A loner is a person who avoids or does not actively seek human interaction, also known as a quiet person who has no to very few friends. Some loners are people who appear or behave oddly to others. There are many reasons for their solitude, intentional or otherwise. Intentional reasons include being introverted, spiritual, mystic, having religious considerations, or personal philosophies. Unintentional reasons involve being highly sensitive, shy, past trauma or events, or having various mental disorders.
The modern term "loner" can be used with a negative connotation in the belief that human beings are social creatures and those that do not participate are deviant. Being a loner is sometimes depicted culturally as a positive personality trait, as indicative of being independent and responsible. Someone who is a recluse or solitary in the context of relationship status can be referred to by various terms, including, singleton, nonwedder, as well as gender-specific and pejorative terms such as dried-fish woman or incel. Loners are sometimes labeled with demeaning stereotypes such as misanthrope as well as the ramifications of such a perception, such as being perceived as an alien outcast or misfit.
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There are different types of loner, including individuals that prefer solitude and are content to have very limited social interaction. A second type includes individuals that are forced into isolation because they are, or feel as though they are, rejected by society. This individual typically experiences loneliness. A third type of loner is an individual that likes to be social and has lots of social interactions, but prefers solitude without feelings of loneliness.
The first type of loner often does not feel lonely even when they are alone, at least, not in the same way as would a social person who found themselves isolated. However, these are very broad generalizations and it is not uncommon for loners to experience both of these dimensions at some point. Being a loner can sometimes be a symptom of certain mental illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia, or related to autism. People with autism, for instance, may have difficulty with social interactions and limited or restrictive interests and routines which would make it more likely for the person to be a loner. Being a loner is also sometimes associated with fully functional individuals who have certain atypical personality traits, such as alexithymia. The characteristics of loners are sometimes attributed to non-human animals such as the leopard, an animal whose behaviour is usually defined by being solitary.
While expressing a desire to be alone, loners may not reject human contact entirely. An example would be the person who shuns any social interaction with colleagues beyond what is necessary for fulfilling his or her job description (mainly for practical reasons and to avoid further complicating one's professional relationships) but who is highly charismatic during parties or social gatherings with people outside work or school, or vice versa.
- Avoidant personality disorder
- Byronic hero
- Dysfunctional family
- Hedgehog's dilemma
- Lone wolf (trait)
- Major depressive disorder
- Schizoid personality disorder
- Social phobia
- Social rejection
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