Intimacy vs Isolation (A guide)

In this article, we’ll discuss “Intimacy vs. Isolation”, understanding psychosocial development theory, what leads to intimacy and isolation, and how can one move from isolation to intimacy.

Later, we’ll discuss risk factors for loneliness or social isolation.


Eric Erikson was a 20th-century psychologist and has given 8 psychosocial developmental stages.

According to him, personality develops in a predetermined order through eight stages of psychosocial development.

Intimacy vs isolation is the 6th stage of the theory of psychosocial development.

This stage focuses on the struggles of young adults between the ages of 19 and 40 years.

In this stage, they struggle in developing intimate and loving relationships and if they fail they end up they experience loneliness or isolation.


Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development believes that people pass through a number of stages of social and emotional development.

A person goes through a number of conflicts throughout his life tenure.

If he overcomes the conflict then they are able to achieve psychological skills for their lifetime but if he fails to overcome these conflicts then he continues to struggle for that.

Erikson’s theory is unique as it makes sense and it has been seen that throughout the psychosocial stages people grow and change over a course of a lifetime.

These stages play an important role in each person’s development and growth and the sixth stage- intimacy vs isolation begins in early adulthood and the main struggle here is to form lasting relationships and those who successfully pass this stage, they are able to cherish deep and meaningful connections with other people.

What happens in and during this stage:

People develop meaningful, close and intimate relationships as people enter this stage.

These relationships are often romantic in nature or are very intimate relationships which include close and best friendships as well.

These relationships are characterized by closeness, honesty, and love.

If a person succeeds in this stage, they are likely to have strong and deep romantic relationships, close friendships with friends and family members.

But if they fail this conflict then they end up having poor romantic relationships, less or no deep intimacy and most important and unfortunate is loneliness and isolation.

It might get extremely difficult for these people to see their peers and acquaintances might fall in love and then get married, have kids and their families.


Well, intimacy is considered the ability to form close and intimate bonds or relationships with other people.

It is considered to be a choice of the individual to either open up to others and share one’s likes and dislikes and experiences as well.

This will create lasting and strong connections.

Then it depends on how one takes the rejection, as not everyone is welcoming and we cannot have intimate and close relationships with everyone even if we feel we can.

In this process, the person might face some rejections on the way and it may leave him broken or hurt.

This can lead to a lack of self-esteem and self-confidence.

There are chances that the person might take a step back and never try to open up again, this again leads to failure of the conflict and invites isolation.

One needs to be accepting and learn how to move on.

These skills will help him in going on with his struggles without any hurdles and eventually winning in the process. Giving up or taking a step back is a big no-no in this.


According to Erikson, in order to have a healthy and fulfilling life, one needs to complete each stage of development because failing at any stage will result in being stuck in a particular stage and then it becomes difficult to move forward and complete further stages as well.

In this particular stage, a person needs to learn how to develop and maintain healthy relationships, else the further two stages will be hard or even impossible to complete.

And we know very well that isolation is the result of fear of rejection and if in case rejection has already been faced then it becomes harder to trust again and keep on moving further, this may eventually lead to avoidance of interaction altogether and avoid all future attempts at forming new meaningful relationships.

Therefore, to move from isolation to intimacy one needs to learn the skills of not avoiding others and giving more chances to build relationships.

This may become harder for the people who are already very shy and keep them isolating from other people.

At this point, a therapist may help in having an understanding of what is creating or preventing one from developing intimacy and helps in developing strategies that will help in moving from isolation to intimate and meaningful relationships. 


Being alone creates an unwanted feeling of loneliness. Loneliness means having nobody around neither in-sight or out of sight.

People experience that there is nobody to talk to, share feelings with and spend quality time with. They even feel lonely in a crowded place where there are dozens of people all around.

Persistent loneliness leads to both physical and mental problems. And it may lead to chronic loneliness which eventually leads to anxiety and depression.

Different areas and different factors contribute to loneliness.

Age is one of the important factors and at the age of 20’s to 40’s as this is the intimacy and isolation stage where one wants to be connected with people and wants to belong somewhere as a part of someone’s life.

If he fails in achieving this, a question usually pops up whether the person is likable or not?

And another factor might be the gender as the studies have shown that women are more vulnerable than men and they are more likely to develop depression because of loneliness than men.

Other factors might be the divorced or separated individuals as they at some point of time have been into relationships where they had a sense of belongingness but after this change of events, questioning to self of self-worth starts and it leads to the negative feelings like worthlessness with eventually leads to the development of depression.

Impact of social isolation:

Well, as we have discussed so far that the impact of social isolation is the most important factor in developing loneliness and depression eventually.

The symptoms of depression lead to feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and helplessness.

It also leads to low self-esteem and increased anxiety which eventually makes it harder for the person to maintain a relationship.

Changes in physiological, functional and psychosocial effects have also been found to be impacting a person’s life because of disturbed sleep and appetite.

Fatigue is another factor that makes a person wonder whether they should even put some effort into making things work or not.

All-in-all it affects a person’s overall health and disturbs the will of trying further as well.


In this blog, we’ve discussed “Intimacy vs. Isolation”, understanding psychosocial development theory, which leads to intimacy and isolation, and how can one move from isolation to intimacy.

Later, we’ve discussed risk factors for loneliness or social isolation.

Please feel free to leave a comment or a suggestion, we appreciate your time.

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What are the 8 stages of life according to Erikson?

The 8 stages of life according to Ericson are- Trust vs. Mistrust, Autonomy vs. Shame/Doubt, Initiative vs. Guilt, Industry vs. Inferiority, Identity vs. Role Confusion, Intimacy vs. Isolation, Generativity vs. Stagnation, and Integrity vs. Despair.

Is Erik Erikson’s theory still used today?

Yes, Erikson’s theory is still used today as its more relevant in terms of the growth and development of an individual throughout his lifetime.


What was missing from this post which could have made it better?

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