Mental illness and social dysfunction

When suffering from a mental illness, an individual will face many struggles in their day-to-day life, from not being able to get out of bed to problems with their personal relationships, this is known as dysfunction. Social dysfunction refers to an individual’s inability to maintain relationships, act appropriately in social situations, and adapt to different social contexts (Porcelli et al., 2019).

people walking on grey concrete floor during daytime

The ability to function socially is crucial for our wellbeing and development, and lack of it has proven to have negative effects on some individuals’ physical health (Porcelli et al., 2020). Psychological disorders affect this social function and provide new issues for someone who is suffering. To be more specific, in those with depression and anxiety, social dysfunction is usually a common symptom, and it may affect an individual's ability to leave their house or even their bed, due to fears of having to interact with others or not being able to act in a socially acceptable way. Those with depression will simply not have the energy to speak to others, and anxiety suffers will most likely have trouble with thinking that they are going to say the wrong thing, or burdened by thoughts that no one even wants them there in the first place. Those with schizophrenia have been shown to portray higher levels of shyness than those without, and have more trouble holding conversations with others (Goldberg & Schmidt, 2001). This can in turn affect school or work life. To support this, unemployed patients with schizophrenia portrayed higher levels of social dysfunction than patients with schizophrenia who were employed (Porcelli et al., 2020).

Whilst social dysfunction can impact many areas of someone’s life, it is reversable, and with treatment for the mental illness that an individual is suffering from, their ability to socialise and be around others will naturally improve.

Porcelli, S., Van Der Wee, N., van der Werff, S., Aghajani, M., Glennon, J. C., van Heukelum, S., ... & Serretti, A. (2019). Social brain, social dysfunction and social withdrawal. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews97, 10-33

Porcelli, S., Kasper, S., Zohar, J., Souery, D., Montgomery, S., & Ferentinos, P. et al. (2020). Social dysfunction in mood disorders and schizophrenia: Clinical modulators in four independent samples. Progress In Neuro-Psychopharmacology And Biological Psychiatry99, 109835.

Goldberg, J., & Schmidt, L. (2001). Shyness, sociability, and social dysfunction in schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Research48(2-3), 343-349.

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