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Men’s Mental Health Awareness

Millions of Americans struggle with mental health issues. The biggest difference in men vs women mental health issues is prevalence. Men typically have fewer mental health conditions and are also less likely to seek treatment. 

Another obstacle in men’s mental health awareness is the stigma. Guys are supposed to be “strong,” and issues such as depression are viewed as signs of “weakness.” However, this male mental health stigma is actually killing men. 

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in 2019, men died by suicide at a rate of 3.63 times higher than women. With over 6 million American men struggling with depression, it is crucial to know the signs of mental health struggles and end the stigma that stops men from getting help.

Types of Mental Health Conditions in Men

Mental health issues do not discriminate and affect both men and women. However, there are mental health conditions that men commonly struggle with. These mental health struggles include:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Schizophrenia

While women struggle with mental health issues more than men, it doesn’t mean men aren’t affected. This is especially true with depression. 

Complex factors play a role in how men vs. women experience mental health issues. Hormonal differences play a significant role, but so do internalized gender stereotypes. These stereotypes include coping strategies, clinical bias, among other factors. 

The Difference in Men vs. Women Mental Health Symptoms

Men and women can both struggle with the same mental health disorder. However, due to certain factors, they can have different experiences. 

The male mental health stigma often causes men to ignore the symptoms of mental health issues. Thus, men’s mental health awareness is important. It encourages men to seek treatment and reduce the risk of suicide. 

Common mental health symptoms in men include:

  • Aggressiveness
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Frustration
  • Substance abuse
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • A constant sense of worry
  • Engaging in risky behavior
  • Ignoring daily responsibilities
  • Thoughts of suicide

Mental health disorders can also cause physical symptoms that men often ignore. These symptoms include:

  • Changes in appetite
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Digestive troubles
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Sleeping more than normal

Because men with mental health issues often overlook their symptoms, friends and family members are typically the first to notice them. 

Men’s Mental Health Awareness: The Factors of Mental Health Disorders in Men

Triggers in men vs. women mental health disorders can be vastly different. Men often develop mental health issues due to traditional gender roles and societal expectations. These factors often lead men to believe:

  • They must display “masculine” traits such as strength and control
  • Must be the breadwinner
  • They should rely on themselves, not others
  • They have to hide their emotions

Unfortunately, these traditional beliefs encourage the male mental health stigma and stop men from seeking much-needed treatment.

How the Male Mental Health Stigma Affects Treatment

Men who struggle with mental health issues such as depression or substance use disorders are less likely to seek treatment. According to Mental Health America, men don’t seek treatment due to the social norms going against them doing so. Men also don’t seek treatment because they want to downplay their symptoms. Men are also often reluctant to talk to someone.

The stigma between men vs. women mental health issues results in only 1 in 4 men seeking professional help, while as many as 1 in 3 men take medications for depression or anxiety. 

Which Men are More at Risk for Mental Health Disorders?

Besides the above-mentioned factors that contribute to the development of mental health disorders in men and men’s suicide, certain groups of men have a higher chance of struggling with mental health disorders. 

  • White men 85 and older have the highest risk of suicide. According to the American Psychological Association, men in this demographic commit suicide more than any other age, sex, or race.
  • Men who have been to war or experienced other traumatic events are at increased risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Men who have stressful jobs or work in poor conditions increase their chances of developing a mental health disorder. Furthermore, unemployment and retirement increase a man’s risk of depression and committing suicide.
  • Men who go through a divorce commonly struggle with severe depression. According to one study, being single is a suicide trigger among men.
  • Because of male mental health stigma, financial and legal issues can trigger mental health issues in men such as depression and anxiety. Struggling to support one’s family financially can increase the risk of suicide. 
  • Mental health disorders often run in families. Men’s mental health awareness began with family members struggling with depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other mental disorders. 
  • Men going through significant life challenges increase their risk of mental health disorders and suicide. These challenges can include physical illness, family conflict, and the death of a family member. 

Common Mental Health Struggles in Men

While men can struggle with any mental health disorder, the following are the most prevalent.

Depression and Men’s Mental Health Awareness

Depression is a persistently low mood that interferes with daily life. It is the most common mental health condition in the world. Although women are twice as likely to struggle with depression, men are less likely to seek treatment. 

Symptoms of depression are generally the same in men and women and may include:

  • Feeling sad, guilty, tearful, or empty
  • Losing interest in hobbies and fun activities
  • Changes in weight and appetite
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Agitation
  • Trouble concentrating

When men struggle with depression, they may display behavioral changes. For example, men are more likely to use drugs or alcohol than women. The first signs of depression in men may include the following behavioral changes.

  • Angry outbursts
  • Avoiding family and social gatherings
  • Trouble managing responsibilities
  • Being a workaholic
  • Becoming controlling and abusive
  • Risky behaviors such as gambling, unsafe sex, driving under the influence
  • Suicide attempts

Depression can also affect a man’s sex drive. This is because, not only may depressed men lose interest in sex, but they may also have trouble with performance. 

Anxiety Disorders and Men’s Mental Health

Anxiety disorders are defined by intense and uncontrollable feelings of worry and fear. The most common anxiety disorder in men is generalized anxiety disorder. GAD often co-occurs alongside depression. 

Other anxiety disorders include social anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. While men and women equally struggle with anxiety disorders, men are less likely to seek treatment for them. 

Schizophrenia and Men’s Mental Health Awareness

Schizophrenia is a severe mental health disorder that causes people to have a break from reality. People with schizophrenia experience delusions, hallucinations, and disordered thinking. Men make up 90 percent of those who receive a schizophrenia diagnosis by age 30.

PTSD and Men vs. Women’s Mental Health

PTSD is characterized by symptoms of avoidance, hyperarousal, and reliving traumatic events. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, almost 60 percent of men and 50 percent of women experience one traumatic event in their life. 

While women experience sexual assault and abuse more than men, men are more likely to experience traumas such as:

  • Physical Assaults
  • Combats
  • Accidents
  • Natural disasters
  • Witnessing death or traumatic injuries

Women are more likely to develop PTSD even though more men typically experience traumatic events. 

Dual Diagnosis and Men’s Mental Health Awareness

A dual diagnosis is when a person struggles with two or more mental health disorders. Because of the male mental health stigma, many men turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with their mental illness symptoms. Unfortunately, this unhealthy behavior can lead to the development of co-occurring substance use disorders. 

Symptoms of co-occurring substance use disorders include:

  • Sudden changes in behavior
  • Isolating from friends and family
  • Risky behaviors
  • Needing more of the substance to achieve the desired effects
  • Craving drugs or alcohol
  • Withdrawal symptoms without drugs or alcohol

Treating co-occurring mental health disorders can be challenging. Because each condition feeds off the other, treatment should address all disorders simultaneously. 

Fighting the Male Mental Health Stigma and Seeking Treatment

A common difference in men vs. women and mental health is men are less likely to seek treatment. However, without professional help, mental health issues in men worsen and increase the risk of suicide. 

With treatment, men can learn to manage their symptoms and build healthy coping skills though. The most effective mental health treatment plans are personalized to an individual’s needs and may include the following. 

Psychotherapy for Men’s Mental Health

Psychotherapy is known as individual therapy or talk therapy. In psychotherapy, men work through issues and traumas that trigger their mental health disorders. Psychotherapists also help men change their negative thoughts and behaviors and learn healthy coping skills.

Therapists use a variety of therapies which may include:

Medications to Support Psychotherapy

For some men, therapy isn’t enough to manage the symptoms of their mental health disorders. In these cases, a doctor may prescribe men medications. Some of these medications can have adverse effects and should be closely monitored. 

Medications commonly prescribed to men with mental health disorders include:

  • Anti-depressants
  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Anti-psychotics
  • Sleep aids

Lifestyle Changes and Men’s Mental Health Awareness

Men’s mental health awareness can help men seek help when they feel symptoms of their mental illnesses begin. However, making simple lifestyle changes today can prevent mental illness symptoms from beginning in the first place. 

Lifestyle changes that can help prevent men from developing mental illnesses include:

  • Eating a well-balanced diet
  • Having a regular sleep schedule
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Using meditation, yoga, and other stress-relieving activities
  • Limit the use of drugs and alcohol

Men’s Mental Health Awareness Can Reduce Suicide Rates

While there is no way to prevent mental health disorders from developing, there are ways to reduce the symptoms and live a happy life. 

  • Healthy communication with friends and family, especially during stressful times, can ease depression and anxiety.
  • Seeking treatment at the onset of symptoms can prevent them from worsening.
  • Attending regular therapy sessions can prevent relapses.
  • Stress-relieving exercises such as yoga and meditation can help people maintain good mental health.
  • Practicing positive lifestyle choices, in general, can help people maintain good mental health.

Montare Behavioral Health Bringing Awareness to Men’s Mental Health

Are you or a loved one struggling with depression or other mental health issues? At Montare Behavioral Health, our staff understands the male mental health stigma, and we are ready to help you break down that wall. 

Take control of your mental health and contact us today! 

References:

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/October-2019/PTSD-is-More-Likely-in-Women-Than-Men

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/men-and-mental-health

https://afsp.org/suicide-statistics/