10 things a man does when he’s feeling lonely in life, according to psychology

“There is an epidemic of loneliness in men.”

This statement has sparked interesting discussions of late.

Those who disagree with it mainly oppose the gender attached to it. While they believe there is a loneliness epidemic, they don’t restrict this to men.

And while I completely agree that loneliness is ungendered, I also can’t disregard the observation that more men are becoming increasingly lonely these days.

Just look at the statistics:

Alarming numbers, right?

Unfortunately, expressing their feelings is not a man’s strong suit, so it’s a bit challenging to know if any of the men in your life are lonely (or on the verge of it).

Thankfully, psychologists identify the usual behaviors of a man when he’s feeling lonely, and we share some of these below.

Let’s dive in!

1) He overindulges in binges

Award-winning psychologist Christine Yeung identifies the common behaviors of her clients dealing with emotional loneliness, and one of these is unhealthy indulgence.

She says that lonely people tend to avoid the discomfort of their present realities, so they look for temporary pleasures instead.

This behavior varies and could include binge eating, gaming 24/7, scrolling on social media for hours on end, or watching Netflix non-stop for days.

Although these behaviors aren’t unusual on their own, the sudden or excessive component should alert you of their possible loneliness. 

Besides, excessive binging is unhealthy and still warrants attention, regardless of whether the individual is lonely or not.

2) He complains a lot

If his complaints breach the reasonable level, it’s worth looking into whether it’s really about what they’re nitpicking on or whether it goes deeper.

Dr. Yeung says lonely individuals can “become the greatest critic on the planet.” 

She explains that these criticisms are a product of our human mind’s problem-solving abilities. 

To explain their feelings of loneliness, men focus on the outside to find something to blame for their feelings of loneliness or discomfort on the inside. 

This makes them see even the tiniest of flaws in their lives – even the ones they didn’t mind before.

3) They put up unnecessary boundaries

You’d think that the logical step for lonely men is to seek social support. But Dr Yeung says it could be the opposite.

She says loneliness can cause individuals to believe that the world is neither friendly nor safe. 

They adopt the mindset of not trusting anyone but themselves because they develop the misconception that no one will understand them. Or, worse, that people will judge them.

So, really, it’s not about not wanting to support.

It’s more about the perceived notion of danger, which they think they’re shielding themselves against by staying away from almost everyone.

But here’s the kicker.

It could also go the other way:

4) He drops all boundaries

For some men, loneliness could be extremely uncomfortable. 

So, what do they do to alleviate the discomfort?

Dr Yeung says some of her lonely clients seek connection.

Which is good, right?

Not entirely. 

While there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with this, the danger is when a man doesn’t filter the connections he makes.

Because he has no boundaries in place, he’d tag along with all sorts of people – whether or not they’re bad for him or share the same values as him doesn’t matter at this point.

For a lonely man, as long as he has company, that’s enough to fill the temporary void that loneliness left him with.

5) He notices the tiniest cracks in his relationships

This is another interesting observation from Dr Yeung’s lonely clients. 

They notice the most trivial of issues in their relationships, even if these didn’t bother them before.

Dr Yeung didn’t offer any explanation as to why this is the case. 

She did say, however, that for most of her clients, this leads to more disagreements, frequent arguments, and escalated levels of conflict.

Mind you, she also highlights that this isn’t exclusive to their personal relationship. The fault finding can also extend to the lonely individual’s professional relationships.

6) He second-guesses his relationships

theyre deeply unhappy in their relationship 10 things a man does when he’s feeling lonely in life, according to psychology

If noticing flaws in his relationships weren’t enough, Dr Yeung says that she has seen her lonely clients desperately wanting their colleagues and loved ones to hear and understand them.

However, when they think these people “don’t get them,” they question the relationship.

Unfortunately, this misunderstanding often causes them to withdraw further, increasing their sense of loneliness and exacerbating the problem.

7) He questions his existence

If you think it doesn’t get deeper than that, think again.

According to Dr Yeung, lonely individuals can also get into existential depth.

This leads to a lot of whys:

  • Why do I do this?
  • Why am I like this?
  • Why do I think like this?
  • Why don’t I?
  • Why do I?

It’s this unending trail of questions that causes them into a downward spiral, which eventually leads to the ultimate question of their existence:

Why am I here?

8) He gets easily irritable

In his book, The Irritable Male Syndrome, mid-life expert and counselor Dr. Jed Diamond talks about the significant link between irritability and depression. 

He reports that among the irritable men that he’s studied, 21% expressed they were almost always depressed. Conversely, among the depressed men he’s studied, 40% reported often feeling irritable.

In fact, he notes one of his clients saying, “For me, depression and irritability are closely linked. I don’t really lash out that often. I mostly hold the feelings in. I don’t want to fight, but sometimes things erupt, and I blow up..”

That said, it’s critical to understand that psychologists delineate between depression and loneliness. The former being a mental health condition and the latter being a symptom. 

However, knowing they’re not the same doesn’t make loneliness any less important. It can be just as hard as depression and needs just as much attention.

9) He engages in risky behavior

Loneliness can lead to feelings of emptiness and despair, which can drive men to look for immediate gratification or chase the  “adrenaline rush” to momentarily distract them from this pain.

Some of the manifestations of this behavior could be substance abuse, gambling, or risky sexual activity.

For example, in 2023, The Social and Personality Psychology Compass published a study revealing that pandemic-driven loneliness prompted a sudden rise in unsafe sexual practices among the men they studied, especially the younger and solitary ones.

This drastic change suggests that the men’s cautious approach to sexual activity might have lessened as their loneliness increased.

In short, the lonelier they got, the riskier they have become.

10) He will not talk about feeling lonely

I saved this for last, not because it’s the least important, but because there’s quite a lot to unpack about the difficulties men face in expressing their loneliness.

First, the social construct. 

Men have been expected to be strong and suck it up. They’re “supposed” to  cope with their feelings on their own. Not wanting to disappoint those who expect this of him, a man would rather keep loneliness to himself.

And this is especially true for the older generation, who grew up with this traditional expectation of men. 

Second, the cultural norms.

In some cultures, it’s considered taboo for men to show their vulnerability

Many cultures value toughness over emotional openness, leaving little room for men to express vulnerability without fear of judgment.

And finally, the “male nature.” 

Josh Glancy, keynote speaker and editor of News Review at The Sunday Times, describes this best from his observations of himself and other men:

He says men aren’t good at talking to each other or asking for help. He says he’d rather walk around incompetently than ask for directions.

He says it’s easier for men to talk about football or politics than to admit about things that cause them loneliness.

So, if it’s this difficult, how do we get men to open up to us?

According to experts, the key is to earn their trust and get them to open up one step at a time.

Don’t just barge in and say, “What’s wrong? Why are you lonely?”

Instead, earn their trust, build on your connection, and allow them to open up incrementally- at their own pace, not yours.

Damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t

Society puts men in a difficult situation when it comes to talking about their loneliness:

They long for meaningful connections, which needs openness. Yet they also get criticized for showing even an ounce of vulnerability.

This reminds me of the quote from Criss Jami:

“Share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.’ 

I agree with this, but then it raises the question:

When will society embrace this strength in men?

Picture of Sarah Piluden-Natu-El

Sarah Piluden-Natu-El

Sarah is a full-time mum, wife, and nurse on hiatus turned freelance writer. She is on a journey of diving deeper into life through life itself and uses her writing to share the lessons learned along the way. When not on her computer, she enjoys time with her family strolling along the Gold Coast's stunning beaches and captivating hinterland.

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