People who are lonely in life but hide it well display these 8 subtle behaviors

Loneliness can be a tricky thing. It’s often hidden behind the most unexpected faces. But as Lachlan Brown, founder of Hack Spirit and an expert in mindfulness and Buddhism, I’ve observed that those who are silently battling loneliness often exhibit certain subtle behaviors.

These behaviors are like whispers in the wind, quiet but telling, for those who know how to listen. In this article, we’re going to explore these 8 behaviors, signs of a loneliness that’s hidden away, but still very much real.

This isn’t about diagnosing or labeling people. Rather, it’s about understanding one another better and reaching out when someone might need a bit of company.

Let’s dive in and decipher these signals together.

1) They find comfort in solitude

One of the most telling signs of someone dealing with hidden loneliness is their inclination towards solitude.

Now, it’s important to differentiate between enjoying solitude and seeking it as a refuge.

Those who are lonely often prefer to be alone, even when there are opportunities for social interaction. This isn’t because they dislike people or socializing, it’s more that they find solace in their own company, a safe space where they can manage their feelings without the fear of being judged or misunderstood.

In the practice of mindfulness, solitude can be a powerful tool for self-reflection and personal growth. But like all things, balance is key. Too much solitude might indicate that they’re using it as a shield against their feelings of loneliness.

Loneliness and solitude are two different things. One reflects a craving for connection, while the other is about finding peace in one’s own presence.

Understanding this distinction can help us better identify and empathize with those hiding their loneliness behind a veil of solitude.

2) They put others before themselves

Another behavior often observed in individuals who hide their loneliness is their tendency to put others before themselves.

From my personal experience, people who are lonely can be some of the most caring and selfless individuals you’ll meet. They’ll go out of their way to help others, often neglecting their own needs in the process.

Is it because they’re trying to distract themselves from their loneliness by focusing on others? Or perhaps they hope that their kindness will be reciprocated, filling the void they feel? The reasoning can differ from person to person.

As the great mindfulness expert Thich Nhat Hanh once said, “The source of love is deep in us, and we can help others realize a lot of happiness. One word, one action, or one thought can reduce another person’s suffering and bring that person joy.”

It’s a beautiful sentiment, but it’s also important to remember that we can’t pour from an empty cup. Caring for others shouldn’t come at the cost of ignoring our own needs and feelings. 

If you see someone constantly prioritizing others over themselves, it could be a subtle sign that they’re dealing with hidden loneliness.

3) They’re over-active on social media

An unexpected sign of hidden loneliness can be an over-active presence on social media. Constantly posting updates, liking and sharing content, and engaging in online conversations might suggest that they’re trying to fill a void.

You see, social media can sometimes act as a smoke screen, creating the illusion of connection without the depth of face-to-face interaction. It’s easy to feel like you’re part of a community, but it’s a virtual one that may lack the emotional intimacy and genuine human connection that we all crave.

Buddhist teachings emphasize on the importance of genuine human interactions and the impermanence of artificial ones. As Buddha said, “What we think, we become.” If our thoughts and interactions are primarily digital, it could create a sense of detachment and heighten feelings of loneliness.

This isn’t to discredit the importance or benefits of social media. It’s a wonderful tool for communication and can foster genuine connections.

But an imbalanced reliance on it could be a subtle sign of hidden loneliness.

Paying attention to this behavior could help us recognize those who might be feeling lonely behind the digital screen.

4) They’re always busy

People who are hiding their loneliness often fill their schedules to the brim. They are always busy, either with work, projects, hobbies, or helping others.

Being constantly occupied might seem like a sign of a fulfilled life, but it could also be a distraction—a way to keep loneliness at bay. If they’re always on the go, they don’t have to face the silence and solitude that might make them confront their feelings of loneliness.

Mindfulness teaches us the importance of slowing down and being present in the moment. It encourages us to embrace stillness and to listen to our emotions without judgment or avoidance.

But for someone battling hidden loneliness, this stillness can be uncomfortable— even threatening. They may fear that slowing down will only intensify their feelings of isolation.

If you notice someone who’s constantly on the move, seemingly unable to take a breather, they could be subtly signaling their struggle with hidden loneliness. It’s not about making assumptions but rather about being aware and extending a hand if needed.

5) They seem disconnected from their feelings

In my years of studying and teaching mindfulness and Buddhism, I’ve noticed that people who are lonely often appear disconnected from their feelings. It’s as if they’ve built a wall around their emotions, choosing to keep them hidden — even from themselves.

This disconnect can manifest in various ways. They might downplay their emotions, dismiss their feelings as unimportant, or avoid discussing anything that might bring their loneliness to light.

In my book, Hidden Secrets of Buddhism: How To Live With Maximum Impact and Minimum Ego, I explore the importance of acknowledging and understanding our emotions, particularly the uncomfortable ones. It’s only through embracing these feelings that we can truly grow and navigate life with greater ease and authenticity.

If you notice someone appearing detached from their emotions, it could be a sign they’re dealing with hidden loneliness.

It’s not about forcing them to open up, but about creating a safe space where they feel comfortable sharing their feelings if they choose to.

6) They rarely express personal needs

This is a subtle sign, but if you notice someone rarely expressing personal needs or desires, it might be an indication of hidden loneliness.

It’s as if they believe their needs aren’t important, or they fear that expressing them would be a burden to others. This suppression of self-needs can create a cycle of loneliness, where they feel isolated yet are hesitant to reach out for fear of being a burden.

From a Buddhist perspective, this could be seen as a detachment from the self. Buddhism encourages us to understand and accept our own desires and needs as part of our human experience. Suppressing them does not lead to liberation but rather creates a disconnect from our own existence.

Mindfulness teaches us to acknowledge our needs without judgment or guilt. It’s healthy and necessary to express these needs and seek fulfillment. Recognizing this behavior in others could help us better understand and provide support to those dealing with hidden loneliness.

7) They struggle with sleep

Sleep disturbances can be a silent cry for help from those dealing with hidden loneliness. Whether it’s insomnia or excessive sleep, an irregular sleep pattern could be their body’s way of signaling a deeper emotional struggle.

Studies have shown a correlation between loneliness and sleep issues. The loneliness can lead to a heightened sense of vulnerability at night, causing difficulty in falling or staying asleep. Conversely, constant tiredness or the tendency to oversleep could also be their way of escaping feelings of isolation.

As Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, states, “Mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and our experience.” This includes acknowledging and addressing our struggles with sleep as a potential sign of hidden emotional distress.

If you notice someone struggling with irregular sleep patterns, it could be more than just physical exhaustion. It might be an indication of the loneliness they’re trying to hide. Offering understanding, support or even just a listening ear can make all the difference.

8) They often seem cheerful

This might seem counterintuitive, but sometimes those hiding their loneliness may often appear cheerful and content. They’ve mastered the art of wearing a “happy mask,” projecting an image of joy and fulfillment to the outside world.

Why? Because it’s easier to smile and say “I’m fine” than to admit to feeling lonely. It can also be a self-protection mechanism, a way to avoid burdening others with their feelings.

But mindfulness teaches us the importance of authenticity. Wearing a mask is like being at war with yourself, constantly denying your true feelings. It’s exhausting and only amplifies the loneliness.

If you notice someone who always seems happy, they might be dealing with hidden loneliness. It’s not about assuming everyone who smiles is secretly lonely, but rather about being aware that not everything is as it appears on the surface.

Remember, we can’t solve someone else’s loneliness, but we can offer our understanding, empathy, and companionship. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to help someone feel a little less alone.


Loneliness, especially when it’s hidden, can be a challenging thing to spot. But with these 8 subtle behaviors in mind, we might be better equipped to notice and reach out to those who need our understanding and companionship.

Remember, it’s not about diagnosing or labeling people. It’s about fostering a deeper understanding of one another and showing empathy. After all, we’re all walking this journey of life together, each with our own struggles.

If you’re interested in learning more about mindfulness and Buddhism, I invite you to take a peek at my book, “Hidden Secrets of Buddhism: How To Live With Maximum Impact and Minimum Ego”. It provides insightful teachings on how to navigate life’s challenges and live with authenticity and compassion.

Ultimately, we should remember that everyone around us is fighting their own battles—some visible, some hidden. Let’s strive to be kind, be patient, and most importantly, be there for one another.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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