Psychology of loners
Signs of a Loner: What to Look For
Written by WebMD Editorial Contributors
Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on December 02, 2020
In this Article
- What is a Loner?
- Types of a Loner
- Signs of a Loner
- Dealing with a Loner
What is a Loner?
Being a loner means that you would prefer to be by yourself rather than with others. Depending on the context of the situation and your personality and preferences, this could be a good or bad thing.
Some people view loners in a negative context. However, some studies show that being a loner can lead to happiness for the individual and could actually be good for your health. Some people in this study experienced greater life satisfaction with less frequent interaction with their friends.
Introverts can also sometimes be considered loners. These are people who enjoy time alone, not necessarily because they don’t like being around other people, but rather because they are more interested in their own inner thoughts and feelings. Spending quality time by themselves is how they are able to regain energy.
Types of a Loner
Loners display varying degrees of wanting to or needing to be alone. There are positive, healthy reasons for being a loner, as well as negative, destructive reasons. Here are several general categories of loners:
The Intentional Positive Loner
These are individuals who have specifically chosen to be alone because it fits their personality or lifestyle. Recent research has found that positive loners describe themselves as autonomous. Their behaviors, values, and interests are “resistant to pressure from others,” and they are “interested in learning more about their personal experiences and emotions”.
The Intentional Negative Loner
These people have chosen to be alone because they dislike other people or have strong anti-social tendencies. They have negative outlooks on society and prefer not to associate or assimilate with others. These can be a beginning sign of an antisocial personality disorder.
The Unintentional Loner
These individuals are forced into isolation because they are or feel like they have been rejected by society. They want to belong to a community, but mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia isolate them from others.
These people get away from others but only for a short time, either to rest or just because they enjoy solitude. It can be for a couple of hours or days, but they usually tend to spend significant time both being alone and being with others.
Short-term episodes of loneliness are normal and can occur at any point in our lives. If the feelings of loneliness persist or get worse; however, that could be a sign of chronic loneliness.
Signs of a Loner
Regardless of whether you are an intentional loaner or an unintentional loner, there are several signs that can mean that you are a loner:
You Enjoy Doing Things by Yourself
Does a night watching a movie or reading a book by yourself sound like a wonderful time? Do you love traveling somewhere and exploring on your own? Are you comfortable making a dinner reservation for one? Being able to not only enjoy but look forward to doing things by yourself is a sign you are a loner.
You Don’t Enjoy Superficial Social Gatherings or Unnecessary Meetings
If a feeling of dread fills you when you get an email from your boss scheduling a last-minute meeting of the whole team, or one of your friends is nagging you to come with them to a party, you might be a loner. While you are probably fine going to planned events, last-minute ones are not your cup of tea.
You’re a Self-Starter
You enjoy putting your earbuds in and shutting the outside world out so you can get stuff done. You’re able to manage your own schedule and can stay on task much easier without everyone stopping by to bother you. And you have set a clear path for your future that you know you can achieve on your own. These are all traits of people who like to do things their own way and by themselves.
You Take Your Time
Rash, spur of the moment decisions are definitely not your thing. You prefer to sit and mull over your thoughts and be well-prepared before having to speak. You rationalize ideas and formulate plans with your inner voice instead of your outer voice. And you are totally fine with taking time to formulate answers and solutions.
Dealing with a Loner
Loners, by nature do things by themselves and therefore prefer to solve any issues or problems their own way. When dealing with a loner, make sure to give them plenty of space to think and breathe. Don’t rush them to make a decision, and don’t pressure them to move too quickly.
Patience and understanding are appropriate approaches when dealing with loners. Allow them to recharge and become comfortable with where they are before trying to engage. By providing them the space they need, they will more likely open up and let you into their solitary world.
Are You a Loner? The 5 Types of Loner Personalities (& Quiz)
What Is a Loner Personality?
Loners are people who actively try to stay as far away as possible from social interactions. They prefer solitude over the company of others and tend to enjoy being preoccupied with their thoughts. Loners usually don’t mind sitting idly or waiting, so long as they are alone when doing it.
A study published in January 2021 suggests that in the US, 31% of individuals between the ages of 16 and 74 feel lonely or consider themselves loners. In 2018, this figure was at 30%, showing that as the world continues to get smaller (with social media), the percentage of loners is slowly increasing.
Nearly a third of people between 16 and 74 years old consider themselves loners.
Out of this age group, Generation Z is considered to be the loneliest generation, with a loner score 10 points higher than the Greatest Generation (least lonely).
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The 5 Loner Personality Types (Which One Are You?)
There are five major types of loners, depending on the intensity of wanting to be alone and the reason behind their loner personality. Depending on the type, the personality may be positive and healthy, negative and destructive, or something in the middle.
Here is an explanation of these loner personality types and examples to help you identify which one you are. (Don’t worry. If you can’t identify with any at this point, we’ve got a quiz waiting for you too!)
The Intentional Positive Loner
The intentional positive loner chooses to be alone. They usually find themselves alone, either because they don’t like the people around them or have different values than others.
For example, someone who minds their own business and avoids their coworkers unless interaction is necessary can be great if the coworkers are toxic and have a habit of gossiping. In this case, the loner chooses to be alone rather than associate with these negative personalities.
Intentional positive loners are usually highly independent and have strong core values, interests, and often have their own independent thoughts that differ from others. If you’re an intentional positive loner, you might find yourself valuing your own feelings and thoughts more than what others think.
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The Intentional Negative Loner
The intentional negative loners are people who have chosen to become loners because it either “looks cool” or because they are antisocial. If you are an intentional negative loner, you might be constantly on the lookout for reasons to dislike others—or even yourself.
Intentional negative loners have negative outlooks on society and prefer not to associate or assimilate with others. These traits can be a beginning sign of an antisocial personality disorder.
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The Unintentional Loner
The unintentional loner is the type of loner that wants to socialize with others and be accepted, but they just haven’t had the luck. Unintentional loners may have bad social skills, odd body language, or other negative habits that make them appear socially awkward.
Here are some classic symptoms of an unintentional loner:
- feelings of being rejected by society
- self-deprecating thoughts
- the inability to take a joke without feeling personally attacked
- fear of speaking out in small groups, due to the fear of rejection
This type of loner personality can develop fairly quickly into a large number of personality disorders.
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The Short-Term Loner
Short-term loners are people with a need to get away from others every now and then. They don’t want to always be alone. Short-term loners manage to find a better balance in life than other types of loners, as they often go through periods of time being alone, followed by time with others, etc.
While this might sound normal, short-term loners can be susceptible to extreme fatigue or mental discomfort if they want some alone time but can’t find it.
For example, if you are a short-term loner and just came home from a party, you might want some peace and quiet. But what if your neighbor calls you up to watch the game with them, or a friend comes over? In those cases, you might feel obligated to hang out, which might lead you to feel more socially drained in the long run.
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The Chronic Loner
Short-term loner personality can manifest into chronic loneliness if the need to stay alone persists. Chronic loners differ from intentional positive loners because chronic loners usually have the desire to be around others, but over time, being alone becomes normal for them.
The chronic loner personality can manifest in people such as monks, hermits in remote areas, and even serial killers.
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Are You a Loner? A Quick Loner Personality Test
Now that we know the different types of loner personalities out there, let’s figure out if you’re actually a loner—and if so, which one are you? Consider the spectrum below before you move on to the test to see the different personality types between being a loner and being overly sociable.
Now, on to the loner personality test:
Q1: I can spend a month or longer without having any social interaction.
Q2: I actively avoid having to talk to people, even if it means looking awkward.
Q2: When picking a job, my main consideration is how social the work will be. I need jobs with as little human interaction as possible—remote jobs with no team calls, please!
Q3: When having dinner or lunch, I prefer being alone.
Q4: If given the choice of working on a large project as part of a team or by myself, I’d rather go it alone—even if it means taking much longer.
Q5: I have gone for months without getting something fixed because it would mean interacting with people.
Q6: The worst part about getting sick is having to call and book an appointment.
Q7: My ideal home would involve being far away from society.
Q8: I don’t mind going to a party, so long as I can sit alone and enjoy the change of pace.
Q9: Every time the phone rings, I get nervous to answer it.
Q10: My social circle consists of:
- >50 people
- 25–50 people
- 10–25 people
- 5–10 people
- <10 people
- I don’t have a social circle
If you find that the answers to a majority of these questions are “True” with Q10 being “I don’t have a social circle,” you may be a loner.
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Dealing With Unsociable Team Members
You can use the 3-step method listed below to deal with unsociable team members, friends, family members, and coworkers:
Understand —> Encourage —> Patience
The first thing you should try to do is to understand the reason behind the unsociable person’s lack of interaction and their poor communication skills. Are they just shy, or are they a true loner? Loners might not like direct communication, so try sending an email with empathy to understand their lack of communication.
Secondly, you’ll want to be encouraging. Specifically, encourage impromptu speaking skills by having frequent 1-on-1s with them, away from team meetings. If your company’s culture is set up to be an open space for communication, loners will have an easier time communicating. Show them how they can do that and improve themselves in the process.
Third, approach your unsociable team member with empathy, understanding, and most importantly, patience. If it were you, you wouldn’t want someone to unexpectedly barge into your life and expect you to change because of them, right? Respect that about others and give loners ample time to open up.
Note: It is important to note that some people might just be unsociable, not exactly loners or introverts. They may simply like working alone, instead of with people, and can perform better on their own. Be careful when labeling someone as a loner!
In fact, there are certain “types” of difficult people at work, and certain ways to navigate dealing with them. Here’s how:
HOW TO DEAL WITH DIFFICULT PEOPLE AT WORK
Do you have a difficult boss? Colleague? Client? Learn how to transform your difficult relationship.
I’ll show you my science-based approach to building a strong, productive relationship with even the most difficult people.
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Some positive signs of loners include:
- being a perfectionist and committed to a task
- excelling at nonverbal communication and analyzing body language cues
- creativity, especially when given time alone
- ability to remain isolated for long periods of time
- ability to focus on work, without having to socialize
- strong self-awareness of weaknesses and strengths
These are strong positives, but there are some negative elements of being a loner as well:
- inability to focus when in a group
- lack of communication when talking with others
- withdrawn behavior may lead to fractionating teams
- may not take part in social events
- might disappear for long periods of time, without alerting anyone
- lack of motivation in social settings
- inability to lead
Among the most high-profile people who were loners are Nikola Tesla (the famous inventor), Ludwig Von Mises (economist), Aleksander Solzhenitsyn (writer), Clint Eastwood (of course), and more.
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What is the Difference Between a Loner and an Introvert?
Introverts tend to enjoy the company of certain people or have a small group of friends, while most loners tend to avoid people completely. Loners seek solitude and prefer introspection to socializing. Introverts usually seek out social instances less than others, and they need some “recharging time” after big social events.
Loners can be introverts; however, not every introvert is a loner.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Loners
Is it good to be a loner?
It entirely depends on the type of loner you are. Being alone stimulates the brain to think and be creative. However, it also tends to have a mental health impact as well, as feelings of loneliness can even increase your mortality rate by 26%.
Are a loner and an introvert the same thing?
Loners and introverts are different. Loners aren’t necessarily shy; they just enjoy being alone and enjoy their own company. Introverts tend to be shy yet enjoy being around certain people.
Are loners happy?
Absolutely! Many loners can be happy because they enjoy activities that self-motivate them other than socializing.
How do loners behave?
Loners are usually very mild-mannered, reserved, and relatively similar to being introverts. Loners can even appear to like others and have social skills, but given the choice, they would prefer to be alone.
Are loners smarter?
According to studies on loners, highly intelligent people may have evolved to enjoy being alone because they were smarter than other people in their group. Therefore, they could solve problems easier and with less difficulty than when discussing with others.
If you’re a loner and happy, awesome! Be your true, proud self. But if you don’t want to be alone, check out this actionable article: How to Make Friends As An Adult In 5 Easy to Use Steps
8 character traits of single people
People who like to be alone with themselves love this "occupation" and at the same time do not feel lonely. At the same time, they are even more in harmony with others than the rest, they are perfectly aware of everything that happens - to the smallest detail.
They do not have a crowd of friends, but in a narrow circle they have a very warm and trusting relationship. All their friends are very devoted. They don't need to impress anyone. And they are less in need of recognition than the rest. nine0003
Psychologists at Wellesley College have done research and found that being single is a conscious decision. The reasons can be very different. Some people completely withdraw into themselves so that nothing disturbs them. Some are pathologically shy. Some people have sad childhood memories. And this is the reason why they try to stay away from people.
“Loneliness is like hunger and heat—a signal that your genes need help to “survive,” says John Cascioppo, a psychologist at the University of Chicago. nine0003
If suddenly one of your friends decided to become a loner, they had their own reasons. And what do you think? Are you a loner? Check out 8 personality traits of people who like to spend time alone:
- 1. The most devoted.
Loners do not like "spotlights". But if you get close, they will be the most faithful friends. They will do everything for you.
- 2. They know how to be grateful.
Loners prefer to do what they think is right, and this is above all for them. They want to be proud of themselves and others. Always grateful to other people.
- 3. Control their emotions.
People are afraid of many things: love, suffering, malice. Loners know how to keep their emotions under control. They know exactly how to do it.
- 4. They are reliable.
Loners hate to waste someone's time. Therefore, they are never late. If they promised something, be sure that they will keep their word. nine0003
- 5. Kind and helpful.
Loners often show care and compassion for other people. They are sure that giving and radiating love is a necessary condition for human existence.
- 6. They have an open mind.
For some reason, people think that loners think rather narrowly. And they are very wrong. Loners are inherent in the breadth of thinking, they love new experiences and adventures. The only condition: before doing something, they must definitely gather their thoughts and make sure that everything goes according to plan. nine0003
- 7. They have developed empathy.
Loners literally pass everything through themselves. That is why they tend to show empathy with others, regardless of their social status, age and other characteristics. They literally feel the suffering, pain or despair of other people.
- 8. They are emotionally stable.
Loners are very strong emotionally, they know that they can only rely on themselves. And that means everyone has their own battle. They try to find a reasonable explanation for every difficult situation. Loners never give up and with each failure or mistake they only become stronger. nine0003
Tags: people, loners, character
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Probably (like everyone else), at school you had a couple of classmates who did not fit into the company. They didn't even try. they seemed to have their own way, and social groupings were simply indifferent to them.
Often they gave themselves completely to their own interests. Sometimes they are non-conformists, maybe a little "nerd". The “loners” from my class became good professionals: the boy became a pianist, and the girl became a microbiologist. nine0003
Indeed, in the ranks of "loners" you will find artists, musicians, writers. They also include people whose work involves a minimum of social contacts: foresters, archivists, farmers, laboratory assistants, truckers. The history of science is full of major breakthroughs made by scientists working alone, sometimes for many years in a row.
Jonathan, Deborah's lover, was just a "loner", and his individual characteristics were further strengthened after a painful divorce. Random connections, as a rule, were rare and few. “It’s hard to call me a Casanova,” he smiled. I asked how he likes to spend his time. nine0003
I read, listen to music, go to bookstores and favorite cafes where I like the atmosphere. I love books on philosophy and history, jazz, classical music. I have an expensive home theater with incredible sound quality. In the summer I try to spend a couple of weeks traveling. I also take care of the house and work in the garden, now I'm doing it in the Japanese style. I have a few friends, I see them every two weeks. I like being in charge of my time. To be honest, I have a good life. nine0173
I asked him if he felt something was missing. He replied: "Sometimes there is such a feeling."
I think people tend to think of "loners" as just "the way they are" because of their innate introversion and shyness. When a “loner” is also a creative person, it is easy to believe that an extraordinary mindset made him a “hermit”. We probably all have an inborn predisposition to develop certain individual qualities, but I have collected too much reliable data to not rely entirely on this explanation. There is evidence that most "loners" are psychologically "burned" in childhood. Jonathan - Exactly. nine0003
My father was an alcoholic and I never knew how he would behave. Sometimes he was cheerful, but usually he was just drunk, angry and cruel. He yelled at me for no reason at all. I don't know why I always had to put up with it. For some reason, he never yelled at his sister and mother. Most of all I was offended by the behavior of my mother: she just sat and pretended that it should be so. From time to time I felt I had had enough and yelled back at my father. This has always been a mistake. Then he beat me, and he was strong. The only safe place was my room. I have always loved to make things, and at the age of eight I made a deadbolt on the door. nine0173
"Single" - the child experiences natural anger at the fact that the family emotionally pushes him away. This is fine. However, unlike most "strong" behaviors, he believes that he has no right to be angry. The only child deprived of parental love, the child predictably begins to feel guilty, at least in part. In essence, the "loner" chooses the adaptive style of the "strong" because he feels very vulnerable - as the "weak". Instead ofnine0002 in order to use the strategies of the leader, the "loner" steps back, trying to control the situation in this way. He develops a subconscious confidence that it is safer to stay away from people. Due to his aloof interpersonal style, he rarely seeks emotional intimacy with others and offers it himself. His behavior reflects a sad lesson learned from childhood: "When you get along with people, they hurt you and push you away."
Some "loners" experience the isolation of their peers the hardest. They have no one to play with in the yard, they are cruelly laughed at, driven away. But even such children usually do not receive emotional support at home that could raise their self-esteem. nine0003
Many "loners" were raised by unpredictable and inconsistent parents.
Jonathan, for example, never knew when his father would lash out at him again. In order to survive in such conditions, he was forced to rely on caution, an interpersonal skill that, in its extreme form, turns into distrust. Jonathan grew up as a hyper-vigilant child, alert to the slightest sign of an impending explosion. As soon as he noticed that his father's jaw muscles were twitching, he tried to sneak out of the room as quietly and quickly as possible. nine0003
To ease the pain, many rejected children fantasize about brilliant careers, life accomplishments that will provide them with love and encouragement. Sometimes a “loner” child manages to direct his anger towards achieving high goals, and his dreams come true.
Love and "loner"
"Single" feels pulled in different directions. Loneliness and sexual needs push him towards romantic relationships, and a deeply rooted fear of rapprochement and new suffering keeps him from communication. He reaches a compromise by choosing a passive interpersonal communication strategy. Usually the "loner" just waits and allows potential partners to make the first move. The resulting detachment allows him to start the relationship from a stronger emotional position, deliberately giving less than the partner. Unfortunately, this behavior often backfires. Jonathan describes a case that illustrates a common pattern of "loner" behavior. nine0003
I run twice a week. You know, when you leave the house, you always come across a few familiar faces. One girl, an excellent runner, was very friendly, and I became interested in her. Somehow she, slightly flirting, hinted that sometimes you can drink coffee together. I was pleased, but I behaved with restraint and did not show much enthusiasm. In general, this went on for about two weeks. Then, finally, I mustered up the courage to invite her. But, imagine, as luck would have it, on that very day she started running with some guy. I experienced a sense of failure through my own fault and. relief. nine0173
When the girl reached out for Jonathan, he instinctively recoiled. She most likely interpreted his dismissal as a rejection and decided to look for another candidate. Jonathan, on the other hand, was hurt that she had become close to someone else. For him, this case served as another proof of his own vulnerability and the wisdom of loneliness.
When a "loner" nevertheless decides on a love affair, he is driven by very strong needs and often by some event that recently raised his self-esteem. When Jonathan met Deborah, he had been without a life partner for almost a year, and just at that time he had won the largest building contract of his career. Deborah seemed like a kindred spirit to him. However, do not forget that he abstained from sex with her for several weeks. Jonathan fell madly in love with Deborah, but the signals of rapprochement that he sent her were ambiguous. Even the powerful forces of the courtship period could not dampen his defensive reflex. nine0003
Deborah couldn't break through Jonathan's shell and was starting to get nervous. Subject to the driving forces of the passion trap and her pronounced inclination to the role of an "echo" woman, she got too close to him. By then, Jonathan already knew that Deborah could be a safe, loyal partner for him. But now he had a new fear: emotional claustrophobia. Deborah was too much. This reaction of the "weak" partner not only cooled his feelings for her, but also greatly increased the primitive horror of the "loner" - to lose privacy and control over their time and activities. nine0003
Recipe for harmony
If you identify with the "loner", then first of all recognize that the need for solitude is justified and important. You have something to do to expand your interpersonal skills, which are probably not enough right now.
Perhaps your isolated life has been too successful in a way. Alone, you can do many enjoyable things and feel safe away from emotional problems. However, all but the most convinced "loners" come to the conclusion that they are at least in the captivity of their seclusion. nine0003
By adhering to the interpersonal motto that protected them as children, " Never get close to people," they keep themselves in emotional exile.
Most "loners" believe that their need for personal space is justified. So now I ask you to accept the natural, healthy, biologically motivated desire to share a part of your life with another person. If the isolation drags on, the freedom you love can be overshadowed by depression, a common consequence of loneliness. In addition, according to statistics, people of your type are more likely to have health problems. nine0003
A "loner" would be best suited for a partner who requires little emotionally: in fact, the same "loner" as himself.
But such partners are rare. Women in general do not have fears of emotional risk and do not share these behavioral patterns.
If seclusion is a problem for you, the main new skill to learn is communication.
Tell your partner that you enjoy being alone. By revealing to him your need for restraint, you paradoxically deepen your connection with him. In addition, your frankness will help him not to confuse restraint with refusal.
Next, start talking about patterns of behavior that have hurt your past relationships. Without going into painful details, be sure to point out that your withdrawal is often misinterpreted as a lack of communication. Explain that because of this, people often move away, and this reaction is even more alarming for you. Also, don't forget to mention that being pressured in response to your reticence only increases your desire to disappear. Then ask your partner how much intimacy they want and try to determine if their desire will conflict with your need for personal space. nine0003
The expectations of partners do not have to match perfectly, but if your ideas about intimacy differ, you need to be careful not to trigger the passion trap. And, as always, communication and negotiation is the key to finding a relationship model that both parties are happy with. I regularly work with couples who have unequal needs for intimacy, and many manage to find a compromise.
When you feel the urge to run away from your partner (and everyone does from time to time), counter that impulse with your new motto: "I need intimacy too." This approach will help you balance the needs of the "loner" with the normal desire to connect with people and take emotional risks. nine0003
Sometimes it seems that you have agreed on everything to the last comma, but in practice one of the partners (or even both at once) feels that he is emotionally deprived. This will probably be a key issue for the fate of your relationship, but at least you will be open and honest with your partner. You don't have to suddenly run like Jonathan did.
Like most "strong" ones, "loners" get tremendous help from psychotherapy, but they rarely use it.