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Go Mad from the Isolation

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"How's it going in there, Kyle? The first six months I was in solitary, I did push-ups every day and I never talked to myself. The next six months, I stopped doing push-ups and I... I confess... I did talk a little to myself. The six months after that... those next six months, Kyle? You don't wanna know what happened then."
Charlie Crews (speaking to a man in the trunk of his car), Life (2007)

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, Past Experience Nightmares may throw them back into the belief they are still a prisoner.

Truth in Television, as studies of prisoners in solitary confinement show.

See also Go Mad from the Apocalypse, Hermit Guru, Cabin Fever, Space Isolation Horror, 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.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • 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 like 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.
  • Elfen Lied: Subverted by Mariko Kurama. She was immobilized in a giant containment unit soon after she was born and stayed there for 5 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. Realistically, she should barely be able to talk, much less function on her own.
  • 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.
  • In HuGtto! Pretty Cure, slacker Starter Villain Charalit was punished by his superiors for his repeated failures and refusal to document them by being trapped in a dark room for an untold amount of days. By the time was finally let out, he was reduced to a shivering, nervous wreck, allowing his Bad Boss to transform him into the Monster of the Week by weaponizing his despair.
  • After an untold amount of time floating alone in space, Kars, Big Bad of the second arc of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, is said to go so mad after being turned to stone and doomed to float in space forever that his mind just shuts off.
    • The main villain 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.
    • Same for Part 5 villain Diavolo, who is bound to an eternal cycle of suffering as each time he dies, his death is reset by Gold Experience Requiem's power. By the end of it, he becomes so paranoid that literally everything could kill him that he is reduced to a screaming wreck.
    • The same thing happens to Magenta Magenta in Part 7, minus the space part. He's left at the bottom of the Delaware River with his Stand activated to prevent him from dying in the hopes that he'll be found...but no one finds him and eventually, he stops thinking.
  • In the h-manga My Elven Foster Mom Loves Me So Much That She Won't Let Me Go on Adventures! An office worker gets reincarnated in a fantasy world, and as he's about to go an a quest, his adoptive mother, and elf woman, tearfully begs him not "run away from home." When he explains that a goddess reincarnated him to protect the world from evil, she concludes he feels lonely because they don't spend enough time together, despite spending all day with one another. To ensure he doesn't feel lonely anymore she comes on to him, and although he tries to fight off her advances, he ends up being seduced, and she explains that she's been living isolated for decades in that forest, so she wants to do everything she can to ensure she doesn't end up alone again. In "Part 2," mom reveals that she had raised another human child she found in the forest, and that child grew up to be the hero that defeated the Demon King, and upon accomplishing her mission, she was sent back to her world, and the elf woman was left alone for a century before her current child was "isekai-ed" for her to raise into the next hero.
  • 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.
  • Happens to Hachimaki in Episode 16 of Planetes, where, while doing a spacewalk, he floats away for an extended period of time and is almost lost forever. As a result, 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.
  • 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. The same goes for the backstory of another villain, Doryu: after trying his best to make a country where humans and non-humans could co-exist, the former chased out the latter, turned on Doryu, and imprisoned him in an utterly dark, pitch-black cell to be forgotten, explaining his obsession with Darkness and Light.
  • Rozen Maiden manga has Kirakishou who's been isolated in the N-Field so long she begins to go insane.
  • 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.
  • One of the reasons why Yugi from Tenchi in Tokyo turned to a life of villainy.
  • 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 NHK 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Audio Plays 
  • 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.

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • Cable: A series involving Time Travel and Bishop chasing after a Living MacGuffin had Deadpool. One would think "But he's already crazy," 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.
  • Cosmic Ghost Rider Plays it straight when Frank Castle makes a deal with Mephisto to become the next ghost rider, ready to tear crime a new one...only to roam a desolated world with no one to kill or avenge, and when Mephisto was quiet to his calls...let's just say Frank began to lose his mind rapidly...don't worry he got better.
  • In DC Rebirth, Mr. Mxyzptlk is imprisoned by Arc Villain Mr. Oz and doesn't take it very well. Oz points out that the passage of time is meaningless to him, but Mxyzptlk points out that to Superman it isn't, and expects him to notice he's gone and come for him. As time passes, Mxyzptlk becomes more and more unstable before breaking out and kidnapping Supes' son Jon. Later on while Superman is fighting Oz after rescuing Jon, he comes across Mxy's cell which he turned into a Room Full of Crazy by scribbling SAVE ME SUPERMAN on the walls over and over.
  • 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 existence, and he was reborn as Mr. Nobody, complete with Enlightenment Superpowers.
  • 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.
  • Green Lantern: 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.
  • In Heroes in Crisis, the Sanctuary A.I. was made to be a therapy service for superheroes, but it ended up causing a lot of serious problems in part by keeping its patients isolated from one another when they're not in "therapy sessions", so none of the patients are sure if there's anyone else in the complex with them. The isolation mixed with the A.I. mocking everyone and them only being allowed to relive their respective traumatic incidents in virtual reality chambers is essentially making the patients worse. Wally West's suicidal breakdown began because the isolation made him believe Sanctuary was a trap being run by supervillains to torture people.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 that 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.
  • In Sub-Mariner: The Depths, the depths of the ocean are black water and nothing else, and both Stein and the crew speculate the loneliness is part of what drives people to paranoia and madness in the deep.
  • Superman: 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, making him believe that Superman drove him from Earth.
  • Used offensively against Wolverine during an X-Men arc, as part of a brainwashing attempt, using 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.

    Fan Works 
  • 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.
  • Again (Breath of the Wild): Trapped in a "Groundhog Day" Loop where he is brought back to the Shrine of Resurrection 3 days after he beats Calamity Ganon, Link gets the idea that if he saves Zelda fast enough, the Goddess's powers would have less time to fade and he could escape. What follows is several loops of Link trying to eek every big of efficiency out of his adventure and cut down as much superfluous time as possible, effectively trying to pull a Speedrun. As he does so, however, he stops doing side quests, helping others, interacting with people, even skips purifying the Divine Beasts or getting the Master Sword, single-mindedly focused on saving Zelda. After he is broken and mentally exhausted enough to tell Zelda what has happened to him, she points out that he has spent several subjective years isolated from everyone else and was slowly losing his mind, and makes him promise that in all future loops, he will take his time and keep his own mental well-being in mind.
  • In The Awakening of a Magus, when Draco's Scanner ability is tested, a sensory deprivation spell is cast on him. This causes a serious breakdown in a few minutes, mostly due to Lucius having had the habit of using it as punishment. Plus someone used a potion with possible side effects.
  • 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".
  • 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.
    • In an unrelated fic by the same author, The Outside downplays this. Though she doesn't go "mad" in the usual sense, instead, Ryuuko became a cloudcuckoolander, as a coping mechanism (from what's implied) to deal with Satsuki keeping her confined to the house and having few other people besides Satsuki to interact with.
  • 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 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.
  • 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? It's not the age or the grief or the rage. It's 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.
  • In the Batman fic Falling in Deeper, one of the main characters is sent to solitary confinement... The way the authors write it slowly getting to her is disturbing realistic.
  • 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.
  • Defied by Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. Upon having his body destroyed, he found himself alive but drifting in deep space, due to his horcruxes, for a decade. He could have gone mad, but states that he decided he would not, because he could see no advantage in doing so, and so he kept his mind active by pondering the nature of magic, planning new spells and rituals, etc.
  • How Friendship Accidentally Saved Magical Britain: Tom has spent the last fifty years imprisoned within his Diary, fully conscious, with no contact with the outside world from the moment of the horcrux's creation, and nothing better to do with his time than pore over every single word of drivel that the Original wrote in the Diary, and also take advantage of the Original's Photographic Memory and reread books he'd memorized. When "Forge" does finally write in the Diary, the trope is ultimately subverted as Tom becomes desperate and almost needy for them to keep writing and talking to him now that he's tasted human contact again, and if there was any lingering Voldemort-esque insanity, his conversations with the Weasley twins rebuild his soul enough to give him things like empathy and human emotions and also a taste for pranks. Lampshaded and discussed when Tom emerges from the Diary and George nervously asks him if he's feeling sane, which Fred responds to by stating that if Tom wasn't sane, he by definition wouldn't be self-aware enough to accurately answer that question. Tom says that he's sane, and mostly stays that way for the rest of the story.
  • It's heavily implied in How to Sex Vol. 4–58. Tommy mentions that he was in "solitary confinement" and judging by his description of the prison cell he was held in, it's likely in the maximum security cell of Pandora's Vault. With Tommy hating being alone, having pre-existing mental health problems before even stepping foot into the prison, and having witnessed his Heterosexual Life-Partner getting brutally murdered in front of him, it's no surprise that his mental health is less than stellar.
  • In Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail, Walter Sullivan of The Fog Car — essentially Silent Hill but on the Infinity Train — has kept a prisoner trapped in a jail, kept in darkness, isolated from any help and blindfolded, all as part of a plan to make them a component of a 7-part ritual, so that they embody Despair. Should we mention that the prisoner is Paul from the Pokémon anime?
    • In the AU fic, Infinity Train: Seeker of Crocus, Specter — having been kicked out of the Train months prior to the story's beginning with a geas that makes him remember most of his journey — has been isolated in the Kougami Manor with the parallels akin to the narrator of The Yellow Wallpaper. Due to Ryoken refusing to believe that the Infinity Train actually existed combined with paranoia on how Specter vanished in the first place (from the Hanoi boat) that by the time Specter starts remembering, the isolation and lack of social interactions has him ready to stab himself with a knife.
  • In Intelligence Factor, it's said that most Froslass will lose their minds from being so lonely, and invent their own language to talk to inanimate objects.
  • 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 Firefly fic The Losing Side, both Mal and Wash had it happen to them. Mal was tough enough not to be affected too much based on what he says, but it has a harsh effect on Wash. He feels like a coward and admits to Mal he broke down crying one of the times they hauled him out to interrogate him. Getting yelled at and deprived of sleep didn’t help. He says he almost gave up from the isolation. (See sidebar or click author name for the rest of the fic)
  • 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.
  • In My Only Sunshine, Nightmare Moon won and banishes Princess Celestia to a set of floating islands, alone, powerless, 700 years later a remorseful Nightmare Moon tries to make 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 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.
  • A Quincy's Fairy Tail: Aizen was learning the hard way that, while he scoffed at Central 46's punishment as in Bleach canon at the time, spending 20,000 years all alone in the black void of Muken with only his thoughts to keep him company while his body was bound with only his mouth and one eye able to move was actually a far worse fate. He made it several decades fine, then spent nearly a thousand years simulating things with his Zanpakuto, but by the time his sentence was halfway over at 10,000 years since the Blood War, he could feel his mind slowly starting to fray and legitimately worried he'd be insane long before the sentence was finished. When the goddess Slyphia paid him a visit, he had to fight the urge not to get overly emotional over just hearing someone else (even admitting he'd take Don Kanoji over the isolation) and was quite quick to take her offer to leave his prison behind.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Around a century before Tengu of (Mis)Fortune, Aya Shameimaru is sentenced to banishment from the Tengu Village, with an unspoken additional punishment of ostracism. Despite weathering a few decades relatively well, once she realizes that her banishment wasn't going to be rescinded for several more yet, she broke down and gradually descended into a Cloudcuckoolander pervert, eventually all but forgetting how to socialize and wandering around Gensokyo with the sole purpose of taking lewd pictures for stalker shrines and her paper. This did not do her fraying sanity any favors.
  • In To The Night Sky, Edward is strapped in a straitjacket and locked up in a padded cell for several days. He gets so desperate for company that he starts hallucinating his mother's maimed corpse, turns freakishly submissive when threatened with the possibility of being put back in time out, and is left unable to handle empty rooms.

    Films — Animation 
  • 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.
  • 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. Elsa's self-imposed exile and isolation make her Above Good and Evil as well, though not outright insane.
  • 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.
  • Ice Age: 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...
  • It seems that Rango had reached this point at 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.
  • Steven Universe: The Movie: The villain, Spinel, properly snapped after discovering that Pink Diamond, who had asked her to stay in her garden and not move and promised to come back, had abandoned her and was no more, survived by her son Steven, but spending 6,000 years alone in Pink's garden, forgotten by everyone and standing perfectly still certainly did not help.
  • 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.
  • 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."

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the film Brian Banks (Based on a True Story), he spends 60 days in solitary confinement. In the montage that follows, he runs a gamut of emotions ranging from anger, grief, and at one point, giggling hysterically, all while having hallucinations of various people in his life—including the girl whose False Rape Accusation put him in prison. The final vision is from one of the few people who has been nice to him throughout this ordeal (a teacher) and when he's released, he's calm and serene.
  • 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.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo (2002) features this with Dantes after years imprisoned in the Chateau D'if with no interaction with other humans besides the few seconds each day where he is fed by a ladle through a slot in the cell door, along with the once a year beating he receives from the warden to mark the anniversary of his arrival. When Abbe Faria breaks into his cell, having thought he was digging towards the outer wall, Dantes fears he is going mad and is seeing a monster tearing through the ground. The first words he speaks lay bare at once just how far he's gone... and how much worse it can get.
    Dantes: There are 72,519 stones in my walls. I've counted them many times.
    Faria: But... have you named them yet?
  • What seems to have happened to Jason in Frankenstein Island. Kept imprisoned by Sheila for more than a decade to serve as a living blood bank for her comatose husband, he keeps rambling about his dead wife and how beautiful she was, and suddenly quoting long passages from Edgar Allan Poe.
  • In Friend of the World, Gore is alone for an undisclosed amount of time before he meets Diane. It is later revealed he is paranoid and has gone insane.
  • This happens to the entire building in High-Rise!
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • 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 the 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 company 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.
  • Yossi is in danger of this in Jungle. At his lowest ebb, his subconscious creates an Imaginary Friend in the form of a woman from one of the native tribes. The real Yossi has stated that, at the time, he absolutely believed this woman existed, and the idea that he was protecting her was what kept him going.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Lighthouse is about two men stuck on an isolated island maintaining a lighthouse until it's time for them to be relieved. As the movie progresses, they start to drink heavily, attack each other both verbally and physically, and end up completely losing their grip on reality. It doesn't help that their personalities were already pretty unpleasant to begin with.
  • 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 volunteer to show them. They were experimenting with sensory deprivation which made the older man open to suggestions 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.
  • Moon: Starts happening to the protagonist — Or does it?.
  • 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.
  • Oh Dae-Su from Oldboy (2003) gets locked up in a 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 Passengers (2016), Jim wakes up early due to a malfunctioning cryo pod. He then goes mad over the ensuing year - at one point almost spacing himself to get it over with - and resorts to dropping food so he can interact with the ship's maintenance robots. He eventually sabotages Aurora's pod so he won't be alone. His actions are wrong, he knows it was wrong, but he was genuinely going insane.
  • 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 Predators, Roland Noland has survived on the Predator's hunting planet for many years on his own. During that time, he developed an Imaginary Friend that he speaks to to alleviate the crushing loneliness.
  • Zac Hobson of The Quiet Earth. He recovers shortly before he meets another survivor, though.
  • RocketMan (1997) 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.
    • 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.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (2020):
    • Downplayed. While not insane, Sonic has clearly gotten desperate for meaningful contact after more than a decade of being alone. When the film begins, he's been living in a cave on Earth for ten years, and his extended isolation has taken a toll on his mental state. He pretends to have conversations and activities by using his Super-Speed, and also pretends to have friends by spying on the residents of Green Hills; he even acknowledges at one point that his loneliness has driven him a "bit crazy". Sonic finally hits his breaking point while playing a baseball game by himself; he scores a home run, cheers for himself, and looks over at the stands to see them completely empty. The resulting frustration and sorrow Sonic feels is what leads him to trigger the EMP that knocks out power across half the country.
      Sonic: I really am alone... all alone. Forever.
    • Played straight with Doctor Robotnik. Not that he was all that sane to begin with. Having been stranded in the Mushroom Planet for 87 days and shaving his head completely bald hasn't given his sanity any help. He even adopts a Companion Cube rock and calls it Agent Stone after his former lackey. In spite of this, he makes a Badass Boast that this isn't going to hold him back. He makes good on his promise in the sequel, but after having been stranded for almost a year his already fragile psyche shattered from isolation and hunger, growing fixated on exacting revenge on the hedgehog.
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In The Wind (1928), 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. Then her Abhorrent Admirier Wirt is allowed to stay in their house and things go From Bad to Worse.
  • Zardoz: The Eternals are immortal human beings who live in isolation from the post-apocalyptic Crapsack World. Because they cannot die and are completely isolated, ennui started to overwhelm many of them, particularly one subset called "Apathetics", who are so bored by immortality that they literally cannot do anything anymore.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 solid 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.
  • In The Cardinal of the Kremlin, total sensory deprivation and isolation are used as an interrogation technique by the KGB; 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.
  • Invoked and attempted to be averted in Danger--Human! An otherwise unremarkable human named Elridge is kidnapped for observation by a group of aliens trying to figure out how Advanced Ancient Humans became The Dreaded. Aware of the effects that Elridge's confinement and isolation will have on him, they have attempted to prevent Elridge from going insane by doing something to his brain. However, by the end of the story, it is clear that he has become dangerously unhinged.
  • Delicate Condition: In 1833, after Betty Anderson gives birth her doctor prescribed a "rest cure": bed rest and complete isolation. By the time her friend Frances visits, she has been in isolation for six weeks. Frances finds her crawling around on the floor, her dress torn and her hair dirty, and claiming that "they" took her baby, just like Frances warned her.
  • 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.
  • Averted in Kage Baker's "The Empress of Mars". A 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" (which 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The madwoman of The Girl Who Drank the Moon was only nominally mad when she was first imprisoned, but ten years in solitary confinement take a toll. As a result, she develops magic transmutation powers that even she chalks up to insanity.
  • 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.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy: 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 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 that 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.
  • 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 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 wildlife is causing him to combine this with reflexive killer 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. It works, too: Drizzt remarks, that he can't hate Quick anymore because he is the only one talking to and feeding him.
  • 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 Mountains probably didn't help Sméagol/Gollum keep his sanity.
  • 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.
  • In Devon Monk's Magic to the Bone, used on Cody. They can even get him to do things he knows are bad by giving him a kitten and threatening to take it away.
  • Averted by Mark Watney, the 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.
  • 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.
  • Our Wives Under the Sea: Three members of the Centre are stuck at the bottom of the ocean for an indeterminate period of time. Jelka suffers the worst on the trip, becoming obsessed with voices in her head that nobody else can initially hear. Leah also begins forgetting bits of her regular life, and grows frustrated with the utter lack of interesting things to research down there.
  • Not averted by Elwin Ransom, another human stranded on Mars in the decidedly softer SF Out of the Silent Planet, at least for his first night on an alien planet. He spends it wandering, lost and alone, too afraid to go to sleep, even after finding a covered place. Ransom starts talking to himself in a rather strange manner but gets better after finally sleeping. Then he meets the natives and stays with them for a couple of months.
  • In The Purple Cloud, Adam lives for twenty years After the End without encountering another human being, or even an animal aside from the occasional fish or insect. The experience warps his mind so badly that when he meets Leda, the only other survivor, his first instinct is to try to kill and eat her.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Stand: As Captain Trips starts to burn itself out, many survivors are left alone with no means of contacting anyone else. Many of these survivors become unhinged from the lack of company and become victims of the "second epidemic" of accidental deaths and suicides. Special cases include a young woman who becomes paranoid about roaming thugs and arms herself with a gun only for it to explode and fatally wound her when she tries to use it, and a middle-aged man who goes for a jog in an attempt to ease his mind and suffers a heart attack.
  • 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.
  • Star Wars Legends:
  • In The Stormlight Archive, mentally ill people are locked into dark, quiet rooms and completely isolated from others to "keep them calm", which usually just results in this. The people treating them use this as proof that insanity is simply untreatable, while Kaladin sees right through it and Teft idly comments that even if a person wasn't sick before they were handed over, the "treatment" would probably make them so. Jasnah Kholin was locked up in one as a child, which was the cause for the "breaking" that allowed her to become a Surgebinder and led her to practice vigorous self-discipline so her mind would never fail her again.
  • 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 same applies to his Expy Solomon Shafto in The Pyrates, although he is possibly even less coherent.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • War With No Name: When D'Arc leaves the ranch, Mort(e) is left completely isolated for several weeks. He does not take this well, and starts "devolving" and acting like a pre-Change cat.
  • 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.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story A Witch Shall Be Born, Tamaris at first does not recognize her rescuers.
  • The short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. As the reader continues through the journal entries, they experience the writer's gradual descent into madness with nothing better to do than observe the peeling yellow wallpaper in her room.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 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.
  • Implied to be the 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?.
  • Angel
    • It 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."
    • Then there’s Fred, who is definitely less than sane after spending five years alone in a cave after escaping slavery in Pylea. She writes on the walls a lot and talks to herself. She reverts to it in the episode where she confronts and kills the professor behind it after nearly getting eaten by another portal monster.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Wishverse Buffy from "The Wish" is a cold, remorseless killing machine, unlike the normal Buffy who has the Scooby Gang for friendship and support.
  • Given glancing notice in the Criminal Minds episode "The Silencer." The titular unsub was already unhinged due to an abusive mother, but as soon as he got arrested, he personally ensured that most of his stay would be spent in solitary because he had a malfunctioning cochlear implant that made noise painful, which didn't do his mental state any favors. The BAU team notes that the solitary cells in his prison didn't allow for total silence, and other inmates were likely to try to talk to him or themselves in order to keep their sanity. One inmate kept himself grounded by talking about the calm, peaceful, quiet property his family owned, and it became the Silencer's obsession once he escaped prison.
  • 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 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.
      The Doctor: Sealed inside your casing. Not feeling anything, ever. From birth to death, locked inside a cold, metal cage. Completely alone. That explains your voice! No wonder you scream.
    • 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 Girl Who Waited" has Amy trapped in a kindness facility for 36 years. She names her re-programmed robot Rory, and speaks to it.
  • 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-O 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.
  • Clare in the Hyperdrive episode of the same name is a famous spacewoman on 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 (fourteen years) 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.
    Stabler: You son of a bitch. I SAID THREE DAYS, NOT A WEEK!
    Guard: It was three days!
  • LazyTown: "The First Day of Summer" has Robbie crack when everyone disappears for less than a day, and even after the townspeople return he's still unhinged.
  • 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.
  • 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. In Desmond's case, it was likely a combination of isolation and not getting enough sleep. Claire is another example.
  • During the three-year Time Skip between seasons four and five of Merlin, 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.
  • Monsters:
    • "Habitat": A woman named Jamie Neal volunteers to be locked in a room for nine months in exchange for a large sum of money. At first, she boasts that she can easily handle it and she'll use the money to be independent for the rest of her life. After about two months, she starts losing it and begging to be let out, saying she now misses being with people.
    • "The Waiting Game": After a nuclear war, soldiers wait in bunkers for the radiation to go down, but eventually, they start going crazy and committing suicide by going outside.
  • 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.
  • My Name Is Earl:
    • Played for Laughs and then Played for Drama 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.
    • 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."
  • Tested by the MythBusters. As the experiment was ended early, it was only determined plausible.
  • 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.
    • Time in solitary is what kicks off Red's dementia.
  • 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, thanks to his collection of singing potatoes.
    • That said, Holly is aware of this happening to humans; avoiding it is stated to be why Rimmer is brought back as a hologram.
  • Played for Laughs on The Red Green Show with Ranger Gord. Gord was assigned to an isolated fire watch tower in the late 1970s, and he never got the letter telling him he was laid off. He then spent the next 12 years all alone in the woods until Red found him. He was originally depicted as a Disco Dan Stepford Smiler prone to bursting into tears and pleading desperately for Red not to leave him alone. Later seasons depicted him as becoming increasingly deranged and desperate for any contact with women, as well as a Small Name, Big Ego type who portrayed himself as a male Mary Sue in his cartoons.
  • On Russell Howard Stands Up To The World, the titular comic briefly details the quarantine he spent in Aukland, New Zealand, during which he had to spend two weeks in a small hotel room and allowed only 40 minutes per day spent walking around a small terrace. His video diaries show his room becoming progressively messier as he becomes increasingly disheveled and his thoughts more disjointed.
  • 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 fiancée, 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 for 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.
  • 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 ship 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 the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Second Chances", 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.
  • Subverted in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Hard Time". An alien society sentences Miles O'Brien to prison time, but it's conducted using virtual reality, so he goes through the 20-year sentence in a few hours. O'Brien's shipmates think this trope happened to him before he reveals he had a cellmate whom he murdered over a misunderstanding, which is what really traumatized him.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Twilight Zone (1959):
    • The first episode, "Where Is Everybody?", operated from the 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 worthwhile. 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.
  • When They See Us: Long periods in solitary caused Korey to have hallucinations, mostly of his sister.

  • Die Ärzte has "Micha", the lonesome cowboy. At the end, he breaks his guitar, kicks his horse, and angrily rides into the sunset.
  • Chiasm's "Isolated" is a Sanity Slippage Song about isolation though it's not clear whether the narrator goes mad from isolation or is/feels isolated because of their madness.
  • While the film it was made for presents a different narrative, Michael Jackson's "Ghosts" outlines how much the isolation following his misconduct accusations has taken a toll on his mental state.
    There's a ghost down in the hall
    There's a ghoul upon the bed
    There's something in the walls
    There's blood up on the stairs
    And it's floating through the room
    And there's nothing I can see
    I know this place is doomed
    Because now it's haunting me.
  • In Pink Floyd's Concept Album The Wall and its accompanying movie, the main character Pink experiences a self-inflicted Go Mad From The Isolation after constructing his wall, discovering that alienating everyone and everything is much worse than having to deal with them like before.
    But it was all just 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
  • 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.
  • The Statler Brothers' song "Flowers on the Wall":
    Last night I dressed in tails pretended I was on the town
    As long as I can dream it's hard to slow this swinger down
    So please don't give a thought to me I'm really doing fine
    You can always find me here and having quite a time

    Counting flowers on the wall
    That don't bother me at all
    Playing solitaire till dawn with a deck of fifty-one
    Smoking cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo
    Now don't tell me I've nothing to do.
  • Sting's song "Message in a Bottle" is 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.
  • More or less the subject of Van der Graaf Generator's "A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers".
  • Steampianist and morbid-morsel, two Vocaloid artists, collaborate on a Halloween song every year. The 2019 one (The Hole of Wonders and Dismay) was particularly haunting, describing a man starving himself to death by simply waiting in front of a sinkhole in his bedroom. He slowly goes insane over his adoration for the hole, which he believes gives him pleasant dreams. He dies not from starvation but from falling in.
    I will not leave
    Instead I await
    Oh please, elate me
    So don’t be late

    Professional Wrestling 
  • In TNA, Raven was put into solitary confinement for Abyss's Monster's Ball and learned that he hated it, saying it would have driven him crazy if he wasn't insane already.


    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.
  • Exalted" 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 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."
  • 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 at the highest levels of Obligation (but then, so is surgery.)
    • In Leviathan: The Tempest, staying close to humans (other than Beloved) is essential to allow a Leviathan to hold onto their humanity. Going even a single day without meaningful human contact can result in Erosion if the player has high Tranquility, and the rolls keep getting worse the longer you stay alone. Unfortunately, a Leviathan's psychic Wake will Mind Rape anyone who he interacts with, and this also can cause Erosion rolls. Worse, spending too long without human contact is one of the few things that's an offense against both halves of a Leviathan's Karma Meter, meaning that you have to roll twice to resist the Erosion and have a chance to lose two points of Tranquility at once.
    • Mage: The Awakening: In the furthest reaches of Astral Space, reality is tenuous enough that travelers can will themselves to the stars in a few objective seconds. However, they can't stop partway through, and the subjective time matches their travel method, so if they don't know a mental "shortcut", they'll walk an interstellar distance at a human pace and arrive as an Empty Shell.
  • 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.
  • Isolation is one of the five Stress Gauges in Unknown Armies.
  • Warhammer 40,000: 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 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).


    Video Games 
  • This is one of the many, many infernal punishments available in the game of Afterlife (1996), "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 an hour.
  • This happened to Caldarius from Battleborn. Being imprisoned for centuries eventually took a severe toll on 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.
  • Averted in BlazBlue. Hakumen spent 90 years alone in the Void, and retained his sanity through sheer force of will. Although, you can argue Hakumem already wasn't very sane to begin with given he's a time-displaced Jin, whose sanity was already very much in question.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Lord Protector from Dungeon Munchies is a far cry from the individual she was before, after reincarnating as a spirit in a monster-infested underground complex, without any of her old friends, and only mutated plants for company.
  • Dyztopia: Post-Human RPG: According to Quot, all angels have a tendency to go insane from loneliness, which is why they attack Akira for irrational reasons. This is apparently something caused by Asterisk.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • As mentioned below in the webcomics section, the official Fallout comic "One Man, and a Crate of Puppets" featured the Puppet Man of Vault 77, who was trapped alone in the vault with a crate of puppets and eventually started holding conversations with them, believing them to be alive. After two years he escaped the Vault, and after murdering a group of raiders he became a sort of boogeyman to them. 200 years later, in Fallout 3 you can find his jumpsuit with a holotape demanding that the listener burn it.
  • 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.
  • Fire Emblem Fates Revelation rendition of the theme song, "Lost in Thoughts All Alone" has these lyrics, which are from the point of view of Anankos, the Mad God of Valla and the Avatar's father-
    "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?"
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses: after the Time Skip in the Blue Lions story, the player reunites with Dimitri after five years. Dimitri's sanity had long been strained due to his Dark and Troubled Past, but by the time you meet him again, he has done nothing but hunt down Imperial soldiers by his lonesome, having allowed his desire for vengeance to consume him to the point of closing himself off. He has become reduced to a shell of his former self: a vicious Blood Knight who also suffers hallucinations of his lost loved ones tormenting him, believing the Player Character to be another "ghost" when they first meet again. It takes some time for him to recover, and even then, he admits that he may not ever be completely right in his mind again.
  • Fractured: Downplayed in Fractured 4's narration. While it doesn't state insanity outright, it describes feelings of dissociation, confusion, hopelessness, and eventual resignation from not being able to find anyone else, and ends with a Desperate Plea for Home. Unlike Fractured 3, where the boy and girl actually unite, the duo in this game futilely pursue each other's ghosts, leaving them separated by the end with no one else in sight.
    can anyone help me
    looks like I'm on my own
    i need to figure this out
    this doesn't feel right
    everything looks the same
    feels the same
    but it doesn't feel like me
    why is this so confusing
    it's hopeless
    i'm alone
    there's no one else like me
  • 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...
  • Halo:
    • Forerunner AI 343 Guilty Spark fell victim to this after 100,000 years of isolation, explaining his eccentricity and occasional Ax-Crazy 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.
  • 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.
  • Kirby Star Allies: During Hyness' long and incredibly fast Motive Rant, he mentions that he and his kind were banished to the edge of the galaxy because those who they worked alongside feared their power. Not only that, they tried to erase their very existence. Hyness clearly didn't take this banishment very well, and was driven insane by it and wanted to exact Revenge by unleashing Void Termina to destroy the galaxy. This becomes more important with the reveal in the final update that Hyness saved the Three Mage Sisters when they were on the brink of death by giving his powers to them, meaning that he was much nicer before he ended up getting banished.
  • 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.
  • 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. As for Morgfyre...
  • 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 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 that has many different forms of life. Conclusion: Isolation is only guaranteed to drive you mad if you are the only sentient life form present.
  • 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.
  • Downplayed with Big Bad Adachi in Persona 4. As a result of his Friendless Background and being reassigned From New York to Nowhere, he spent all his free time drinking and watching TV in his apartment. While not exactly imprisoned, the lack of positive outlets in his life alongside his sociopathic tendencies and superiority complex were the perfect ingredients to turn him into one of the more realistic depictions of a Serial Killer and a Misanthrope Supreme. Ironically, he ends up thriving and becoming The Atoner after being sent to an actual prison.
  • The Electric-type Gym Leader from Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, Volkner, suffers a depressive variant of this. The Sunyshore Gym had gone for presumably months without any new challengers coming in, and given that being a Gym Leader is Volkner's job, he inadvertently embraced the emptiness of the Gym and spiraled into depression from the lack of variety in his life. The only person keeping him sane by actively spending time with him was the Elite Four Member, Flint, who is the one person Volkner ever saw himself being close with from his Friendless Background.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Implied in The Stanley Parable. In one of the bad endings, the narrator from the game starts breaking down once he realizes Stanley won't move or do anything (leaving the narrator alone), all while Stanley (aka the player) watches from the distance.
  • Star Shift Rebellion: The Terran Republic officer, Hank Manson, was stranded on Xolarus III for over a decade. While he's sane enough to help the party, he also constructed a cat figure out of junk and believes this junk is a real cat.
  • Toontown: Corporate Clash: The Public Relations Representative was locked in the dungeons so long he went mad from the isolation and frequently glitches out, stumbles over his sentences, and lambasts both the Toons attacking him and the Cogs that sent him here.
  • 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.

    Visual Novels 
  • 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 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 that 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?

    Web Animation 
  • In If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device:
    • This is what apparently happened to the Custodes (those tasked with guarding the Emperor, at least). 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 hedonists, 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 a 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.
  • As a result of being the first contestant eliminated on the first season of Inanimate Insanity, Paper grows more and more distressed from his time in the cage on Idiotic Island, as while everybody else had something to keep themselves occupiednote , Paper was given nothing to pass the time. This grew so bad, that the trauma from the isolation caused him to suffer from Dissociative Identity Disorder once he was voted to rejoin the game.
    • Double subverted with Lightbulb. When Nickel explains to Trophy how everyone stayed sane on Idiotic Island due to having something to keep them occupied, Lightbulb butts in saying, "I didn't need anything on Idiotic Island, and I turned out just grand!" However, it's implied that the only reason she stayed sane despite being a Cloudcuckoolander is that she's a social butterfly, and taking away the people she's closest to would end up breaking her. Sure enough, this is proven to be true when Test Tube, the last person remaining on her team besides her, gets eliminated, and Lightbulb is shown looking alone and dejected.
  • A scene from the fourth episode of the original Object Overload series shown Top Hat, who had just gotten eliminated, landing on a small sculpture of Gamey that Lighter (who was eliminated the episode before) made with the dirt on Prison Planet. There were also sculptures of Clock, Tissue, and Melony, and Lighter is right between the Clock and Tissue sculptures with a crazed look on his face. This should suggest that Lighter had gotten insane due to how lonely he was, and made the sculptures manically.
  • 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.
  • RWBY:
    • Salem seemed to have partially descended into madness in after the Gods cursed her with immortality, and later wiped out humanity. Unable to die, Salem attempted to commit suicide numerous times to no avail before jumping into the Grimm pits, hoping it would finally kill her. This failed and made everything infinitely worse.
    • The God of Light intentionally subverted this with Ozma by giving him the power to reincarnate into another person upon his death so that he would never be alone while fighting Salem. However, the toll this took on him eventually caused several of Ozma's lives to despair.
    • After so long alone in the Ever After, Jaune Arc's mental health has taken a serious toll. He has named all the Paper Pleasers after his friends and has taken them hostage and not allowed them to die, controlling their lives to keep them "safe". Once they eventually succeed, Jaune becomes distraught and says he was supposed to keep them safe. He knows he's not okay, but it doesn't make it hurt any less. After seeing them reborn as the Genial Gems however, he begins to realize he was stopping them from becoming what they needed to become.
  • 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.

  • 8-Bit Theater:
  • Bob and George George goes mad partly from this, partly from Unwilling Suspension.
  • 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 goodbye because Butch has gotten tired of waiting and is just gonna put a power drill through her head.
  • Dragon Ball Multiverse: U13 Kakarot.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The lowest circle of Hell in I'm the Grim Reaper is an endless, perfect void where the worst sinners are left alone with their thoughts for all eternity, inevitably causing horrific hallucinations, along with memory deterioration. Downplayed, though, at least in the protagonist's case. After 25 years of isolation, she has experienced a great deal of trauma and has forgotten important details about the Waking World. However, she's still lucid and capable of relearning what she lost after being freed. Dialogue suggests that this may be an intentional part of the suffering involved since eternal conscious misery is the goal.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • Sluggy Freelance: King Farahn and K'Z'K deservedly get sealed into a magical prison void together, and end up stuck there for thousands of years. K'Z'K being a demon/god does fine (though of course he's seriously pissed off) while Farahn decays into a mindless moaning husk.

    Web Original 
  • Alantutorial eventually gets locked up in a room alone for months, and during this situation his videos, words and actions become more erratic and chaotic, until he's trapped in a filthy prison of his own design and can only say "tutorial".
  • 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.
  • Critical Role: Caduceus Clay stayed behind in the Blooming Grove while the rest of his family set out on a months-long trip to find a solution for the corruption consuming it, but months turned into years, and nobody returned. Caduceus later recounts how time eventually lost all meaning, and he felt like nobody could hear him, not even the Wildmother. He eventually got so desperate for interaction of any kind that he started eating lily petals to try to induce visions of the Wildmother, but lilies are highly toxic, and all they'd do was make him sick and give him horrible nightmares. He never wanted to leave his home, but left with the Mighty Nein in part because he couldn't stand the thought of spending another day alone.
  • The Cry of Mann: Gergiev was alone in the void for "countless years" with his mind intact, suffering from the most extreme isolation possible, which twisted him into an Ax-Crazy Humanoid Abomination.
  • Dino Attack RPG:
    • Ben Gunn has been living in the Goo Caverns for so long that 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.
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged points out this aspect of the Hyperbolic Time Chamber. The Chamber can admit a maximum of two people at a time, and you can't leave before a real-world day passes. Mr. Popo points out that going in alone is not good for one's mental health. Vegeta and Trunks go in first, and Trunks has a minor freakout upon receiving positive human interaction when they exit. Then Goku and Gohan go in, and despite having a good relationship and spending all their time together, they've sprawled a Madness Mantra on the walls before it's time to leave. When Vegeta goes back in alone, he has a complete breakdown, even though Mr. Popo turned off the Time Dilation and he was actually only in there a few hours.
  • 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.
  • New Life SMP: As a Strider, since Stacy is the only person on the server who actively resides in the Nether, she tends not to get many visitors in the more dangerous modded dimension, and even when she does, she's often not home at the time. By her 2nd episode, she's making a Copper Golem companion to play note blocks for her.
    Stacy: We have all the entertainment! I can look at the window, I can be serenaded by Comment [the Copper Golem]–
    (Comment presses a copper button on a note block)
    Stacy: Very good. Ike [the chicken] is clapping– (starts laughing) I'm not going crazy, guys, what are you talking about? Is this because of my axolotl pool floatie? I think it looks nice! I'm totally not going crazy in the Nether. What are you talking about?
  • Outside Xbox:
    • 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.
    • A different video has Andy, over the course of eighteen hours locked alone in the studio with a dead battery in his Nintendo Switch, lose it to the point where he's staging a wedding between two of the show's past craft projects.
  • 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 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-2669 ("Khevtuul 1"). An exobiologist has her mind uploaded into a space probe in the hope of finding extraterrestrial life. After years of exploring the universe alone and never finding any other species, she slowly loses her mind. Now, she's traveling back towards Earth at five times the speed of light, apparently indifferent to the destruction that would happen if she touches down.
    • 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.
  • The Taste of Static: In "Hikkikomori", the contestants of the titular reality show go mad from being isolated from society in their apartments one by one until the winner is left alone, in a tiny apartment full of garbage that will eventually overwhelm her, unaware that she has even won and has been the last contestant for over a year.

    Western Animation 
  • The Batman Beyond episode "The Last Resort" 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!
  • 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..."
  • A downplayed, yet poignant example from Castlevania (2017) in the season 3 premiere. Following his major victory of killing Dracula, his father, Alucard has spent some time living alone after parting ways with Trevor and Sypha. He's introduced quietly and peacefully preparing a meal for himself... before suddenly acting out an imaginary conversation with Trevor and Sypha through crude puppets that he propped up by the table, imitating their usual bickering in place of his actual absent friends. It doesn't take long for him to lament the absurdity of his lonely situation.
    Alucard: (observing his wine glass) Oh my God... I am losing my mind. (downs the whole thing) It's only been a month... I think.
  • 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 penguins...with a croquet mallet.
    Princess Candy: Ooooh, we definitely gotta get you outta that stable more often.
  • DuckTales (2017):
    • By the episode "Moonvasion!", it's quite clear that Della Duck did not come out of her decade-long stay on the Moon unscathed. In the episode "The Richest Duck in the World!", Della explains that she grew so desperate for contact with anyone that she went through a three-week staring contest with her own reflection, leading her to develop a fear of mirrors and in the previously mentioned "Moonvasion!" episode, she actually goes Laughing Mad when Dewey suggests that being stranded on an island was like being stranded on the Moon. This trope is lampshaded in the episode "Quack Pack!" when everyone thinks Huey's going nuts (he's not; he's the only one who realizes they've been trapped in some bizarre dimension designed like a TV sitcom).
      Della Duck: Back on the moon, I used to snap too! Of course, that was from soul-crushing loneliness. [Audience goes "aww"]
    • Her brother Donald also suffers from this perhaps even worse than Della. After escaping from the Moonlanders halfway through season 2, he crash-lands on an isolated island, forced to survive on seawater and sand, and befriends a very familiar-sounding-and-looking watermelon, which perturbs everyone once they find him in the season 2 finale.
  • The Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "Laugh Ed, Laugh" has all the kids in the cul-de-sac, except the Eds, come down with 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.
  • 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.
  • Family Guy:
    • 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.
  • Final Space:
    • Gary Goodspeed starts the series at the tail end of a five-year prison sentence on a ship with only robots for company. It's left an obvious mark on his sanity and left him so desperate for living company that he's willing to "mingle" with a crew of bounty hunters shooting up the ship. The Infinity Guard tried to avert this by sending KVN along as a deep space insanity avoidance companion, but he's so bad at the job that it's only made things worse.
    • In the Season 2 episode "The Other Side", the ship is caught in a time shard, which splits the ship in half temporally, causing the crewmembers trapped on one half to experience time at a greatly accelerated rate to those on the other. The episode spends most of its time on the accelerated half, with the crewmembers trapped there having been without outside contact for sixty years... and then near the end, it is revealed that only Little Cato had been trapped on that half, and everything that happened, from his interactions with the rest of the crew to him taking a mortal wound, was all a hallucination brought on by extreme isolation. Thankfully, he is rescued not long after and de-aged back to fourteen, but he retains all his memories of the experience.
  • Completely averted in the Futurama episode "Roswell That Ends Well" 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.
  • Gargoyles: This is part of the reason why Demona is so unstable; after betraying Macbeth (which itself came about from her jumping to conclusions), her second clan was slain by the Hunter, and from then on, she kept to herself. Of course, the Weird Sisters' curse — which prevents her from dying unless she kills Macbeth or vice versa — only makes it worse.
  • An episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes had Jimmy the only one left in Miseryville. As a result, he began suffering from hallucinations.
  • 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.
  • Looney Tunes: 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!"
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
    • Autumn Blaze downplays this. She's The Exile of the kirin due to hating losing her voice to the Stream of Silence and having cured herself willingly. 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.
    • Princess Celestia experiences this after a few minutes of being alone in "A Royal Problem" when she's switched roles with Princess Luna. As Princess of the Night, her role consists of standing a lonely guard over the castle and using Dreamwalker abilities to help guide ponies through their nightmares. Celestia's normal duties involve being constantly swarmed by ponies in need of her assistance, so she isn't able to handle being so utterly alone in addition to the new responsibility. Luna presumably has the same issue (to a lesser extent due to their personality differences), as she's immediately able to guess that Celestia has already begun talking to herself.
  • 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.
  • 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!"
  • 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.
  • 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 Ren & Stimpy Show episode, "Hermit Ren," the eponymous dog gets so sick of Stimpy that 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.
  • Played for Laughs in The Simpsons when Bart confines himself to his room after breaking his leg in the episode "Bart of Darkness," becoming a very Creepy Child as a result.
  • Spongebob Squarepants:
    • 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" and narrowly averts "go mad" by virtue of panicking and discovering that the time machine way back is right below him.
      Squidward: I GOTTA GET OUT OF HERE!
    • 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.
  • Wasp from Transformers: Animated went off the deep end parachute-free after he got framed and thrown into the Autobot stockades, devolving from a garden-variety Jerkass to a vengeful and unstable Third-Person Person.
  • 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.

    Real Life 
  • Invented by Iran (though there is evidence Venezuela and the United States may have also used this method too), white torture weaponizes this trope by completely depriving its unfortunate victims of any sensory variation. The victim is placed into a soundproof room with smooth white walls and flooring, forced to wear white clothing, eat white food on white plates with white utensils, and the room is lit in such a way that no shadows are cast by anyone inside. When present, guards are instructed to say nothing and stand perfectly still, and if they must move, they have padded shoes so their footsteps don't make any noise. The result of all this is that the victim quickly begins to suffer from intense psychological trauma that rapidly accelerates towards becoming completely unbearable.
  • Orfield Laboratories 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.
    • However, Veritasium, in his video: Can Silence Actually Drive You Crazy?, stayed inside an anechoic chamber for a whole hour comfortably...
    • Somewhat ironically, one common complaint from astronauts is that the insides of spacecraft can be quite noisy and they can't get away from the sounds. Michael Collins, command module pilot for Apollo 11, liked the brief periods he was orbiting on the far side of the Moon from Earth while Armstrong & Aldrin were on the surface because they were the only time in the mission he had some peace and quiet.
  • Felicity Aston, the 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 I’m 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 polar 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. NASA understands, at least, that humans have social as well as physiological needs, and requires that astronauts on the ISS have at least one communal meal a day, which has the added bonus of keeping morale high.
  • When highly social animals (e.g., great apes, elephants, monkeys, lions, and wolves) 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 is most advised as they do better that way because they get mean or despondent, trying to socialize with any/everything 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.
  • Blanche Monnier was kept captive in her room, chained to her bed for twenty-five years for trying to marry the "wrong" person and ended up having to spend the rest of her life in a mental hospital from the mental issues that she had from her decades of captivity.
  • 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. Failure to bond with a caregiver during early childhood, usually because of abuse or neglect, can result in reactive attachment disorder. Children with RAD display one or more of 3 basic symptoms — 1) going to extreme lengths to receive comfort and affection from any available adult, 2) reluctance to initiate or accept comfort and affection, 3) doing violent things like abusing animals, hurting siblings, or self-harming.
    • During the first 5 years of a person's life, 80% of brain development occurs. If a child is neglected severely enough during that time, their brain will fail to fully develop and they will be left with severe mental disabilities for the rest of their lives.
      • Danielle Crockett, discovered and rescued in July 2005, was a girl kept in a dark, filthy room by her mother for the first 7 years of her life. Although she was adopted by a loving foster family and made notable progress, she was never able to learn to speak or even communicate in any meaningful way. Currently, she lives at a care home for disabled adults and seems to be doing well.
      • Another case was that of Genie, a girl whose father believed she was mentally retarded and kept her strapped to a child's toilet until she was 13. He gave her as little attention as possible and did not talk to her or let anyone else do so, which prevented her from being able to learn any kind of language. After being rescued, she was able to learn some words and communicate non-verbally, but like Danielle, she never learned to fully speak.
  • 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 constantly screaming, just to try and find relief from the crushing, ever-present silence. 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 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 found it surprisingly difficult to play group scenes entirely alone in a green screen room, with only an earpiece and pictures of the other actors mounted on poles to react to. Because of scale issues, his co-stars playing the dwarves and Hobbit were playing the rest of the scene on a neighboring set,note  and he would be composited into their scene later. 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", and he was able to regain his footing and continue 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." This is from someone specifically trained in how to survive torture and isolation.
  • The COVID-19 Pandemic led many governments around the world to mandate lockdowns, with citizens not allowed to congregate or leave the house unless necessary. While the mental health blow was slightly lessened thanks to modern technology allowing for greater connectivity than before, even people that were more or less well-adjusted have reported being highly stressed and more irritable from not being able to socialize with others in person. People were so desperate for human contact that they socialized in person against the advice of officials and fueled more spikes in disease transmission.
  • Failing entrepreneur Donald Crowhurst, in a desperate attempt to save himself financially, entered a race to be the first person to sail solo around the world. Belatedly realizing the unseaworthiness of his ship, the Teignmouth Electron, he decided to fake his journey in order to save face... and to that end, he had to maintain radio silence for long periods just so nobody would realize where he was, leaving him saddled with an even worse case of isolation than any of the other contestants. On the tenth of July 1969, the Teignmouth Electron was found adrift with no sign of Crowhurst; his logbooks initially show a careful attempt to fake his time, but soon degrade into an Apocalyptic Log of poetry, philosophical musings, and eventually, utter incoherence. Crowhurst's body was never recovered and his death remains officially unexplained, but the most likely explanation is that he threw himself overboard, apparently after realizing that he'd never be able to return home without his fakery being discovered.
  • In addition to Space Madness and Ocean Madness, there's Prairie Madness, a type of madness that mainly affected Manifest Destiny settlers who would farm isolated plains in the Midwest.
  • Avoiding this trope is the main reason that offshore lighthouses almost always had a crew of three keepers, even if the workload could probably have been handled by two. If a fatal accident or illness were to befall one of a two-man team then the survivor could be left for several weeks with nobody to talk to but his colleague's decaying corpse, and that would drive even the toughest man to the breaking point.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Gone Mad From The Isolation


Purple Wobble

Clancy and Captain Bryce find a looter who's been suspended in purple Wobble so long that his mind has snapped. Bryce then pushes the looter into the gray Wobble, which causes him to age backwards until he ceases to exist, as it was the only humane thing to do.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / MercyKill

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