens can even feel isolated from their
own identity. To a certain extent, this is a normal part of development, as
adolescents struggle to define themselves and learn to think critically about
their place in the world. Adolescent alienation is considered pathological if
it accompanies other disorders, such as a phobia or an antisocial personality
disorder. Alienation can be a common side effect of insecure attachment to a
parent or caregiver in early childhood.
A child can become alienated from one parent, often after
a divorce. As a result of manipulations by one parent, the child will reject
the other parent.
This is not to be confused with the alienation that a
child may feel towards an abusive parent, particularly if the child severs ties
with that parent as an adult.
Work alienation is one of the earliest theories of modern social
alienation. It occurs when a person feels estranged from what they produce in
the workplace. This disconnection may cause dissatisfaction and a feeling of
alienation from others, the environment, and oneself.
What Causes Alienation?
The possible causes of alienation are limited only by the number
of ways someone might be able to feel disconnected from other people, the
environment, or oneself.
Some possible social causes of alienation are:
- divorce or other forms of familial separation
- any significant change of environment, which may
include immigration, starting a new job or school, changing technology, and
other types of environmental complexity
- prejudice, by the individual or by others, such
as racism, sexism, or ethnocentricity
- being bullied and abused
Alienation can also be the result of a mental disability, physical
disability, or illness. Possible health-related causes of alienation include:
- mental health disorders, such as anxiety, obsessive
compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia
- post-traumatic stress disorder
- self-stigma as a result of mental illness
- conditions that cause chronic pain
- any diseases that may cause a person to feel
singled out or disconnected
What Are the Symptoms of Alienation?
Symptoms of alienation can include:
- feelings of helplessness
- the feeling that the world is empty or
- feeling left out of conversations or events
- feeling different or separate from everyone else
- difficulty approaching and speaking with others,
- the inability to feel safe when interacting with
- the refusal to obey rules
- signs of depression, including poor appetite or
overeating, excessive sleep or insomnia, fatigue, lack of self-worth, and
feelings of hopelessness
What Are the Complications of Alienation?
Feeling alienated can lead to many different social and
health-related problems. Social problems that may result from alienation
- drug or alcohol abuse
- criminal activity
- poor school or work performance
Alienation may also affect a person’s mental and physical
health, causing problems such as:
- psychological pain, including anger and depression
- health effects from drug or alcohol abuse
- eating disorders
- attempted suicide
How Is Alienation Treated?
To treat alienation, the cause must be identified and tended
People who experience psychological pain because of
alienation may benefit from seeing a mental health professional. Gaining a
feeling of empowerment may also help a person battle feelings of alienation.
For adolescents, a sense of purpose is an asset, but
searching for that purpose can induce stress. Researchers suggest that parental
support can help adolescents who experience alienation due to feelings of
Research also shows that a strong parent-child relationship
can help a child cope with bullying, another possible cause of alienation during