The Gavin's Village Blog


Unveiling Loneliness: Recognizing Signs in Men and Women

loneliness men women Jan 25, 2024

Humans are social creatures and need genuine connection with other people - friends, family members, colleagues, classmates, and people in subcommunities like sports teams or religious groups. When someone lacks social connection, he or she may feel lonely. Merriam-Webster defines loneliness as “being without company, sad from being alone” but also references a feeling of bleakness and isolation. 

Addressing loneliness is paramount for overall well-being, as it can impact not just our mental health, but our physical health too. Studies have found that loneliness is a risk factor for cardiovascular problems, impaired cognitive performance, obesity, and a diminished capacity for self-regulation (Hawkley, Cacioppo, 2010).

There are general signs of loneliness anyone may experience, and some signs that are more common in men or women, as societal expectations often influence how loneliness is expressed. Understanding these gender-specific cues is crucial for recognizing issues in our own lives as well as our loved ones. We’ll dive into these signs of loneliness so you can be aware if it comes up in your own life or if someone in your community starts to exhibit signs of being lonely.

General signs of loneliness 

Loneliness is a pervasive and often silent struggle, though many people experience it: “80% of population below 18 years of age and 40% of population above 65 years of age report loneliness at least sometimes in their life” (Mushtaq et al., 2014).

One prevalent indicator is a decreased participation in social activities. Individuals grappling with loneliness may find themselves withdrawing from once-beloved gatherings, preferring solitude over shared experiences. Limited interactions with friends and family are another poignant clue, as the lonely individual may unintentionally create emotional distance, leaving relationships strained. Sometimes, the solution is as simple as seeking out the opportunity to connect, but since loneliness is sometimes the cause of social withdrawal rather than the symptom, it can be challenging to address, and not easily solved.

Emotional changes are also common markers of loneliness. Persistent feelings of sadness can be a clear sign, but so can sudden mood swings, or unexplained emotional fluctuations. These emotional shifts can be subtle or pronounced, affecting both the individual's internal self- dialogue and external interactions. This might come about as changes in how they text or chat with friends, like if they are hot-and-cold about replying to messages or phone calls

Changes in sleep patterns or schedules can be a less obvious sign. Loneliness can disrupt one's circadian rhythm, leading to insomnia or oversleeping. Sleep becomes an escape, or conversely, a source of restlessness and unease. 


Signs of loneliness in men 


According to a global study with over 46,000 participants, “in comparison to women, men experienced the greatest levels of loneliness” (Mansour et al., 2021). Loneliness in men can present itself through distinct signs rooted in societal expectations and traditional gender norms. Indifference and emotional suppression are prevalent indicators, manifesting as a reluctance to express emotions openly. Men experiencing loneliness may avoid vulnerability, choosing instead to internalize their struggles and present a façade of strength. This emotional barricade can lead to a profound sense of isolation because it feels like you have to go through hard things alone, without support from others.

Escapist behaviors become another visible facet. This can look like over-reliance on work, athletic sport, or distractions and addictions. While work and hobbies are valuable parts of our lives, and can be positive in many ways, some people experiencing loneliness may spend excessive amounts of time on these solo pursuits, using them in place of social interaction.

Substance abuse is a particularly concerning coping mechanism for loneliness in men, as “men are more likely than women to use illicit substances and engage in heavy drinking” (Mannes et al.,  2016). Whether through alcohol, drugs, or other vices, individuals may turn to these substances as a means of numbing the emotional pain associated with isolation. This not only exacerbates the loneliness but also introduces additional health risks. 

Increased aggression and difficulty managing anger or irritability are further signs in lonely men. The emotional turmoil that accompanies isolation and not having the ability or vocabulary to address it for what it is can manifest as heightened frustration. This can damage relationships and cause a further retreat from social interactions.


Signs of loneliness in women 


Loneliness in women often manifests through nuanced signs deeply intertwined with societal expectations and interpersonal dynamics. Psychological researchers share that in addition to being caused by social disconnection, “the feeling of loneliness appears to be more connected with a general negative perception about oneself” (Akerlind, Hörnquist, 1992).

Excessive self-criticism and negative self-talk can be a sign of loneliness stemming from poor self-perception. Women grappling with loneliness may engage in harsh self-evaluation, perpetuating a cycle of negativity that erodes their self-esteem.

Another prevalent sign is the seeking of constant validation, often through an over-reliance on external approval. Women experiencing loneliness may tether their self-worth to the opinions and perceptions of others, which creates a dependency on external affirmation.

Difficulty making decisions independently is a notable manifestation of loneliness in women. The absence of a robust support system may lead to hesitancy in trusting one's judgment, fostering a reliance on others for guidance.

Overextension in relationships is a poignant sign, taking the form of clinging to relationships for validation or an outright fear of being alone. For example, someone might put in a disproportionate amount of effort into a relationship with another person who does not reciprocate just to maintain the social connection. Loneliness can drive individuals to prioritize the quantity of relationships over their quality. Or, it may look like potentially compromising personal boundaries in a quest for connection.



Understanding the general signs of loneliness is a crucial step toward building a more compassionate society. Going further and understanding specific signs that men and women are more likely to exhibit can help us even more. Recognizing these signs is pivotal for fostering a more supportive environment that encourages people to express their emotions openly and seek connection without fear of judgment. 

When we recognize that we ourselves are feeling lonely, or identify that someone we know may be experiencing this, we can take steps to build connections. In turn, we can make progress on alleviating the impact of loneliness on individuals' mental and emotional well-being. 

If you’re experiencing loneliness, know that you are not alone, and taking steps to build connections with others can make a big impact in your mental and physical health. Reach out to a friend or family member and make a social plan or video chat to catch up. If you’re looking to form new connections, explore groups related to your passions or hobbies to find like-minded people, and attend events. Making the initial effort can be challenging, but consider that others may also be lonely and struggling and may seek the same connection you do.

If you’re looking for a judgment-free community to build your emotional, spiritual, and mental strength by connecting with others, guided by a licensed mental health professional, join Gavin’s Village. 



Akerlind, I., & Hörnquist, J. O. (1992). Loneliness and alcohol abuse: A review of evidences of an interplay. Social Science & Medicine, 34(4).


Hawkley, L. C., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2010). Loneliness Matters: A Theoretical and Empirical Review of Consequences and Mechanisms. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 40(2).


Mannes, Z. L., Burrell, L. E., II, Bryant, V. E., Dunne, E. M., Hearn, L. E., & Whitehead, N. E. (2016). Loneliness and Substance Use: The Influence of Gender among HIV+ Black/African American Adults 50+. AIDS Care.


Mansour, K. A., Greenwood, C. J., Biden, E. J., Francis, L. M., Olsson, C. A., & Macdonald, J. A. (2021). Pre-pandemic Predictors of Loneliness in Adult Men During COVID-19. Frontiers in Psychiatry.

(n.d.). Lonely. Merriam-Webster. Retrieved December 5, 2023, from


Mushtaq, R., Shoib, S., Shah, T., & Mushtaq, S. (2014). Relationship Between Loneliness, Psychiatric Disorders and Physical Health ? A Review on the Psychological Aspects of Loneliness. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research. 

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