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partyrock's avatar

Can anyone go crazy from being in solitary confinement for a period of time?

Asked by partyrock (3870points) March 26th, 2012

Can anybody go insane from being in solitary confinement for an extended part of time? Let’s just say, 1 year, 3 years, or 5 years? They’d still be fed and have access to food or whatever, but have no human contact whatsoever. What would be the psychological effects of this?

Would it be possible for someone to be in solitary confinement for 5 years, and not go crazy(whatever crazy to you means)? Thanks

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10 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

I think the questions might better be “can anyone not go insane”. The prisoners at the federal maximum prison in colorado and the California State prison at Pelican Bay are kept very isolated, with a small amount of “exercise” that lets them out for fresh air and maybe sunshine, but no interpersonal contact are all suffering from some mental illness.

There are high rates of suicide by solitary prisoners. Studies show even short periods in isolation result in increased rates of mental illness. And remember, a high percentage of prisoners are suffering from some mental illness to begin with. Isolation encourages it to come out at its extreme.

partyrock's avatar

Zenvelo thanks for your response. What do you mean by even short periods or isolation? Like, 1 week isolation, 3 weeks, 2 days?

partyrock's avatar

I’d like to know also why being in solitary confinement, or secluded, would make anyone go crazy? I want to hear personal opinions from different people, even though that question is pretty self explanatory and obvious on why it’s not good mentally or emotionally for people.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I need the interaction with other people. I can go without it for a while. But do it long term and I’m toast. I think that’s the technical term for it.

noraasnave's avatar

We all need social interaction with others. Touch is especially important. This, incidentally, is an important part of a hug, which I can’t see prisoners really doing.

In unrelated thought, kids are hug-sponges. I read somewhere that we need a certain minimum number of hugs a day just to stay sane, kids needs some multiple of that (twice or thrice the amount). I will have to research that and link it too.

I can substitute some amount of self-talk, and self-um…er…touch to sustain periods of what I would think are isolation, but even still this probably overcomes short term shortages of these resources, at best.

I bet that the more we are left alone, the more we sink into our own limited reality. Interaction with others broadens our horizons, and most importantly lets us know that we are smart, thoughtful, loving, or also obnoxious, mean, and stubborn. Basically, interaction with others lets us know that we are part of the human race, flaws and all…lol, which, for most of us, is encouraging by itself.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Yes, people are often driven crazy without human contact. We’re very social animals and most people depend upon human contact to stay in touch with reality.

marinelife's avatar

Man is a social animal. We do go nuts without human contact.

Akua's avatar

Yes, being kept in a solitary environment will cause a mental breakdown, I have heard of prisoners (on documentaries) who have successfully proven that their long stints in solitary made them worse than when they went in. It’s not natural to be alone. In many places they have changed the policies regarding how long a prisoner can stay in solitary. That doesn’t apply to Max security convicts that are a danger to others. Regarding people other than prisoners, there were several stories in the news of orphans who became anti-social or sociopaths because of the lack of human contact and affection as babies/children. Touch therapy (talking, hugging, caressing, holding and looking in the eye) as well as animal therapy is used to prevent the kind of mental breakdown brought on by being alone all the time. These techniques are used mostly on shut-ins and the elderly as well as children of neglect. It doesn’t take months or years to see the negative affects of this. I have read that the brain can be affected in as little as 3 days. I read a lot about this particular topic as a part of my own therapy and experiences. I’m an introvert for a reason.

Paradox25's avatar

I’m certain that the situation you’ve described would most definitely have an adverse affect on just about anyone. However some people can tolerate solitude much more than others, like myself. I can go long periods of time with minimal interactions with others and in fact I can’t live any other way. I’ve also learnt from past experiences that no company is much better than negative company. I actually cherish my solitude to a very high degree but even me at times needs some type of social interaction.

Akua's avatar

@Paradox25 I’m the same way. I like to be alone (as I stated above I’m an introvert). I need my alone time and get VERY irritable if I don’t get it. Crowds and people annoy me. But I became this way after being “forced” into long periods of solitude as a child. As a result my social skills have suffered and I don’t always “Play well with others”. I have ONE friend who lives in another state, so I see her maybe once every few years. I don’t do parties or go many places if I don’t have to and when I do go out I go with husband. There have been times I have gone out to a social gatherings but I had to force myself to go and the whole time I was thinking about the time when I can leave and it’s exhausting to be social. I think the reason my husband and I get along so well is because he is willing to go away and find something to do when I want to be alone. He understands this about me and is perfectly happy being the social butterfly that I am not. I get all the interaction I need from the internet.

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