The holidays are a time of gathering together with friends and family, coworkers and teammates, to celebrate the joys of Thanksgiving and Christmas. But for those who may be experiencing pre-existing loneliness, the camaraderie that characterizes these holidays may be intimidating.
Men suffer from loneliness in different ways and display different signs and/or mental health conditions as a result. It’s important to understand the effect loneliness has on men’s mental health so that the proper care can be sought out and the joys of the season may be wholly enjoyed.
How lonely are men?
Loneliness in men is a far-reaching phenomenon – a UK study reported that “one in five men (18 percent) owned up to not having a single close friend…[and] one in three (32 percent) stated that they didn’t have a best friend.”
Another study from the Survey Center on American Life reported, “Thirty years ago, a majority of men (55 percent) reported having at least six close friends. Today, that number has been cut in half. Slightly more than one in four (27 percent) men have six or more close friends today. Fifteen percent of men have no close friendships at all, a fivefold increase since 1990.”
This loneliness could be caused by a number of factors, including a lack of vulnerability as successful men in today’s world are, unfairly, portrayed as self-reliant and hyper-masculine, with a mask of a stable career and extra hours spent at the gym covering their need for community, authenticity and even vulnerability.
So few men have close friendships due to this lack of vulnerability – and not vulnerability as a misperception of being overly emotional – but vulnerability as a willingness to talk about challenges, desires and experiences.
This can lead to poor mental health and poor physical health. Chronic loneliness increases the risk of dementia, stroke, heart failure and even premature death, according to the CDC.
What causes loneliness?
Men have a greater propensity for loneliness in today’s world than women, but certain situations can increase and cause a sharp decline in mental health over a short period of time. Then, when events like the holidays are tossed into the mix, this loneliness can get even worse.
Loneliness can be caused by a variety of factors, including a lack of close male friendships; living alone and spending a large amount of time indoors, isolated from the community; experiencing a breakup and losing someone you considered to be your best friend; suffering from the loss of a loved one and going through the holidays without them for the first few times.
Some men may struggle with one situation more than another depending on factors like personality and mental health, but it remains true that those who do battle loneliness are at an increased risk for mental health issues.
What mental health problems does loneliness cause?
It is important to note that loneliness or being alone is not a mental health problem – but mental health problems and loneliness can act together to worsen each other simultaneously.
- Mental health complications like depression or anxiety may lead men to withdraw from social events or activities they previously enjoyed, deepening that sensation of loneliness
- Social stigmas may cause stress and low self-esteem, but, because most men feel like they cannot share these emotions, isolate themselves to work it out (or ride it out) on their own
- A loss of male friendships as one grows from adolescence to young adulthood – One quote reads, “[B]oys mature into men who are autonomous, emotionally stoic, and isolated…” [which are] Three strong factors for male loneliness. And even though many of these men are now in relationships with families, it can be argued that they’re experiencing a real sense of loss from losing their previous male friendships.”
In order to keep loneliness from progressing into a severe mental health condition or worsening one’s symptoms, it’s important to seek out methods of building a strong community and, coincidentally, strong mental health.
Looking after mental health during the holidays
The holidays can certainly escalate feelings of loneliness, but there are numerous strategies you can implement in your life to help you feel less alone and more connected to the people around you.
While it can be frightening to open up to someone, sharing that you’re lonely can open so many doors and allow the people around you to put in a bit of effort to help you feel included. You may discover that others you know also feel lonely, and may be able to encourage one another and build each other up during this time.
Step out of your comfort zone
You may not want to, but forcing yourself to go to events with family and friends can help build community and get you out of your head about being alone. Even if you feel uncomfortable initially, you might find yourself really enjoying the people around you if you let them welcome you in.
Keep your needs in mind
If you’ve been battling loneliness for a long time, take it slow. Ease yourself into new situations and practice engaging with others through small talk in day-to-day situations. Make sure you’re taking care of your mental health through sleep, exercise and nutrition. And, if necessary, seek out the additional help that therapy can provide.
Get in touch today
To learn more about therapy opportunities, reach out to Silvermist Recovery by calling 724-268-4858 today.