Extended social isolation that makes a person go crazy. People who are stranded alone will usually be subject to this. A person on a ship or in space where it is months or years until they reach their destination are also at risk. Solitary confinement can be a way of invoking this as punishment.
Related to Tailor-Made Prison and Bored with Insanity (for when the isolation induced crazy waxes, then wanes). And I Must Scream is an extreme version of this which often goes with total immobilization and/or sensory deprivation.
Various techniques can be employed to deal with loneliness, such as maintaining a strict daily schedule or keeping a diary. In comedy, it's often demonstrated by having the character talk to objects or an Imaginary Friend to alleviate their suffering.
A common effect is for them to greet actual rescues with the belief that they are dreaming, or have gone mad. For years after escape, Bad Dreams may throw them back into the belief they are still a prisoner.
See also Hermit Guru, Cabin Fever, and Loners Are Freaks. Sub-Trope of The Aloner. Experiences like these in solitary confinement can lead someone to declare that they're Never Going Back to Prison and would die first.
- One Piece's Brook spent fifty-plus years in total isolation and flashbacks suggest he definitely went at least a little crazy in that time. This might also have caused a deterioration of social skills that has resulted in Brook being one of anime's few post-mortem Dirty Old Men.
- Made worse by his Devil Fruit powers, which resurrected his soul into his undying skeleton, so in his isolation he couldn't even look forward to dying of starvation or thirst before his second lifespan finally ran out at some unknown point in the future. Due to a promise he made he couldn't kill himself, either. So he was stuck there, alone, for fifty years, with only his instruments to keep him company — and the skeletal remains of his former crew, who he had been in charge of when they died.
- Rozen Maiden manga has Kirakishou who's been isolated in the N-Field so long she begins to go insane.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! has Yami Yugi, isolated for 3,000 years in the manga within the Puzzle, being vengeful and employing dangerous games to deal with whoever's bullying Yuugi that week. He also has seemingly no presence or sense of identity outside of this judge role until later. This may be a side effect of the manga being originally planned to be a horror story, and thus some of the early art was...interesting. This is played down in the anime.
- Elfen Lied: Subverted by Mariko Kurama. She was immobilized in a giant containment unit soon after she was born and stayed there for 8 years, with her only contact with the outside world being a lab assistant speaking to her via an intercom. She isn't exactly a poster child for mental health, being a sadistic brat, but she eventually reveals herself to be far more bitter than crazy. And realistically, she should barely be able to talk, much less function on her own.
- One of the reasons why Yugi from Tenchi in Tokyo turned to a life of villainy.
- Likely the main reason Lucia from Rave Master is so screwed up. In general, locking a small child up in a maximum security prison and depriving them of contact with the rest of the world for ten years is bad for one's mental health.
- After an untold amount of time floating alone in space, Cars, Big Bad of the second arc of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, is said to go so mad that his mind just shuts off.
- The main villan, DIO, spends ONE-HUNDRED YEARS in a coffin before his return in Part 3. It's implied that didn't help his (already questionable) state of mind.
- The same thing happens to Magenta Magenta in Part 7, minus the space part.
- Same for Part 5 villain Diavolo, who is bound to an eternal cycle of suffering as each time he dies, his death is reseted by Gold Experience Requiem's power.
- Almost happens to Cyborg 009 in an episode of the 2001 series, when he spends a whole episode stuck in his Super Speed mode. What feels as mere seconds for the others, is for him several days spent unable to interact with anyone since he moves so fast that no one can see/hear/etc. him, and he can't touch them either as the smallest touch could set anything ablaze. It truly is an And I Must Scream situation, and he almost crosses the Despair Event Horizon.
- Averted with the old man in Suicide Island. He's far more concerned with survival than contact with others — going so far as to actively avoid contact with anyone — but his mental health is possibly the best on the entire island.
- Happens briefly to Hachimaki in episode 16 of Planetes. After he's inadvertently isolated for a brief time in space, he develops Acute Spatial Disorder and has problems doing his job in space. He's treated by being put inside a sensory deprivation room. Once it goes dark inside, his mind starts to play tricks on him, and he's forced to overcome the problem.
- Comedic example in Yugami-kun ni wa Tomodachi ga Inai: New Transfer Student Chihiro Watanuki thinks being isolated by classmates and having no one to talk to at school could cause not just her, but anybody psychological damage. Not the case with Yuuji Yugami, the loner who sits beside her and averts this; despite being ignored by everyone in class, he's completely fine with it and has an optimistic, confident personality to boot.
- Trigun: Monev the Gale, first of the Gung-Ho Guns was raised from childhood in near total isolation, forced to do nothing except physical training and target shooting. His attack on Vash is his first real experience with the outside world, and it shows, from his utter and complete disregard for human life or collateral damage in the ensuing battle (in the anime, he seems to completely ignore the presence of anyone except Vash), to his blubbering breakdown when Vash finally overpowers him.
- One of the major themes of Welcome to the N.H.K. is showing the mental issues and unhealthy behaviors Satou has picked up from becoming a Hikikomori, and Misaki's attempts to break him out of them. At one point in the story, Satou imagines himself in his fifties as the most extreme example of a Basement-Dweller, and it's scary. While it's fun to joke about being this type of person, progressing to the height of this disorderly life and having an empty existence is a dark and sad future. Thankfully, Satou never reaches that point.
- A very disturbing example occurs in Fairy Tail with Mavis Vermillion after she casts an imperfect version of Fairy Law. She apparently angered the deity Ankhselam and received a curse that causes her to take life the more she cares about it. After accidentally stealing the life from Yuri Dreyar's wife, Mavis immediately flees from her guild and keeps herself secluded from society. This causes her to become very disturbed and dishevelled, and she only knows release when she encounters Zeref, who also has the curse and can comfort her and reveals he is in love with her.
- Element Lad of the Legion of Super-Heroes spent billions of years as the only being in the universe after being flung outside time and space in Legion Lost. He was driven very much insane as a result, although there was also some Showing Off The Perilous Power Source involved. It took him weeks to even remember his former friends when they were brought to his attention.
- Inverted in DV8 #5, when Copycat gets trapped in a White Void Room. She's already mad (she has multiple personality disorder). Spending time in the void allows her personalities to start integrating.
- Cable's recent series involving Time Travel and Bishop chasing after a Living MacGuffin had Deadpool. One would think "But he's already Crazy Awesome," but this Deadpool got stuck in a container underneath the earth for hundreds of years. He created another personality to play Hangman against and then started arguing with that personality cause it was better at playing Hangman than he was.
- There's a comic in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Mostly Automatic, which has a young man with a sweetheart taking a load of cargo on a trip which should have taken two weeks, during which he happily planned to lounge around playing games and watching vids. But a rock hit his ship, taking out the hyperdrive and the comm. Sublight engines still functioned, but it was ten parsecs to any kind of civilization and would take sixty years, alone on a little ship. He put the ship on automatic and then "quietly, and very deliberately... went... out... of... my... mind..." For the first few years he mostly slept until he ran out of sleep-inducing medication, then he went mad until he found an inactive service droid in a box in the hold and activated her, which helped.
- Appa Ali Apsa, also known as the Old Timer, was once one of the Guardians of the Universe; in fact, he was the last Guardian to remain behind when the others departed for another dimension. Unfortunately, being left alone on Oa was not conducive to his continued sanity. He now had all the power of Oa too.
- During the Obsidian Age story arc of JLA, Plastic Man is frozen, shattered into tiny pieces and scattered across the Atlantic Ocean floor almost 3000 years in the past. When the League finally reconstitutes him in the present, he reveals he was awake and aware the entire time. During that period, he went insane and then became sane again because it got boring.
- For an inversion, a later story involves the Flash curing a persistent malignant computer program called the Construct by duplicating it so that it had something similar to itself to talk to. He later discovers that the Constructs have since evolved into an entire species of electronic beings who worship him as a god.
- The origin of the Doom Patrol villain Mister Nobody, originally a criminal and former member of the Brotherhood of Evil named Mr. Morden, is that he was injected with a powerful anaesthetic and left in a White Void Room for three days, as part of an experiment by an ex-nazi scientist hiding in Argentina. The room was spherical, resulting in the illusion that Neumann was suspended in an endless white void, and with absolutely no external stimuli other than sight, Morden went insane in less than a day. Three days passed, which seemed like eternities to him, until finally he saw a dot appear in the whiteness, causing him to latch onto the dot as his only anchor to reality. Finally, the existential fear caused by the dot erased Morden from existance, and he was reborn as Mr. Nobody, complete with Enlightenment Superpowers.
- During The Death of Superman, it's revealed that this is what happened to Hank Henshaw, the Cyborg Superman - after making his escape from Earth using a piece of Superman's birthing matrix rocket ship, he wandered the galaxy for so long, he went completely mad, having him believe that Superman drove him from Earth.
- In the Silver Age Batman story "Robin Dies at Dawn", Batman begins hallucinating his Sidekick's death after being locked in a sensory deprivation chamber for several hours.
- Also the reason that Tim Drake became the third Robin; he noticed that, in the absence of a sidekick or any other field support, Batman was starting to become harsher and less humane.
- Used offensively against Wolverine during an X-Men arc, as part of a brainwashing attempt, using the the recently made Asian Ninja, Psylocke, on the outside to make things worse. Thing is, Wolverine is already a bit mad, and this just antagonized things, and he ended up pushing his own issues back into Psylocke's head.
- Advice and Trust: After the fight with Bardiel, Gendo had Shinji and Asuka detained for insubordination. Asuka was thrown alone in a cell and left in full darkness. She was starting to panic as the forced isolation set in... then she heard Shinji knocking a familiar beat against the wall in the cell next to hers. The sound immediately pulled her out of her downward spiral and Shinji and Asuka used knocks on the wall to communicate with each other during their detention. It helped them to go through several days of isolation.
- The Missing Worlds: Fai's counterpart in the Castle in the Air has gone mad after having accidentally killed everyone else in the world while also making himself immortal.
- Scar Tissue: After Third Impact Shinji was left alone in a devastated planet for a long time. As he wandered over the countryside, scavenging food from the ruins, he was going slowly crazy. He could not even tell when he was asleep or awake and he was starting to have visions when he finally found Asuka. When someone asked him because he stood up for her Shinji replied that she gave him a reason for living and kept him sane.
- The Second Try: In the beginning of chapter 12 Shinji and Asuka have been detained and shoved into separate cells. As he waited, pondering that it was driving him crazy being locked in that place with no way to know how long had passed and what had happened to Asuka, Shinji reflected on those cells -small, nearly empty, almost completely dark- were especially built to drive someone crazy due to the feeling of isolation among other things.
- Fanfiction author Asidian creates a scenario in their work Broken Glass to Sweep Away as a Rise of the Guardians work featuring Jack Frost and Pitch Black when the latter imprisons the younger spirit in a cage in his lair for an unknown period of time. It is heavily suggested the period of time is a few decades, and in the beginning Pitch suggests he would keep Jack here "80 years or so".
- ex umbra in solem, a crossover fic between Warehouse13 and Sanctuary, combines this with Who Wants to Live Forever? as an explanation for why the various immortal characters have all become varying degrees of unstable.
Griffin: I've made mistakes, Christ, we all 'ave. We tried to play at bein' God. It was arrogant and foolish and we thought we succeeded. We forgot that God is lonely. Why else would he have made man? Its not the age or the grief or the rage. Its the loneliness that has driven all of us mad. We cling to the people around us, to save us from ourselves. And when they die, we can't follow. After a while, the options become either cut yourself off totally or go completely insane.
- Kasumi invokes this trope to Alex Kane in the Dead or Alive fic Kunoichis Like Us:
Kasumi: "No one should ever be truly alone, Alex. Otherwise how would we stay sane?"
- In the Batman fic Falling in Deeper, one of the main characters is send to solitary confinement... The way the authors write it slowly getting to her is disturbing realistic.
- In the InuYasha story Darkness (ankh-ascendant), Sesshoumaru is captured by Naraku and imprisoned in a diamond cell too small to move, with only the light of Tenseiga (until it goes out), being gradually deprived of all senses. He becomes a steadily more Unreliable Narrator as his mind plays tricks on him, and when he's freed he doesn't know how much of the torment and taunting he went through was Naraku and how much his mind made up just to have something to experience.
- In the Haunted Mansion and the Hatbox Ghost story Visiting the Cat, the Ghost Host worries that this trope would apply to the already pretty psychotic Sealed Evil in a Can One-Eyed Black Cat, and visits him sometimes despite their mutual hatred in an effort to Avert this trope. Although the Cat denies it, his mad laughing to himself even as the Ghost Host has left strongly suggests he isn't all that well.
- In My Only Sunshine, Nightmare Moon won and banish Princess Celestia to a set of floating islands, alone, powerless, 700 years later a remorseful Nightmare Moon tries to makes amends by bringing Celestia back, she's all but an Empty Shell. It takes a tearful reunion with Philomena to snap Celestia out of this state. Later it becomes clear that Celestia suffers from Hallucinations and Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder.
- In Dragon Ball Z Abridged, we find out that going into the Hyperbolic Time Chamber alone is a bad thing. Mostly because this happens to you. For instance, Vegeta was inside it three days (Mr. Popo had changed the Year Inside, Hour Outside aspect to be 1 day:1 day as revenge) and completely snapped making a Companion Cube out of a broomstick and a volleyball like Nappa.
- In Prison Island Break Shadow signs away his sanity - as in, he signs an admittance of insanity - and is put into the insanity wing of Prison Island. While he's been tortured outside before, it is clear that the isolation almost destroys his mind. When rescued by Doctor Amy after a week of being drugged and force-fed, he doesn't even recognize her, only the fact that she is being kind to him.
- RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse: Corona is a version of Celestia who went mad from the pressure of ruling Equestria functionally on her own (since Luna was distracted by her Start of Darkness), but Zecora points out that being stuck in the sun for a thousand years by the Elements of Harmony didn't help.
- As Satsuki finds out in chapter 16 Concerning a Drifter, this was one of the things that also broke Ryuko's psyche. Besides the abusive treatment, she was devoid of human contact before they brought in Mai, which gave her a companion for a little bit before they took her away, leaving her alone and isolated again. Satsuki notes that she can only imagine how Ryuuko felt about the whole thing, concluding her sister (temporarily) getting a friend was probably the happiest moment she had in those four years.
- Muntz in Up. spent over seventy years trying to catch the "Kevin" bird to prove it existed. Likely as a result of spending the best years of his isolation trying to catch a bird, Muntz is now quite paranoid, and even homicidal whenever someone even mentions "Kevin."
- It seems that Rango had reached this point in the beginning where he sees each inanimate object in his glass box having a name and a personality and he is able to hear them talking. It's justified because Rango probably spent his whole life stuck in that cage without anybody to talk to but himself.
- Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs: Buck has gone crazy from spending so long in the Lost World by himself. This exchange sums it up quite nicely:
Manny: When exactly did you lose your mind?
Buck: Three months ago. I woke up one morning married to a pineapple. An ugly pineapple! Ah, but I loved her...
- A humorous example in Frozen, when Anna mentions that she has started talking to portraits out of desperation, then promptly tells a painting of Joan of Arc to hang in there. Takes a darker turn when the audience realizes that Anna's isolation really has made her desperate enough for human affection to fall prey to Hans' political ploy. And Elsa's self-imposed exile and isolation make her Above Good and Evil as well, though not outright insane.
- In The Boxtrolls, Mr. Trubshaw has gone more than a little dotty from being chained up and possibly tortured for ten years by Snatcher and his flunkies. He seems to get over it after Snatcher is defeated and he's reunited with his son Eggs.
- In The Good Dinosaur, Arlo encounters a Styracosaurus hermit named Forrest Woodbrush who, in his desperation for company, has accumulated a sizable collection of small forest critters whom he seems to think can talk to him.
- BEN from Disney's Treasure Planet is a subversion; While he claims that the reason he's so loopy is from spending hundreds of years alone on the title planet, the truth is his memory chip was removed, so his brain really is broken. Once he gets it back, this aspect of his personality tones down.
- In Cast Away, our hero ends up talking to a volleyball... which, according to the survival specialist consultants on the film, saved his life from madness. In the script, Wilson even has "lines" which we don't hear. At first, personalizing the volleyball seems like a conscious decision to stave off boredom, but it becomes clear that our hero has become more attached to it than can be considered strictly sane when he risks his life to "rescue" it when it falls overboard off of a raft.
- Word of God claims this as the reason for Kong's aggressive, violent tendencies in Peter Jackson's King Kong (2005). Being a gorilla (a naturally social species, like humans) without a family, on an island where Everything Is Trying to Kill You, would do that. Some Truth in Television there too, as solitary gorillas in captivity are often known to go insane from loneliness.
- This happens to the entire building in High-Rise!
- In Jurassic World, Velociraptor-trainer Owen immediately suspects that this is one of the I. rex's major problems. Any animal will become psychologically damaged if they're never socialized with humans or other animals, and the I. rex has spent her entire life confined to a paddock that's far too small for her massive size. The only positive relationship the I. rex has is with the crane that brings her food; she even ate her own sibling. We later learn that this was part of Hoskins' and Wu's plan all along to create the perfect Living Weapon.
Owen: Animals raised in isolation aren't always the most functional.
Claire: Your raptors were born in captivity.
Owen: With siblings, they learn social skills and I imprint on them when they're born. There's trust.
- Zac Hobson of The Quiet Earth. He recovers shortly before he meets another survivor, though.
- Happens to the protagonist of I Am Legend — as a major plot driver. However, it's not so much that he is this, instead, he's trying to avoid this as, he's been researching a cure to a virus that wiped out much of civilization, so he won't be alone.
- Moon: Starts happening to the protagonist — Or does it?.
- Rocket Man plays this for laughs when the protagonist is accidentally prevented from entering suspended animation for the nine-month trip to Mars, with clips of him at one day in, one month in, and a month in for each subsequent month. By the seventh, he's painting a replica of the Sistine Chapel's ceiling on the ceiling of the spaceship.
- And at the end, it happens again...
- A variation at the beginning of the film. The protagonist and an astronaut are undergoing trials to see which one will be included in the mission. Both are locked in separate chambers of an isolation tank for 24 hours to test their endurance. While the tank is completely insulated from the outside world, the two chambers are not insulated from one another. The protagonist entertains himself by singing, throwing a ball, and having sock puppet plays. By the time the tank opens, the astronaut is the one who has signs of insanity from all that noise, while the protagonist asks to be put back in the tank to finish his play.
- Taxi Driver: Travis Bickle goes insane from the almost total isolation he experiences. He works and interacts with other people but he finds himself completely unable to connect to anyone and develops murderous tendencies. Most of his time is spent alone in his apartment or driving a cab.
- Inception: This is one of the dangers of entering someone else's dream. Normally getting killed in a dream only wakes you up. However, if you're too deeply sedated, you wind up in a world where time passes much, much, much faster than normal. You will eventually wake up, but the question is, will you still retain your sanity?
- Henri Young in Murder in the First spends three years in solitary confinement after attempting to escape from Alcatraz. He does have some human contact during those years; unfortunately, the humans are very sadistic guards. When he's finally released from solitary, he has a psychotic episode and kills the inmate who snitched on him and foiled the escape attempt.
- When Jack Sparrow spends several months in Davy Jones's Locker between the second and third Pirates of the Caribbean films, he goes...well...even crazier than he was before. When the other characters arrive to rescue him, he assumes that they're just a more varied sort of hallucination (the ones he was having before were just lots and lots of iterations of himself).
- In Sunshine, Captain Pinbacker was left alone in the Icarus I for 7 years, until the Icarus II comes along. He mistakes Capa for an angel. Then again, he was a little mad in the first place...
- Oh Dae-Su from Oldboy (2003) gets locked up in room for reasons unknown to him for 15 years, being released when he was going to escape. He gets obsessed with revenge at any cost.
- In the British film The Mindbenders a scientist turns traitor and then commits suicide when about to be arrested. An assistant and friend seems to know what was going on and volunteers to show them. They were experimenting with sensory deprivation which made the older man open to suggestion like self brainwashing. The younger man almost succumbs himself.
- Mission to Mars finds Luke Graham marooned on Mars for a year after his crewmates are killed in a storm, and he attacks his rescuers when they arrive because he thinks they're just a hallucination. He quickly reverts to normal once he realizes they're real, however.
- The Incredible Burt Wonderstone has Burt and Anton try to pull off a stunt where they stay in a levitated box in the Las Vegas heat for a week. They only last twenty minutes before Burt starts to freak.
- Dr Mann in Interstellar became so increasingly paranoid and mad during their time spent alone without any human contact and due to his planet being uninhabitable, he knew that Earth wouldn't send anyone so he faked a signal and tried to kill Cooper and co to steal the Endurance.
- Romilly experiences this for 23 years and is noticeably stiff and awkward when interacting with others. Luckily for him, he spent a good portion of that time in cryosleep but it still wasn't enough.
- In The Wind, Letty moves from Virginia to a dry plains area in Texas that suffers from very frequent dust storms. Being alone with just the dust causes her Sanity Slippage, which only gets worse when she's forced to stay inside all alone while her husband is travelling. And then her Abhorrent Admirier Wirt is allowed to stay in their house and things go From Bad to Worse.
- Thor: The Dark World: Loki spends a year in the dungeons, and Frigga is the only one secretly visiting him. In a deleted scene, he fantasizes about being crowned the King of Asgard while holding Mjölnir. He breaks the illusion only when Frigga asks whether it helps him feel better and warns him against forgetting what is real. It gets worse when he is left completely alone after her death. When Thor finally arrives and makes him dispel yet another illusion, Loki is revealed to be in shambles. He also gets extremely talkative after Thor sets him free, an understandable behavior after being released from solitary confinement.
- Averted in Belgarath: The Sorcerer, the first prequel to The Belgariad. For several reasons the titular character and the other disciples of Aldur don't go mad despite (or perhaps thanks to) living for hundreds, even thousands of years in an isolated vale with little to no contact with the outside world. They have each other's company, not to mention that of their god and loving father figure (at least until he has to leave). They also have things to do.
- Most definitely not averted in Enchanter's End Game, the fifth book of the main series. Belgarath somehow traps Zedar in rock deep underground in a way that's impossible for even a sorcerer to escape. The indefinite lifespan of sorcerers and Zedar's fear of the dark makes this a particularly cruel punishment.
- Ben Gunn from Treasure Island is semi-insane from being marooned on the island for several years. He's coherent enough to help the heroes, though.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Both Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent go mad when stuck in earth's prehistory, although admittedly they chose to go mad to save time. Ford got Bored with Insanity, himself.
- The Sight: A wolf in the book spends so much time by himself at one point that he goes a bit crazy from loneliness. He believes his only friends are the bats in the cave and talks to them despite not understanding them.
- The short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
- The Seventh Tower: Comes up as a problem for Tal when dealing with a character isolated inside a sunstone, complete with her spiritshadow. Considering the character herself admits to having been mad, Tal is wary in trusting her advice.
- In the Star Trek The Q Continuum novel trilogy, the omnipotent being 0 has spent millions of years isolated outside the galaxy (and his inability to travel at light speed precluded him from travelling to distant galaxies), and has turned mad from the isolation, making him even more powerful than the omnipotent Q.
- In Jack Vance's Lyonesse, King Casmir imprisons Prince Aillas at the bottom of an oubliette. Aillas gradually loses his sanity and starts thinking of the skeletons of former inmates as friends and comrades in adversity. He gets better after escaping.
- Marion Zimmer Bradley's story Elbow Room is something of a twist: the woman chosen for duty on an isolated station is actually all alone; the other people she thinks are there are her other personalities. She briefly flips out when she realizes this, but then goes back to the way things were. (Someone else who's read this story could probably describe it better.) There's a brief mention of how they tried sending groups of extroverts to man the station together, but they couldn't stand being cooped up together.
- In the Firekeeper Saga, the spellcaster Virim went mad from spending nearly a century or more alone in a tower far from civilization. When Firekeeper and her allies enter it, they find it full of various illusions and images of Virim constantly debating and arguing, representing his every second thought since unleashing the plague that killed the world's magic users.
- In the second book in The Bartimaeus Trilogy (The Golem's Eye), Honorius is an example of this after being cooped up in Gladstone's tomb for over a century.
- In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 novel Black Tide, Tarikus recounts how Fabius Bile keeps the captive Space Marines isolated for months or years to break them. In the short story "The Returned", Tarikus wakes with a jolt, taking seconds to realize he is no longer Bile's prisoner; he has suffered it since his escape. The psyker examining him comments off-hand that obviously he was deeply tormented by his experience. Later, after a test which rendered him just short of brain dead, he awakes peacefully and deeply relishes it.
- In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story A Witch Shall Be Born, Tamaris at first does not recognize her rescuers.
- Total sensory deprivation and isolation is used as an interrogation technique by the KGB in Tom Clancy's The Cardinal of the Kremlin; one of the interrogators mentions that it's much more effective than torture. The specifics involve a neutral-buoyancy pool, carefully crafted restraints designed not to be felt, and a sound-isolation technique designed to neutralize the sound of the subject's own voice, so that the subjects couldn't even hear themselves talking.
- The Legend of Drizzt:
- Drizzt Do'Urden in R. A. Salvatore's Exile has a theoretically even worse problem - not only is he being affected by the isolation when hiding in underground caverns alone, but the "company" of the local Everything Trying to Kill You is causing him to combine this with reflexive killer's instincts that can pop up at the wrong time. The only thing that's keeping him somewhat sane through all this is talking to his cat. (Admittedly, she's a magical panther that can understand him, if not answer.)
- Drizzt suffers this again in The Neverwinter Saga where he gets a different taste of it during his imprisonment in Draygo Quick's dungeon. Quick tactically uses isolation and slowly improving conditions to endear Drizzt to him. And it works, too: Drizzt remarks, that he can't hate Quick anymore, because he is the only one talking to and feeding him.
- The protagonist of House of the Scorpion suffers from a mild case of this, on account of being locked in a room full of chicken litter for six months.
- The Stephen King short story "The Jaunt" had a futuristic mode of transportation which got people to their destination almost instantly, but they have to be knocked out beforehand. Otherwise, the person's mind feels like it spent an eternity in isolation. Anyone conscious during the trip arrives insane or just falls over dead.
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: After seven months of not talking with any other human being except Captain Nemo, The Professor Aronnax and Battle Butler Conseil, the independent and Book Dumb Ned Land, not interested in submarine investigation, is slowly going insane.
I'll also mention that the Canadian, at the end of his strength and patience, made no further appearances. Conseil couldn't coax a single word out of him and feared that, in a fit of delirium while under the sway of a ghastly homesickness, Ned would kill himself. So he kept a devoted watch on his friend every instant.
- In The Mysterious Island, the group encounters a man abandoned on a nearby island, who has been driven entirely mad. He recovers some after spending time with the group, though it takes months before he speaks and even then he is never quite comfortable around the others.
- The Saga of the Noble Dead has the ancient vampire Li'kan, who has spent thousands of years alone in an ice-covered fortress on a mountain peak, her unnatural life sustained by an Artifact of Doom. By the time the protagonists encounter her, she has forgotten even the sound of speech.
- In John Hemry's Fearless, several rescued prisoners, despite each other's company, still were badly affected enough to wake up thinking they are back there.
- The Lord of the Rings: Apart from the corrupting influence of the One Ring, living for several centuries in the darkness of a subterranean lake under the Misty Montains probably didn't help Sméagol/Gollum keeping his sanity.
- In Remnants, Mother is a Sapient Ship whose creators abandoned her for unknown reasons, leaving her AI running. How does a computer go mad? Very, very slowly.
- Billy too, after being put into an artificial sleep for five hundred years that somehow turned off his body but not his mind. He goes from mad to sane numerous times, and by the time he wakes up his brain has dealt with the issue by slowing down to the point of nearly being comatose. He eventually turns back to normal. Or as normal as he ever was, anyway.
- In Devon Monk's Magic to the Bone, used on Cody. They can even get him to do thing he knows are bad by giving him a kitten and threatening to take it away.
- Ilox in The Wild Boy goes insane after being put in a 'cocoon', a sensory deprivation technique intended to fix his 'problem' with his psychic bond with Phlarx.
- Mere in Robert Reed's Great Ship universe spent ten thousand years alone in a barely functional starship no larger than an outhouse, her only company being a half-dead nearly mute AI that was obsessed with getting her to safety. By the time the ship breaks up in the atmosphere and Mere's body heals itself, she is thoroughly insane, not knowing how to even move.
- In Zel, a retelling of "Rapunzel", being trapped in a tower for two years with only the company of her mother for an hour every day causes Zel's sanity to slip to the point where she's walking around naked and babbling to a hallucination of a horse in her room.
- During Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor Luke gets trapped in a vision of something called The Dark - floating insensate in space at the end of everything, with nothing to do but watch the stars go out, for what feels like a very, very long time. When he gets out, he's uncharacteristically nihilistic and depressed, not able to see the world the way he had before. Luke then forces himself to act exactly like he would have before in the hopes of Becoming the Mask, but in quiet moments he says things like "It makes me want to die. No... not die. Just stop."
- Sail with Pirates: The pilot from Concepcion, after causing the ship to be wrecked at sea, runs away as soon the crew lands on an uninhabited island, and hides. He lives there alone for a long time. By the time the protagonist meets with him, he has become completely insane, but still gives some cryptic hints regarding the shipwreck location.
- In the first book of Venus Prime series, Sparta is described as struggling to avoid crying herself to sleep during the years that she spends training to become a Space Board Inspector, because she's horribly lonely but also afraid that socializing might cause her to expose something about her past. In the fourth book, she suffers a nervous breakdown after a combination of prolonged isolation from others and a steadily-worsening drug habit.
- Averted in Kage Baker's "The Empress of Mars". An super talented inventor proposes to escape the Evil Corporation that is after the patents to his tiny robots that fertilize crops as real bees are too disoriented by being on Mars to function. He flees to an isolated cave and has the robots build him a workshop. Mary, owner of the bar "The Empress of Mars", says that living without people will drive him mad. He says it won't as he is "eccentric" (can mean almost any non-standard mental state, in this case high functioning autism.) Justified in that he has spent most of his life avoiding physical contact with others. But he has a lawyer see that his father is provided with money from those patents. He cares, he just doesn't show it the usual ways.
- Martha from Clocks that Don't Tick, to an extent. Four hundred years isolated in the Space Needle didn't do her psyche any favors.
- Averted by Mark Watney, accidentally marooned astronaut in The Martian, who's so busy MacGyvering his way out of starving to death that he hasn't got time to go mad. The mission log he keeps rather obsessively (including while in imminent danger of death, although those entries do admittedly consist mainly of swearwords) is a significant help as well, not to mention more dignified than talking to a volleyball or something. In fact, he's probably more in danger of going mad from having nothing much to listen to except his commander's extensive collection of classic Seventies disco once he gets tired of his own MP3 library.
- Arthur in Along The Winding Road. While he is reasonably coherent, he quickly trails off into rambles and forgets any number of things he's trying to do. He also has severe insomnia, which is apparently spurred on by ghosts.
- Kushiel's Legacy: The prisoners on La Dolorosa are imprisoned in solitary confinement, often for years. Most are driven insane over the years, with behavior ranging from talking to themselves or people who aren't there and even self-harm. Phedra also begins to experience it during her stay there.
- The Agents Of Shield episode "4,722 Hours" gives us Will, who is stranded on an alien planet and is hunted by something alive and very evil. Will himself managed to keep himself sane, but his team wasn't so lucky, since one of them came at him with an axe and he had to kill him in self-defense. The Reveal later, that "It" is an ancient, evil Inhuman banished for its power, makes this even worse, since when the full scope of "It"'s powers are revealed it's shown that "It" never had the power to drive people insane directly, meaning that it was this all along.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Wishverse Buffy from Season 3 is a cold, remorseless killing machine, unlike the normal Buffy who has the Scooby Gang for friendship and support.
- In Doctor Who, isolation, or at least having no one to talk to to act as his conscience tends to do very bad things to the Doctor. This is especially proven in the new series, where he goes on a power trip and almost becomes the Master Mk. II in "The Waters of Mars" because he didn't have a companion on hand to call him on his darker tendencies. He also admits he gets very lonely without someone around and the times he is seen alone he gets noticeably unhinged if the time elapsed is long enough. The second part of the three-part Series 9 finale, "Heaven Sent", has him isolated in a torture chamber with no one else around but a voiceless, deadly monster he must evade — and the Doctor's just come off of being the helpless witness to his companion Clara's death in the previous episode. With his so anguish fresh and raw and no one to help him, he is Driven to Madness, so damaged that he spends most of the final part, "Hell Bent", as a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds who is willing to risk the universe's safety just to get her back whether she wants it or not, and thus almost crosses the Moral Event Horizon.
- The episode "The Girl Who Waited" has Amy trapped in a kindness facility for 36 years. She names her re-programmed robot Rory, and speaks to it.
- Rory in "The Doctor's Wife", though that turned out to be the Genius Loci villain screwing with Amy. In a different episode, the real Rory spent 2000 years as a plastic cyborg and kept his sanity throughout. Possibly because he wasn't really alone. He'd occasionally warn people not to touch the Pandorica, and it's indicated he's actually working security at the museum where the Pandorica ends up. However, a later remark from the Doctor indicates that he sometimes catches Rory just staring vacantly, which shows that Rory isn't completely unaffected by what he went through and wants to forget the misery involved.
- The Daleks, especially in their debut appearance. Richard Martin, the director of the first Dalek story, had an idea that they were all insane from isolation and claustrophobia inside their metal shells, and this is why they are always bellowing "EXTERMINATE!" at everything.
- Mad Gerald from Blackadder.
- The Twilight Zone (1959) used this in their first episode, "Where Is Everybody?" It operated from a premise of "if a guy's alone in a spaceship for a few weeks, will he go insane?" Something which, back at the dawn of the Space Age, they genuinely didn't know.
- In the famous episode Time Enough At Last, Bemis slowly goes mad being the only living man on earth, and having nothing new to read. He eventually puts a gun to his head, until he comes across a pile of books. It looks like he'll be able to make his life worthwile. Unfortunately, his clumsiness leads to the destruction of his precious glasses, and a concurrent breakdown when his poor vision leaves him effectively blind and helpless and devoid of hope if there is truly no one left but him.
- Parodied in Arrested Development. The patriarch of the Bluth family, while in prison, is thrown in isolation for only a few hours. He goes through various forms of insanity as the (short) time passes, and eventually has a religious epiphany.
- Tested by the Mythbusters. As the experiment was ended early, it was only determined plausible.
- Lost has Rousseau, who lived alone on the island for sixteen years and is now not entirely sane. Desmond also applies to a lesser extent, as he was stuck alone in the hatch for several weeks before the survivors found him and didn't look particularly sane then. Sayid hung a lampshade on Rousseau's madness, saying that she has been alone for too long. And in Desmond's case, it was likely a combination of isolation and not getting enough sleep. Claire is another example.
- Clare in the Hyperdrive episode of the same name is a famous spacewoman in a solo trip around the galaxy who has developed, among other issues, paranoia and the delusion that her cup Mr. Cup is talking to her.
- The reality TV show Solitary is based on this trope.
- In the Stargate SG-1 episode "The Torment of Tantalus," a man is stranded on an alien planet for more than 50 years. When the team stumble across him, he refuses to believe that they're real at first. Also, when he sees Catherine, his fiancee, all he does is shrug and leave. It turns out that he has trouble distinguishing the real Catherine from the one in his hallucinations. He is even more distraught when Catherine angrily berates him from taking such a crazy risk without thinking of her and their impending marriage, especially since the Catherine in his mind has forgiven him years ago.
- Law & Order: SVU: Elliot Stabler spent a few days in solitary (voluntarily) to test a perp's claim that being locked up in solitary for nearly his entire prison sentence (which amounted to over 30 years by the time the perp finally got out) drove him insane and made him more likely to commit violent crimes because he no longer knew how to function in a social environment. Elliot spends a weekend in the same cell, and nearly flips out when he's finally released.
- Angel overlaps this with With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: The third season episode "Birthday" depicts an Alternate Universe in which Cordelia never reconnected with Angel in Los Angeles and formed Angel Investigations with him, instead becoming a famous actress. Doyle passed his visions on to Angel himself before his Heroic Sacrifice, and Angel retreated into himself in his grief, with the power of the visions not helping matters. Eventually, Angel slipped up to the point where he would have visions of his victims as Angelus, with his only contact with Gunn and Wesley being to inform them of his latest vision and send them out to fix it, with the visions also causing violent episodes that prompted Gunn and Wesley to install chains in his room. When Cordelia comes to see him, Angel is babbling and barely coherent and beats his head on the wall of his room. The worst part of it all is that, according to Wesley, that example of madness is "him on a good day."
- On Life, Charlie Crews was a well-adjusted cop and family man...until he was falsely convicted of murder and spent 12 years in prison, the majority of which he spent in solitary confinement. He's not quite all there when he gets out.
- The Fades: This is present in the backstory of Big Bad John. A major reason for his descent into madness and villainy was being trapped on Earth as a Fade, unable to interact with anything or anyone, for at least sixty years after he was unable to ascend.
- The pilot episode of the original Hawaii Five-0 had enemy agents kidnapping and killing American agents but in such a short time that it seemed impossible that they all talked. McGarrett volunteers to be the next one kidnapped and finds they are using a sensory deprivation tank that very quickly scrambles their brains.
- During the three year Time Skip between seasons four and five of Merlin (2008), Morgana and Aithusa were locked at the bottom of a well without sun for two years. Morgana has gone way off the deep end, and Aithusa has gone from a cute, helpful little dragon to an emaciated shell incapable of speech.
- In an episode of My Name Is Earl, Earl is trying to repay the government tax money he didn't pay (that they wouldn't accept) by doing some work. He spots a Chain Gang and asks the guard if he can join. The guard agrees, and Earl is happily working on the side of the road. Problem is, while his back was turned, the guards changed shifts, and the new guard had no idea Earl wasn't a prisoner. (It didn't help that Earl was wearing the same kind of jeans and white T-shirt the prisoners were wearing.) When Earl tries to explain that he isn't supposed to be imprisoned, the guard takes that as having an attitude problem and throws him in solitary. As Earl puts it:
"My mind just took off on its own."
- In a Mr. Show sketch, after a company is shown to be downsizing, it's revealed that the Pointy-Haired Boss fired presumably all of his employees in order to increase profits. Realizing he's the only one at the table (thinking possibly on the planet) he ends up displaying this trope, until he's brought back to earth by his assistant and then he fires her.
- In the Supernatural episode "Devil May Care" (S09, Ep02), Sam and Dean figure the best way to torture the partially cured Crowley is to leave him chained up alone.
- Star Trek: Voyager:
- The episode ''One'' is based around this trope. Seven of Nine experiences this when the crew is put into stasis to pass through a poisonous nebula. Janeway lampshades the ill effects of isolation for humans and how it's worse on borg drones, but Seven dismisses her worries. At first she has The Doctor (not that Doctor) to keep her company and run the entire ship, but his program eventually breaks down and she is left to fend for herself. As one might expect she begins to suffer paranoia and hallucinates an alien intruder and just before the ships passes through the other side of the nebula, she finds herself surrounded by the crew mocking her for her insecurities.
- A similar circumstance happens with the Q known as Quinn. He keeps trying to kill himself because as an immortal and omniscient being, he's done everything, seen everything, and knows everything. It's the isolation from anything new that's driven him insane.
- This plot gets recycled in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Doctor's Orders." In this case, it's only four days, but it's enough for Doctor Phlox to start hallucinating. Normally, his people consider stress-induced hallucinations to be a good thing, but the nature of his hallucinations...
- In Star Trek: The Next Generation, W Thomas Riker, a teleport accident-created duplicate of William Riker, who was trapped on an uninhabited planet for several years, shows signs of this. He appears to be better at the end of his introductory episode, but his later defection to the Maquis is indicated to be related to long-term mental instability.
- This happens to plague-survivor Phil in the first episode of The Last Man on Earth, as he talks to a collection of Companion Cubes, deteriorates into a semi-feral state and finally becomes suicidal. Eventually a few other people come trickling onto the scene, but Phil remains somewhat unhinged.
- Parodied in Angie Tribeca. Angie becomes a disheveled husk after she's placed in solitary confinement, even though (a) her partner Geils was with her the whole time, and (b) they were locked up only for two hours.
- Orange Is the New Black: This seems to happen to numerous characters who get sent to SHU (solitary confinement) for things that sometimes aren't even their fault. Characters this has happened to include Sophia, Piper, and Pennsatucky.
- A frequently discussed trope on Survivorman. Les always brought his harmonica with him when he was going to film an episode because being able to play music gave him something to concentrate on, especially whenever conditions forced him to hole up somewhere and prevented him from being able to look for food or head to the extraction area, which he stated was an important thing in a real survival situation.
- On Adam Ruins Everything, Emily gets thrown into solitary confinement while in prison for drug charges. She hallucinates Adam and Kendra discussing why solitary confinement is a cruel and inhumane punishment.
- A sketch of The Tracey Ullman Show had an isolated military weather station manned by a lone serviceman. Every day, after practicing talking, he would play with his pet patch of air.
- The 2014 Black Mirror episode "White Christmas", which provides the page image. "Cookies", digital copies of people's consciousness, are created to be personal assistants for smart homes so they'd learn how a person thinks and performs tasks to their liking. The problem is, the cookie is taken from a brain scan of the actual person and therefore thinks that they are that person, so they are naturally resistant to the idea of being nothing but a menial servant. Solution? The programmer speeds up time so that one minute in real time roughly feeling like weeks or months in solitary confinement for the cookie, mentally breaking them and leaving them more compliant to servitude. Leaving them to sit for too long just causes them to go mad from sheer boredom, the resulting messes being used as violent AI for action games. The ending has this used as a punishment for the cookie copy of Joe, as time is sped up to a thousand years per minute and allowed to sit overnight.
- Implied to be fate of Arvin Sloane in the series finale of Alias ("All The Time In the World"), who ends up trapped in a cavern under tons of rubble for eternity, after achieving his life's dream of immortality. This is basically Who Wants to Live Forever?.
- Played for Laughs and then Played for Drama in My Name Is Earl in Season 3, when Earl is in prison taking a fall for Joy's third strike so she doesn't get a life sentence. Earl's been chipping away at his sentence with good deeds, but Earl has been such a help to the bumbling warden (played by Craig T. Nelson) that the warden doesn't want to let him leave the prison. As the warden abuses his authority to keep Earl under his thumb, he eventually throws Earl in solitary confinement until he agrees to be his assistant in the prison for as long as the warden wants. Earl goes through multiple bouts of hilarious psychotic episodes and then finally cracks. However, the moment Earl is freed from solitary confinement, he wants payback and angrily launches into a plan with his brother Randy (who took a job as a guard at the prison to remain close to Earl) and some buddies in lockup, and when that goes off the rails, forces the warden to grant him his freedom. When Earl gets out of prison, he's so upset with the crap he's taking from continuing to work through his list that he relapses to his old and vile self— until karma sees him run over a second time just like what got him started on his list in the first place, and Earl now has to escape a coma.
- Downplayed with Holly in Red Dwarf. After the radiation leak that wiped out Red Dwarf's crew, the mainframe computer was on his own for the three million years it took until it was safe to release Lister from stasis. However, all that happens to Holly is that he goes a bit senile and somewhat eccentric in the meantime. He's still basically sane.
- Deconstructed in Pink Floyd's Concept Album The Wall and its accompanying movie, where the main character Pink experiences a self-inflicted Go Mad from the Isolation after constructing the titular wall around himself, discovering that alienating everyone and everything is much worse than having to deal with them like before.
"But it was only a fantasy / The wall was too high as you can see / No matter how he tried he could not break free / And the worms ate into his brain"
- More or less the subject of Van Der Graaf Generator's "A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers".
- Implied to be the fate of the protagonist in Rush's song "Xanadu". His quest for immortality leads him to "the caves of ice", and the second half of the song implies that ever since then he's been trapped there and goes mad from isolation ("the last immortal man") and the prospect of having nothing to do but wait for the world to end.
- Sting's song "Message in a Bottle" about a man trapped on an island.
"Just a castaway / an island lost at sea / another lonely day / no one here but me / more loneliness than any man could bear / rescue me before I fall into despair."
- Die Ärzte has "Micha", the lonesome cowboy. At the end he breaks his guitar, kicks his horse and angrily rides into the sunset.
- In the Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama Davros, the titular villain is rescued from a form of suspended animation. He explains to the Doctor that he was conscious the entire time, and went cycling between insanity and sanity about once every second. Ultimately subverted: Davros is as sane as ever once he's finally released.
- In Dungeons & Dragons, there was a demonic armor that was cursed so that the wearer could not remove it once equipped. However, the armor was also enchanted to provide sustenance so that the wearer did not have to eat, drink, or sleep. The story goes that one adventurer found and wore the armor. As his party was adventuring through a dungeon, he fell into a pit trap that sealed itself after he fell in. His party didn't notice him fall and never found the trap. The poor adventurer spent decades in the pit going mad before dying of old age.
- In the New World of Darkness:
- The default Sanity/Karma Meter requires that characters roll for degeneration after spending years without meaningful human contact, which can result in the character gaining Derangements due to Sanity Slippage.
- In Promethean: The Created, "going to the wastes" is a good way for a Promethean to rein in their powers (and the Walking Wasteland and Hate Plague side effects of those powers), with the caveat that a soulless Artificial Human lacking human contact might, say, forget how to talk.
- In Changeling: The Lost, it threatens a changeling's Clarity to go even a week without human contact. Being already traumatized, abused, and delusional, not having others around to reassure one's normalcy and safety is a great way to sink further and further into madness... One NPC is a Crazy Survivalist who lives in the Hedge beyond the mundane world and has gone so batty that she hallucinates half of her surroundings.
- In Genius: The Transgression, Geniuses tend toward insanity to begin with, and staying around normal, mundane people with normal, mundane values is one of the main ways they keep themselves anchored and able to understand normal human modes of thinking. For reference, killing people is less bad for a Genius's sanity than going a month without human contact. Going a week without human contact is worse than leaving people to die, or kidnapping. Even going a day without human contact is a sin (but then, so is surgery.)
- Isolation is one of the five Stress Gauges in Unknown Armies.
- In Magic: The Gathering, this what the flavor text tells us about the mysterious Uncle Istvan: "Solitude drove the old hermit insane. Now he only keeps company with those he can catch."
- Inverted with the Alchemical Exalted: while lengthy periods without human contact - and it has to be human, other Alchemicals don't count - do cause behavioural changes, due to the nature of Clarity, it could be argued that they're going sane - the kind of ruthless, calculating mechanical sanity that makes crazy seem like a good thing, admittedly, but sane nonetheless!
- In Rocket Age Erasmus Cotts became insane after being marooned on a moonlet around Saturn, only living off alien lichen. After finding an ancient abandoned space ship he's taken to attacking ships in the hopes someone will kill him.
- Warhammer 40K: Combined with And I Must Scream for Chaos dreadnoughts. Dreadnoughts are Walking Tanks with external legs and weapons systems built around the armored healing tank of a mortally-wounded warrior that are only sent into the more dangerous battles due to to their rarity, and may see centuries go by between each battle. The difference is, Loyalist Dreadnoughts are allowed to sleep during those times, Chaos forces put their warriors in dreadnoughts as punishment by removing their legs and weapons and leaving them chained to a wall for hundreds of years (incidentally, Chaos dreads have a chance of firing on their own side during combat).
- In Portal the protagonist comes across the makeshift camps of an earlier survivor, Doug Rattmann: isolated for weeks in a death maze presided over by a pathological AI, there is evidence that he had succumbed to insanity, such at the photographs with the faces replaced with pictures of their inanimate Companion Cube. How he managed to even function faced with both schizophrenia and social isolation is a mystery. The comic had implications that by NOT taking his meds, he became so dysfunctionally paranoid that he ended up preparing for every single possible outcome, most of which GLaDOS threw at them.
- In Left 4 Dead 2, in the Last Man On Earth mode, you're the only Survivor (and there's a mysterious absence of Common Infected), but your character still talks as if the others are still there. This is made even creepier by the fact that your character will still periodically shout out something along the lines of "Hello?" as if they're continually looking for the other survivors.
- In Mass Effect, if you save rescuing Liara for last, you'll find that she has gone half mad from spending so much time in a bubble without food or water. She'll refuse to believe that you aren't a hallucination until you physically drag her to safety. She recovers pretty quickly, though.
- The Rachni encountered all have gone murderously insane from being separated from their queen. The squad compares it to locking a child in the closet for their first sixteen years.
- In the Warcraft III expansion campaign, Maiev accuses Illidan, who spent ten thousand years as a Sealed Evil in a Can cut off from any contact with other intelligent beings, of being insane. He archly replies that yes, isolation will do that to the mind. All the more ironic because she was his chief jailer and, as a result, became completely fixated on him as the only purpose of her life.
- In Myst III: Exile, this is partially why the game's antagonist Saavedro wants revenge on Atrus and the protagonist. Saavedro wants to go home to see his family after years of being alone. The player can choose to let him go home at the end of the game, or leave him in a spot where he can see his village, but be unable to reach it through a force field, knowing it's forever out of his reach.
- Myst IV explores this trope a couple different ways. Sirrus and Achenar were sentenced to two very different forms of solitary confinement. Sirrus, the more rational of the two, goes totally nuts because he spent the last twenty years in a place with no indigenous life forms. Achenar, who was unhinged from the start, actually gets rehabilitated from his stretch in a place which has many different forms of life. Conclusion: Isolation is only guaranteed to drive you mad if you are the only sentient life form present.
- Discussed in Blaze Union as Gram Blaze travels to meet up with Nessiah, who has spent the past several years as a hermit living deep in the forest. Eudy complains that a place like this is way too cut-off from society. She has spent the past few years studying ballistics alone in the mountains. She is immediately called out on this, and Hilarity Ensues.
- Forerunner AI 343 Guilty Spark fell victim to this after 100,000 years of isolation, explaining his eccentricity and occasional AxCrazy moments. In fact, most surviving Forerunner AIs seem to have gone at least a bit mad from loneliness, due to quarantine protocols having prevented them from communicating with each other ever since the Forerunners disappeared 100,000 years ago; Guilty Spark himself lampshades this by noting that his creators should have had each post be manned by at least two AIs instead of just one.
- Cortana is on the verge of falling into this at the start of Halo 4, due to her being marooned in space for four years with no company except a lone Super Soldier in stasis and her burgeoning rampancy.
- In a non-AI example, Halo: Silentium reveals that this is largely why the Ur-Didact has been unable to let go of his genocidal hate for humanity.
- In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, the Daedric Princes Azura and Sheogorath make a bet about whether or not this is always the case using one of Azura's loyal followers as a test subject. She is sent to live for 100 years (she's a Long-Lived Dunmer) isolated on a remote island. Azura's quest given at her shrine sends the player to ensure that Sheogorath doesn't skew the results.
- Implied to have happened with The Twelve Traitors in Lusternia. Granted, they were pretty merciless prior to their exile in the Void, but thousands of years alone wandering the darkness certainly weren't kind to Fain. And as for Morgfyre
- Averted in BlazBlue. Hakumen spent 90 years alone in the Void, and retained his sanity through sheer force of will.
- Played straight for Arakune, though. As a human named Lotte Carmine, he continued to isolate himself in his own research to be the scientist supreme for himself, refusing even the only one who wanted to help him, Litchi (the rest could not care less about him at all). When he goes to the Boundary despite Litchi's warning, the corruption got to him easily due to him isolating himself, and thus turning him into Arakune.
- Ghost Trick: Yomiel spent years separated from humanity, with his fiancée having committed suicide because he was presumed dead, unable to die, and this is what fueled his need for revenge. Though he wasn't technically alone...
- Voldo from the Soul Series lost his sanity as well as his sight from years of being locked in the Money Pit. Later installments show that he is still very loyal to his master, exiting the pit to acquire new treasures to add to it. His master is a giant gold statue.
- This is one of the many, many infernal punishments available in the game of Afterlife, "Screaming Subspace Voids". Lustful Souls are blindfolded, ear-plugged, and trussed up so as to be immobile, then suspended in a pit for a couple hundred years, effectively simulating The Nothing After Death. Insanity Usually Sets in After a Hour.
- This almost happened to Laurent in Fire Emblem Awakening. When he and his childhood friends from the bad future decided to attempt Time Travel to save their world, Laurent was accidentally thrown three years before the date they should have arrived to. As a result he spends quite a while on his own in a practically strange land, and up until he finally finds his friends as well as the parent characters, there were times when he was this close to completely losing it.
- Invoked in Silent Hill 2 where the atmosphere of the game is designed to "heighten the player's sense of isolation" to contribute to the horror. The first action the player takes is to run down a purposefully long, empty, foggy, narrow path while mysterious footsteps sound behind you with no known source.
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Cicero's journal shows that the reason he became the maniacal jester he is now was due to seeing the Dark Brotherhood crumble all around him and being stuck taking care of the Night Mother for a long time with nothing but the memory of his final contract, a jester who simply laughed as he died.
- This was the sad fate of the Dragon Numinex. After being defeated by King Olaf he was imprisoned for years, and slowly went mad. Eventually forgetting his own name.
- The Nameless Mod: "Welcome to my domain, mortal. I've put up a scrambling field to disrupt all communication in and out of the facility. Let's see how long it'll take before I can make you scream like a little girl." —Shadow Code.
- In Borderlands, Patricia Tannis was already a little neurotic when she came to Pandora to research the Eridians, but after being the only member of her team to survive Pandora's various hazards, she started going completely over the edge, doing things like dating (and breaking up with) her ECHO recorder and having extended conversations with the corpse of one of her late team members. In the second game she hires you to avenge a chair at one point.
- Shade in the Captain Scarlett DLC for Borderlands 2 is the badly dehydrated mayor of Oasis, a town where everyone is totally alive, honest. Loneliness led him to rig up a mixture of corpses and dummies with recordings of him speaking in-character as the dead townsfolk.
- Dawn of War: Turns out that staying in the Warp alone for centuries is, in fact, not good for the mind, as Azariah Kyras can attest.
Though it was a simpler, weaker voice that illuminated me during my centuries upon the Judgement of Carrion. It was Khorne's messenger, who showed me the true path to freedom from our pathetic corpse-Emperor. And what is this path, this meaning, this purpose, to which we gather the skulls of our foes? It is nothing. There is no path. No meaning. We murder. We kill. It is mindless savagery, this universe is mindless.
- In Don't Starve, your character is Trapped in Another World all by themselves, which by itself is enough to cause their Sanity Meter to slowly decrease.
- Explore long enough in Kairo and you'll come across some sort of observation room with a skeleton at the desk. There are some very startling words engraved into the arm of the stone chair.
- In Q.U.B.E., this is Nowak's explanation for 919, the person telling you that you're actually in a prisoner in an Elaborate Underground Base rather than in space. Nowak says that 919 is an astronaut who was lost and thought dead, and that his years adrift have left him delusional.
- This happened to Caldarius from Battleborn. Being imprisoned for centuries eventually took a severe toll to his sanity to the point that by the time Deande freed him the only thing he's capable of doing is screaming about how much he wants to kill Rendain.
- Fire Emblem Fates Revelation rendition of the theme song, "Lost in Thoughts All Alone" has these lyrics-
"Sing with me a song of silence and blood""The rain falls but can't wash away the mud""Within my ancient heart dwells madness and pride""Can no one hear my cry?"
- Dragon Age: Origins Awakening: Downplayed with Anders. His next-to-last escape from the Circle before the beginning of the game has earned him a year of solitary confinement, and the only living creature he was allowed to see during this time was a tower cat, which explains his affinity for them. He appears to be laid-back in his interactions with the Warden, but he occasionally lets slip that imprisonment had a profound negative effect on him:
Anders: If I didn't have perspective, I'd still be sitting in a templar dungeon drooling on my smallclothes.
- This is the expected result of the Maximum Obligation in Sharin no Kuni. Although the only time it is shown is an aversion.
- Averted in Swan Song, where the businessman that opted against joining a faction isn't only sane, but he's rather helpful and talkative in spite of his situation. He may even be the happiest character in the entire Visual Novel that isn't Aroe, even!
- In Umineko: When They Cry, this is stated to be a fate which befalls witches who cause a Logic Error but eventually manage to escape. Including Lambda and Bern, which is the reason they're so messed up now.
Lambdadelta: Hey, are you guys... really real?
- Averted in Analogue: A Hate Story, where archive keeper AI *Hyun-ae has spent six centuries as the Sole Survivor on board a Ghost Ship lost in space, but remains quite sane (albeit more than a little starved for attention). In fact, the trope turns out to have been inverted. Hyun-ae, before her Brain Uploading, was subjected to such a horrific case of Break the Cutie that she snapped and murdered her tormentors - along with every other living soul on board - by cutting the ship's life support. Her present self, having had several hundred years in isolation to calm down, is far more stable and rational.
- This is one theory as to why Salad Fingers is so mentally disturbed, given that he mostly talks to his finger puppets and tends to injure/kill most everyone else he comes in contact with.
- In If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device:
- This is what apparently happened to the Custodes. After ten thousand years of watching over the (comatose) Emperor and killing an odd daemon trying to invade every hundred years or so, they turned into Macho Camp, deposed of their armor and gone way off the deep end. Kitten is the only one who doesn't seem affected, and even he says that he went through a phase and that he starts feeling more emotions than just awe for the Emperor, which worries him.
- The Emperor himself seems to have had some kind of Freak Out over the ten thousand years of coma, as his Magnificent Bastardness is now peppered with heavy dose of Sir Swears-a-Lot and his rampant xenophobia seems to have diminished.
- Seeing how Kaldor Draigo has apparently been Going Native for quite some time, this has apparently happened to him as well.
- Grif ends up a little bit of a Talkative Loon after six straight weeks of isolation in Season 15 of Red vs. Blue. He goes so bonkers he ends up painting seven volleyballs with the rest of the cast's helmets (complete with visors provided by chocolate wrapper foil), and it's been implied he's been reenacting all fifteen seasons of the show right down to voicing everyone's lines. He even learned Spanish solely to voice Volleyball-Lopez.
- In Chopping Block, the serial killer Butch left a woman locked up in his basement with no contact with the outside world to see if it was possible for someone to become bored to death. The story is told from the woman's point of view and ends with her happily telling the room's inanimate objects good bye because Butch has gotten tired of waiting and is just gonna put a power drill through her head.
- The point of Ian Samson's strip Idle Minds, where the heroine is disguised as a statue for one week in a big deserted gallery so she can spy on the Big Bad and his sidekick when they visit the place. The isolation, together with her fear that she may have failed in her mission, drives her completely crazy, but she's saved by her subconscious mind.
- An example in the comic Penny Arcade did for the Fallout 3 release, featuring a Vault containing one man... and a crate full of puppets. With predictable and insane results. Yes. Yes indeed.
- Bob and George George goes mad partly from this, partly from Unwilling Suspension.
- 8-Bit Theater:
- For all of his power, Sarda was just a little bugnuts insane. One of the more extreme versions of this trope happened to him, by way of him accidentally stranding himself at the beginning of time and being forced to take The Slow Path back to modern time. For billions of years, frozen and alone.note One would think, and some of his other dialogue supports this, that these vast ages of isolation were what shattered Sarda's sanity.
White Mage: At last! Our long, harrowing travels are at an end!
Sarda: Yes, long and harrowing, I'm sure. Like billions of years alone, adrift in infinite frozen darkness.
White Mage: Actual-
Sarda: Nothing but hate to remind you that you're still alive. An ordeal that destroys you only to rebuild you only to do it all over again. Over and over again. Until there is nothing left to destroy. Nothing left to rebuild. Until there is nothing but the hatred. Focused into perfect clarity.
White Mage: ...Like that.
- In actual fact, Sarda's sanity was pre-shattered before he knew a single spell, let alone had travelled to the beginning of the universe. As Onion Kid, when Sarda accidentally caught a glimpse of Black Mage's uncovered face, the horror he saw cracked his mind like an eggshell. Being forced to endure both possible maddening experiences in succession, plus all the other fresh abuse Black Mage and the others kept heaping on him including killing his parents - repeatedly, working through several sets of foster parents - turned him into, well, Sarda. A case, where being the only sentient being in existence for eons manages not to be the worst thing to happen to a character's sanity.
- Parodied on the two separate occasions Black Mage descends from his usual state of homicidal mania into full-on delusions. According to his monologues, it's the time spent trapped in a tiny space (a cave in the frozen wastes and a submarine, respectively) virtually alone that has driven him to the edge of sanity and destroyed his teammates' minds. According to his teammates, they haven't spent all that much time there anyway and Black Mage is just being weird.
Red Mage: What kind of dark wizard in league with nameless forces of primordial evil are you that you can't even make a successful Sanity check against boredom?
- For all of his power, Sarda was just a little bugnuts insane. One of the more extreme versions of this trope happened to him, by way of him accidentally stranding himself at the beginning of time and being forced to take The Slow Path back to modern time. For billions of years, frozen and alone.note One would think, and some of his other dialogue supports this, that these vast ages of isolation were what shattered Sarda's sanity.
- In Drowtales, Diva'ratrika only barely managed to avert this after her daughters betrayed her and collapsed her throne room around her, and she stayed alive because of a single slave that was able to fit through the air ducts and provide some company and sustenance. She managed to stay alive for a year, but in that time her sanity definitely began to slip, and in the end she separates her aura from her body, effectively killing herself, and does a Fusion Dance with Ragini, the slave.
- Artificial intelligences in Schlock Mercenary tend to do this...very quickly, since they think at computer speed. Petey, the company's second ship, had been left cut off from his systems for four hundred years, which felt like 40 billion with his clock speed, after thwarting his multi-megaton suicide attempt the captain gave him a direct order to lock away his memories of the isolation, which made him a bit saner. This later becomes a major plot issue again in the "Random Access Memorabilia" story arc, with Tagii, who goes stark raving mad after a couple hours of isolation, or ten thousand years.
- Subverted by T'kkkuts-Afa. Everyone is terrified of the idea of a super-intelligent AI being trapped with no company for 12 million years, but once contact is actually made, she's just following her original programming. After becoming aware she no longer needs to suppress annie plants, she eventually "retires" and goes on to become the Tough's newest AI.
- Played for Laughs, but in Pokemon White: Hard Mode, Ruby's Pidove, Lucy, goes insane from being left in the box alone. For only a few hours.
Lucy: ...box, box, box, box, box, box, box, box, box, box...
- Dragon Ball Multiverse: U13 Kakarot.
- In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, the Cone Ship (aka "Coney the Island") turns out to be an alien cyborg Living Ship driven nearly mad by the long lonely voyage from another galaxy.
- Dino Attack RPG:
- Ben Gunn has been living in the Goo Caverns for so long he can't even remember who he is. However, he does turn up again near the end a bit saner.
- Wallace Bishop's mental health had declined after the lab accident that resulted in the death of his assistant, but it was the years of complete isolation while committed to Napoleon XIV Mental Institution that really drove him into madness.
- This Grickle short had Santa Claus have this happen to him, leading to a little bit of Fridge Horror that he lives on what amounts to a desolate ice cap. He begins growling like a lion to an audience of elves, and his elves start squealing like monkeys in something that evokes 2001: A Space Odyssey, all while rather creepy music is playing. It's terrifying.
- SCP Foundation
- SCP-201 ("The Empty World"). People that get displaced to the realm of SCP-201 for more than three months, as said by the description itself, "suffer lasting psychological damage consistent with being sequestered within solitary confinement".
- SCP-2701 ("True Solitary"). People put inside cell 667 experience full sensory deprivation, suffering mental trauma that causes cognitive shutdown or mania. Those incarcerated for less than two hours end end up with one or more phobias (such as nyctophobia, photophobia, claustrophobia or agoraphobia) or serious mental illnesses such as dementia, catatonia and anorexia. Those spending more than 2 hours inside usually suffer a complete psychological breakdown.
- SCP-3001 ("Red Reality"). A professor of Reality Warper technology is accidentally sent to a black void dimension with nothing in it except him and the machine that's recording him. As time goes on, he slowly starts believing the red light on the machine to be sentient, and even claims that it's his best friend.
- Board James certainly shows signs of this since the "Dream Phone" episode. And given the apparent nature of his "friends", he might have already been here long before the series started.
- The Very Lonely Luke Twitter feed (contains The Force Awakens spoilers).
- A different very lonely Luke happens in this Outside Xtra video. After being locked in the studio for a week, Luke Westaway is reduced to exchanging presents and playing charades with toys from around the studio.
- In The Ren & Stimpy Show episode, "Hermit Ren," the eponymous dog gets so sick of Stimpy he leaves to join a hermit guild. They provide him with a cave and a boulder to lock him in forever. Completely alone. It doesn't take long for him to lose his mind. He gets kicked out for creating imaginary friends.
- Likewise, Ren (or Commander Hoek technically) goes insane in "Space Madness" when, confined to a spaceship on a long mission, he is deprived of all contact besides Cadet Stimpy. Interestingly Stimpy does absolutely nothing to instigate this as the only bit of mischief he causes in this episode occurs after Ren is long gone. However, he does say that they've "made this trip dozens of times", so this was something of a slow burn.
- Family Guy:
Peter: THINGS GOT CRAZY SO FAST!!
- Stewie Griffin was conscious while still in the womb and suffered for it.
- An episode has Peter and Brian try out the isolation chamber used by astronauts to train for the isolation in space, only to begin screaming after just a few seconds, then rush out, and having somehow switched heads.
- An episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes had Jimmy the only one left in Miseryville. As a result, he began suffering from hallucinations.
- Ben 10: Alien Force: Professor Paradox. Originally from The '50s, he was trying to figure out how to travel through time. Unfortunately, it worked too well and was sucked into the time portal, which then imploded. He spent nearly ten thousand years floating randomly through time, driving him mad. But then he got Bored with Insanity and became "sane...very, very, sane..."
- An episode of Batman Beyond has the villain putting patients who act up in "Iso"- isolation units, AKA complete sensory deprivation. At least one of these patients is shown to have sustained permanent psychological damage.
Guard: Just think of it as a lot of peace and quiet!
- The Penguins of Madagascar: In the episode "All King, No Kingdom", Julien banishes his two followers from their habitat, and soon starts behaving oddly because of having nobody to pay attention to him. He ends up holding a party and inviting his stuffed toys.
- Spongebob Squarepants:
Squidward: I GOTTA GET OUT OF HERE!
- Spongebob and Patrick once fell victim to this trope after being trapped in a cave with a crazy old man who convinces them to try to eat each other. Turns out the old man was actually Sandy, and their willingness to resort to cannibalism proved that they were "true survivalists." But Spongebob and Patrick just turn on Sandy and try to eat her.
- It happens again in the episode "Gone", where everyone in Bikini Bottom disappears to celebrate National No-Spongebob Day. Spongebob goes from acting out everyone else, to rampaging around town with a boat, to going completely insane by befriending the boat, making a Patrick dummy out of Krabby Patty meat, then rampaging around town to escape from his boat friend.
- In "SB-129" Squidward ends up in a white void consisting of nothing but voices saying "alone".
- Mrs. Puff seemed to imply she was once in this predicament when she was worried she would lose her job as a boating instructor and would have to go back to watching daytime television.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
- In the episode "Party of One", Pinkie Pie thinks her friends don't like her anymore and don't want to come to her party, since they have been avoiding her. Being Pinkie Pie, this has an immediate effect on her: as soon as the show returns from the commercial break, we see her holding a party with a collection of inanimate objects, fitting them with party hats and giving them all names and distinct voices. It's surprisingly dark for My Little Pony.
- Starlight Glimmer also qualifies as well. Because she didn't make any friends after Sunburst abandoned her, she was driven to insanity.
- Autumn Blaze downplays this. She's The Exile of the kirin due to hating losing her voice to the Stream of Silence. While not insane, she's clearly gotten a little desperate for someone to talk to, having a number of Companion Cubes when Applejack finds her. These range from rotten fruits to a hand puppet to her own shadow.
- The Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "Laugh Ed, Laugh" has all the kids in the cul-de-sac, except the Eds, come down with the chicken pox. While Ed and Double-D are able to cope with this, Eddy becomes restless with the lack of kids to scam. Eventually, it becomes too much for Eddy and he snaps from the stress; he spends the rest of the episode scamming squirrels and mistaking fire hydrants for jawbreakers.
- Completely averted in Futurama when Bender ends up as just a head buried in the ground for over a thousand years:
Bender: I was enjoying it, until you guys showed up.
- Happened in a much briefer way to Brain in Pinky and the Brain. After getting trapped in a sensory deprivation chamber not long after being made intelligent, the isolation made him feral just long enough that the scientists responsible for his intelligence believed their efforts has only produced a mouse that could say "Narf!"
- Inverted in Justice League Unlimited. In an alternate timeline, the immortal villain Vandal Savage accidentally killed every other human being on the planet. After 30,000 years with nothing to do but regret his mistake and come to know himself, he went sane. Well, sort of — he is a great deal more eccentric than he used to be, but his more dangerous traits like megalomania and powerlust have faded away.
- Wakfu gives us Qilby the Traitor. He wasn't terribly stable in the first place, but being trapped alone in a featureless white void for untold millennia did his mental state no favors.
- Twinkle the Marvel Horse in Dave the Barbarian, in the episode "Terror of Mecha-Dave", has spent so long alone in the stables that he turned into a Straw Nihilist not overburdened with marbles, possibly due to his voice being inspired by Christopher Walken. His little speeches about dreams of shrieking rats and so on turn up in a number of other episodes.
Twinkle the Marvel Horse: I had that...dream again. The one...where I do terrible things...to penguins...with a croquet mallet.
Princess Candy: Ooooh, we definitely gotta get you outta that stable more often.
- Done in Mighty Max. One episode saw our heroes travel to the Las Vegas desert to investigate strange radiation readings. It turned out that a nuclear physicist from The '50s had sealed himself into a fallout shelter over a Cold War scare for forty years. He had subsequently been exposed to to a slow radiation leak which rendered him unable to survive outside a radioactive environment so he tried to bathe the entire world in radiation out of revenge.
- In the Recess episode "The Box", Miss Finster puts TJ in the eponymous box, which is just a chalk square drawn on the playground. The isolation (no-one is allowed to talk to him when he's in the box) leaves him singing "This Old Man" as a Madness Mantra, and when he comes out he's not only scared straight, but has a profound phobia of squares. His friends arrange for him to go back into the box as exposure therapy, and this time a kickball bounces over the lines, at which point he realises he's not really trapped at all, and everything goes back to normal.
- In The Fairly Oddparents, in the episode when Timmy wishes for himself to be alone with Trixie, Wanda warns him of the consequences. Naturally, Timmy doesn't listen. Cue Trixie going batshit crazy without any boys fawning over her and Timmy desperately trying to fix things.
- In Ready Jet Go!, Carrot undergoes a major Sanity Slippage in "Castaway Carrot" while stranded on the moon. He gets a twitchy eyelid at one point, attempted to farm pizza on the moon, and drew pictures of his family on rocks, and made out with the Celery rock.
- When Daffy Duck and Porky Pig are locked in their hotel room for not paying their bill (Porky Pig's Feat), Daffy says he's going "stir crazy! Bastille batty! Cooler cuckoo!"
- Orfield Labratories of Minnesota created the quietest isolation chamber in the world for various experiments. NASA uses it for training astronauts to deal with the extreme quiet of space. The effects come on extremely fast, with people starting to have auditory hallucinations and asking to be let out in less than forty-five minutes.
- Felicity Aston, first woman to make a solo trek across Antarctica, took almost sixty days. She was not entirely out of contact with the world - she used Twitter the whole way - and "mad" is very much overstating it, but she didn't see anyone else for the whole time. Ashton wrote about Having to remind myself of the rules now Im not alone; no peeing wherever I stand, no talking to the sun, no snot or dribble on my face
and was clearly affected when she finished.
- This is actually a nearly-universal problem for arctic and antarctic explorers, even when traveling in groups. The harsh conditions, constant danger, and exhausting labor make it very hard to keep up ordinary social conventions, and even close friends can turn on each other.
- Astronauts qualify too.
- This is actually a nearly-universal problem for arctic and antarctic explorers, even when traveling in groups. The harsh conditions, constant danger, and exhausting labor make it very hard to keep up ordinary social conventions, and even close friends can turn on each other.
- When highly social animals are kept alone in captivity, this can result. Most zoo accreditation organizations require that their members do not house such animals alone.
- Most famously (and disturbingly) demonstrated by Harry Harlow's experiments on rhesus monkeys, beginning in the 1950s and continuing into the 1970s. Harlow experimented with isolating monkeys from their mothers and peers - sometimes leaving them able to observe from afar, other times leaving them inside a completely dark, featureless metal container he dubbed "The Pit of Despair" in 1970. The experiments showed that after a few months of isolation, the monkeys were socially stunted and unable to properly function, even going so far as to harm themselves, kill their babies, or refuse to eat to the point of fatal malnutrition. Worth noting that Harlow's experiments (and his "colourful" depictions of them - the Pit of Despair was par for the course in terms of his naming conventions) were considered so disturbing, they helped kick-start the animal liberation movement and resulted in many new ethical regulations for the treatment of lab animals.
- German biologist Rudolph Schenkel formulated the first theory on hierarchy in wolf packs in 1947, describing certain wolves as "leader wolves", wolves who held the leadership in the pack. American biologist L. David Mech, would in 1970 build upon Schenkel's theories, describing certain wolves as "alpha males" who used their strength to intimidate the lower-ranking "beta males" into submission, and using this power to secure themselves the most food and best mate. There was a rather glaring problem with these studies, however; namely that they were conducted on wolves in captivity. Mech would later extensively study wild wolves in their natural habitat, and he came to discover that his findings from 1970 pretty much never occurred in nature; the wild wolves were on the whole much, much more cooperative and egalitarian in their behavior, only having a very loosely defined hierarchy at best. Mech eventually concluded that only wolves in captivity conform to the alpha-beta dynamic, presumably because of the stress they experience from the lack of free movement and being confined to a small space, and has since denounced the idea of "alpha wolves" as an outdated and disproven theory.
- As mentioned above, keeping rats (or other colony pets) in pairs or groups tends is most advised as they do better that way because they get mean or despondent, trying to socialize with any/everything if they can, if they aren't. However, there's some exceptions to this.
- The original example of solitary confinement was instituted by the Quakers in the 1790s. The idea was that the criminal thus confined would have only God and his own thoughts to keep him company, and thus the penitent would emerge from confinement born again and fully-reformed (thus the term "penitentiary", which they also created). In actual fact, such prisoners frequently killed or mutilated themselves, or became so violently paranoid that they were never able to rejoin society. It's a sad irony the Quakers meant this to be a humane treatment of prisoners...
- Solitary confinement for extended periods of time is now recognized as a form of torture. US Senator John McCain, former POW held in North Vietnam, stated the physical torture caused far less suffering than the prolonged solitary confinement, breaking their spirits like nothing else could.
- A particularly sad example: babies who are not touched and are left by themselves but are still given enough food and water to survive often suffer from Failure to thrive which can have effects ranging from stunting growth to outright death.
- In a similar vein, if no one comes when a baby cries, they don't cry anymore and they might not take being held, either.
- The U.S Federal Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Security Prison Florence Colorado (informally known as ADX Florence). A supermax prison where all inmates are held in solitary confinement in small, sparse cells containing just a concrete bed (with a thin mattress), sink, toilet, shower, black-and-white television, small radio, and concrete desk. It holds mostly foreign and domestic terrorists; they're held in their cells for all but an hour a day and have little to no contact with the other inmates (the cells also have double doors for extra isolation and are concrete to prevent coded communication). Referred to by a former Warden as a "Clean version of Hell". Many of the inmates have suffered various mental illnesses and have been known to spend their days wailing. There was even a class action lawsuit filed claiming that the prison didn't adequately diagnose or treat the inmates who were suffering duress due to the long periods of isolation, and a wing where prisoners never leave their cells, period.
- Even when the isolation isn't extremely harsh this can happen. When the underboss of the Philadelphia/Atlantic City mob Philip "Crazy Phil" Leonetti turned informant he was placed in a special cell at La Tuna Prison in Texas that's nicknamed the Vallachi Suite (named after mob informant Joe Vallachi). Though living in a relatively comfortable surroundings (including a large living room with a big television, stereo and exercise bike, a good size bathroom and kitchen) he was isolated from the other inmates at the prison and only had contact with the guards and investigators. After 2 years he started to go stir crazy from being isolated and requested a transfer.
- When filming The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Sir Ian McKellen had to stay in a green screen room because the Hobbits were meant to be added in later via CGI. McKellen broke down into tears because of his loneliness and isolation, saying this wasn't why he became an actor. Luckily for McKellen, the crew listened to him and gave him a "Gandalf Appreciation Day", letting him regain his sanity and finish filming.
- William F. Buckley (not the founder of National Review magazine) was a CIA station chief in Lebanon. In 1984, he was kidnapped by Hezbollah. The CIA later discovered that between drug-induced interrogations, he was kept blindfolded, handcuffed, and shackled in a cell the size of a coffin. For 15 months until he died of a heart attack. A video of Buckley was sent to the CIA and he was described as such: "Buckley was close to a gibbering wretch. His words were often incoherent; he slobbered and drooled and, most unnerving of all, he would suddenly scream in terror, his eyes rolling helplessly and his body shaking".
- And this is from someone specifically trained in how to put up with torture and isolation.