A loner is a person who avoids or does not actively seek human interaction. There are many reasons for solitude, intentional or otherwise. Intentional reasons include being introverted, and spiritual, mystic, or religious considerations or personal philosophies. Unintentional reasons involve being highly sensitive, extremely 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, incel, as well as gender-specific and pejorative terms such as dried-fish woman. 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 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.
Somebody who can be a loner would also fit the criteria for introversion. This may be due to both innate personality traits as well as life experiences. Loners often attend movies and other public events alone, exhibiting their strength and inward focus on enjoying life without needing others. More solitary hobbies and interests such as reading, art, and meditation are common among loners. It is common for people who move to a new location (e.g. new city) to become a loner for some time, especially if the person does not bring any friends or family members with them. This is especially common with young adults, who may relocate for education or employment, and the elderly, who may face additional barriers to socialising, such as immobility or hearing loss.
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