Although your mental health is of vital importance regardless of your gender, countless studies and statistics have shown that mental illness affects men and women differently. The prevalence and frequency of mental illness in men are often lower than in women; however, according to the CDC, men with mental illnesses are also less likely to receive adequate treatment than women and are more likely to die by suicide.
While men and women can develop most of the same mental disorders and conditions, they typically experience different symptoms. Here’s a closer look at some of the most common mental health conditions in men, how they manifest and the best methods of treatment.
Depression is a common but serious mood disorder characterized by both persistent melancholia and a general lack of interest or pleasure in activities that were once rewarding or enjoyable. Those who suffer from depression — particularly when it goes untreated — often find it permeates every aspect of their lives and thoroughly alters their perception of reality, affecting everything from processing thoughts and emotions to handling simple daily obligations and activities.
The symptoms of depression may appear differently in men than they do in women. Men struggling with depression may seem irritable, aggressive or angry rather than melancholy or poignant. Because of this, family, friends and even doctors may not always recognize their symptoms as being signs of depression.
Additionally, men are less likely to recognize, talk about or seek treatment for depressive tendencies, despite the vast number of men it affects. Rather, they may instead attempt to hide their emotions until they “get over it” while simultaneously growing more lethargic and losing interest in work, family or hobbies.
Men who struggle with depression also typically exhibit insomnia-related behavior and experience difficulties sleeping. Moreover, their depressive symptoms may manifest as physical issues such as a tight chest, racing heart, ongoing migraines or digestive issues.
If you believe you’re experiencing depression, the best thing you can do for yourself is not avoid addressing it. It’s important to see a doctor or mental health professional for an evaluation. Treatment can come in many forms, from medication to psychotherapy, or be an individualized combination of the two; however, as with most mental disorders, a diagnosis precedes treatment. Don’t be afraid to seek professional analysis and care.
Anxiety is characterized by a constant sense of fear or unease (particularly in social settings) marked by behavioral disturbances. As is the case with depression, a wariness towards emotional vulnerability can often keep men from seeking help for anxiety.
Men are often more self-conscious about exhibiting anxious behavior as society often conditions them to believe such emotions aren’t masculine. The ultimate pitfall of this philosophy is that the anxious symptoms then begin to compound in a vicious snowball effect.
For example, if you’re a man feeling anxious in a social situation, you may become very aware of how uncomfortable your anxiety is making you feel and wonder if you’re managing or hiding it adequately. Before you even realize what’s happening, you’re feeling even more anxiety simply because you’re anxious and don’t want to be. This downward spiral can lead to extreme symptoms such as panic attacks or fainting spells.
Anxiety often manifests in men as the following symptoms:
- Anger and irritability
- Insomnia-related behavior
- Muscle pains and aches
- Strained relationships
- Substance abuse
It’s important for men to understand and remember that opening up about anxiety is a sign of courage and strength, not frailty or weakness. Anxiety-related suicide attempts are on the rise throughout the United States, and men have been shown three times more likely to die than women. Outside of seeking help from a medical professional, regular exercise, a healthy diet and mechanisms of stress reduction are also crucial to treating anxiety.
3. Substance Use Disorder
Substance use disorder (SUD) is a disease that doesn’t discriminate. When it comes to men and substance abuse, there are a variety of causes, warning signs and treatment options to consider.
Men are statistically more likely to start experimenting with drugs at an earlier age than women and often start abusing substances for vastly different reasons. For example, many men who form addictions to methamphetamine are intrigued and drawn in by the idea of a more stimulating sex life.
The National Library of Medicine has outlined certain behavioral patterns that are more specific to men who abuse dangerous drugs:
- Men are more likely to experience intense mood swings and even become aggressive and violent, particularly when experiencing symptoms of withdrawal.
- Men may exhibit a lack of interest or care regarding personal appearance or hygiene.
- Men may attempt risky acts more often than women, such as driving under the influence.
Thankfully, there are many treatment options available to men struggling with SUD that are usually individualized on a case-by-case basis to best fit your personal needs. Treatment normally comes in multiple stages, the first being detox (the gradual process of weaning an individual off a drug they’re dependent on).
However, this is only the beginning; if you see a detox through to completion but don’t seek any further professional care, your addiction may still exist in spite of kicking your dependency. This, of course, may lead to an eventual relapse. Rehabilitation is widely considered the next best step following detox.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition characterized by intrusive thoughts following a traumatic experience. If you suffer from PTSD, you may find yourself withdrawing from others and experiencing intense feelings of deep sadness or frustration. Every case of PTSD is different, and no one single factor or root is present in every single case.
It’s always best to seek help for PTSD sooner rather than later. Because it manifests differently from person to person, many treatment options are available. The best thing to do is try to remain patient and open; the process can take some time.
5. Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is characterized by intense and uncontrollable mood swings, ranging from states of extreme mania to seemingly unbearable depressive periods. Bipolar disorders in men can often go unrecognized and undiagnosed for long periods of time, particularly when symptoms start during teenage years or early 20s.
Men who suffer from bipolar disorder are likely to get frustrated or grow irritable easily, especially in situations accompanied by feelings of failure or futility. In this state of mind, men often may not realize their levels of anger are over the top or unjustified. They may suspect that everyone around them is out to make their life more difficult and sabotage their efforts.
In addition to an inability to control anger, symptoms may also begin to exhibit as a lack of motivation or concentration, racing thoughts and speech, and an extremely high sex drive or acts of sexual impulsion.
In addition to mindfulness activities such as yoga and meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often the best method of learning coping mechanisms to control manic-depressive mood fluctuations. Keeping busy is also usually quite helpful; keeping your mind occupied against the overwhelming urges to emotional extremes is of the utmost importance.
Importance of Men Seeking Mental Health Treatment
Perhaps the concept of manhood could use a little refinement or revision. In our ever-changing world, it’s vital that men know they can express themselves and any concerns they may have for their health, mental or otherwise. Isolating yourself only worsens the symptoms and negative effects of mental illness.
If you’re concerned you’re exhibiting symptoms of mental illness, consider contacting your doctor or a mental health professional to talk about what you’ve been experiencing. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help — contact us today at (877) 594-3566 to start your journey toward recovery today.