The cultural conversation around mental health tends to center around women. There are a variety of reasons for this, ranging from the fact that women are perceived as more emotional than men to the fact that women are generally more susceptible to depression. However, this focus can unfortunately leave men’s mental health sidelined, leaving men in need of help unable to find it.
Mental illnesses, particularly depression, are less common in men than in women. However, men are less likely to seek professional help for their conditions and thus often experience more severe symptoms. This dichotomy is unfair and must be fixed. Let’s take a look at mental health in men and how to choose a healthy approach to the problem.
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Symptoms of Mental Struggles in Men
Men and women experience similar symptoms of mental struggles. However, because men are more likely to attempt self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, symptoms in male patients can be more severe. Warning signs include:
- Uncharacteristic and concerning changes in thoughts, behavior, or attitude
- Declining performance in work or school
- Sudden weight loss or weight gain (usually paired with a drastic increase or decrease in appetite)
- Sadness and a general melancholy mood
- Inability to feel positive emotions
- Feelings of restlessness, stress, or anxiety
- Loss of pleasure in favorite activities
- Attempting risky activities or behaviors
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Loss of energy
- Insomnia or oversleeping
- Obsession over every little detail
- Physical symptoms (stomachaches, headaches, etc.) with no clear cause
- Suicidal thoughts or actions (if you or someone you know is experiencing this, please contact a suicide hotline immediately)
Why the Stigma?
Even with our culture’s more open approach to discussing mental health, many people still feel societal pressure to keep their struggles private. Men can feel this especially heavily. Plenty of men will feel pressure to be “manly” and see mental disorders, especially depression, as a sign of weakness. Mental disorders in men don’t fit into the cookie-cutter model of what our culture tells men they should look like. Consequently, plenty of men will stay quiet about their struggles and attempt to handle the problem themselves, which can lead to even more severe symptoms that perpetuate the cycle.
Pro Tip: Substance abuse or overeating may help with mental health struggles in the short term, but will only cause more damage to your body over time. Ask your doctor about a feasible long-term treatment.
A Healthy Approach to Men’s Mental Health
The CDC reports that men are more likely to die by suicide than women, likely as a result of living with untreated mental illness for too long. The best way to reduce these numbers is to address the stigma men may face around dealing with their own mental health.
Depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, and similar struggles are more than just emotional issues–chemical imbalances in your body or improperly wired neurons in your brain are frequently underlying causes. These aren’t conditions that can be dealt with by simply “manning up”! There’s no more shame in visiting the doctor for help with a chemical imbalance in your body than there is in taking insulin to manage diabetes.
Take Care of Yourself
Mental health struggles impact a large number of people. While the cultural stigma around seeking help is alive and well, remember that your well-being matters far more than what others think of you. Don’t hesitate to contact your doctor and develop a treatment plan for your mental health issues to improve your quality of life.
Join the conversation to see how a variety of people are living with mental disorders in a healthy fashion.