Men are often told to be strong, to hide their emotions and to never show vulnerability. They put on a brave face, ‘man up’ and pretend to the world that they’re fine. They bottle their emotions, suppress them and get on with it. But that’s where the problems begin. Those painful feelings are internalised and this can have a damaging effect.

As a result, men might withdraw from their loved ones and cut themselves off from friends. Isolation is characterised by a sense of loneliness, disconnection, and withdrawal from social interactions. Men tend to live silently with feelings of loneliness instead of divulging them.

Spending time in isolation can also cause health problems. Research has found that a lack of social interaction can also lead to cardiovascular problems like heart disease and increased blood pressure. It’s also associated with higher rates of anxiety and depression and an increased risk of dementia3.

How it manifests

In men, isolation can manifest differently due to societal and cultural factors:

Emotional stoicism: You may hide your feelings because of adherence to traditional masculine roles. This makes it challenging to detect your emotional struggles.
Increased workaholism: You may immerse yourself in work to avoid dealing with emotional issues. 
Substance abuse: You might turn to alcohol or drugs to cope with isolation.
Physical health issues: Isolation can contribute to physical health problems, like high blood pressure and heart disease, which you may not connect to your emotional state.

Top tips

There are many ways to help manage feelings of isolation.

Take it slowly
On paper it may sound easy to speak to people about how you’re feeling so they can offer you support, but in practice this can be a key hurdle, especially if you’ve been feeling isolated for a long time. Try initiating conversations with friends or family members who you trust and take it slowly to prevent feeling overwhelmed.

Start small
If you don’t feel comfortable opening up to a friend or family member, start small by making conversation with the people you come across in your day-to-day life, like a neighbour or colleague. These conversations don’t need to be deep or emotional, even light-hearted small talk may help you feel less isolated.

Engage in social activities
Try participating in social activities, sports clubs and teams, or support groups. Even if it feels challenging, it can help you to build connections with others and reduce feelings of isolation.

When to see a therapist

It’s important for you to seek help with isolation if it persists for an extended period of time, if it’s affecting your daily life, or if it leads to destructive behaviours or thoughts. It’s also crucial to seek help if there are physical symptoms or substance abuse issues as a result of isolation.

"I think isolation was probably one of the key factors that started it all. When I had to move from working in the armed forces to a job where I was working alone, it was detrimental to my mental health.

"I felt lonely and isolated but didn’t know what to do. I’m a huge advocate of therapy services and I recommend it to anyone who’s struggling. It takes a huge weight off your shoulders."

Ashley, 41