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Mental Health for Men

June is Men’s Health Month. A healthy lifestyle includes more than your physical health—it’s about your mental health too.

Did you know 6 million men in the U.S. are affected by depression each year? Men are more likely to die by suicide than women too, with the highest rates in white men over the age of 85.

While men are more likely to experience mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, and alcohol abuse than women, they’re also less likely to receive treatment. Unfortunately, there is a stigma surrounding mental illness that makes it difficult for many men to admit they need help.

There are a few reasons for this:

  • Men, in general, are more reluctant to talk about their problems than women.
  • Societal norms mean women are more open about their problems, but men often see emotional vulnerability as a weakness. Toxic masculinity is caused by these expectations for men to behave in a certain way—acting “tough” and feeling the pressure to suppress their feelings.
  • Men often downplay the severity of their symptoms, suffer in silence, and turn to other outlets to cope. For example, 1 in 5 men develop alcohol dependency during their lives.

If you or the men in your life are experiencing any of these signs and symptoms of mental health issues, you’re not alone. There’s always help—never hesitate to ask.

  • Anger, irritability, or aggressiveness
  • Changes in mood, energy, or appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Struggling to concentrate, feeling restless, or on edge
  • Increased worry or feeling stressed
  • Alcohol and/or drug abuse
  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Feeling low or having trouble feeling positive emotions
  • Engaging in high-risk activities
  • Aches, headaches, and digestive problems without a clear cause
  • Obsessive thinking or compulsive behavior
  • Thoughts or behaviors that impact work, family, or social life
  • Unusual thinking or behaviors that concern other people

Mental Illnesses Most Common in Men

If you recognize any of these symptoms in you or your loved one, you may be experiencing a mental health disorder. These are the most common mental health issues for men:

  • Depression: This mood disorder causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. It can interfere with daily function, depending on severity. It’s the mental health disorder most likely to go undiagnosed in men. Men are more likely to report fatigue, irritability, loss of interest, and feelings of sadness or hopelessness. This may present in escapist behavior like spending too much time on work, physical symptoms like migraines and digestive problems, alcohol or drug addiction, controlling or abusive behavior, irritability or inappropriate anger, suicidal thoughts, and reckless or endangering behaviors.
  • Anxiety: People who experience anxiety often have a consistent feeling of fear, dread, or uneasiness. While many women with anxiety display nervousness or worry, anxiety in men displays more as aggression, which unfortunately tends to be more socially acceptable. About 1 in 5 men will have an anxiety disorder during their lifetime. More than 3 million men have a panic disorder, agoraphobia, and other anxiety disorders.
  • Bipolar Disorder: Major shifts in energy and mood levels so severe they impact daily functioning and quality of life classify bipolar disorder. Men may experience manic episodes of extreme highs, a lot of unexplained energy, and feel little to no need for sleep. This may last a few days to several months and lead to a loss of touch with reality. During the “highs” of bipolar disorder, men may express intense happiness, talk very fast, have racing thoughts and short temper, poor judgment, and an inflated sense of self. On the other hand, depressive episodes or the “lows” of bipolar disorder present more as anger and irritability. This can sometimes be tricky in men. They often have fewer depressive episodes and mixed mania than women and less rapid cycling too. Men and women are equally impacted by bipolar disorder. The age of onset is 16-25 years old.
  • Psychosis and Schizophrenia: These are some of the leading causes of disability in the U.S., with more cases in men than women and an earlier age of onset too. Psychosis is a condition where people lose touch with reality. They may have hallucinations and delusions. Schizophrenia is a mental health disorder where people experience episodes of psychosis. It may impact their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
  • Eating Disorders: There’s a stereotype that only women experience eating disorders, but it’s not true. Men account for 10% of patients with anorexia or bulimia, and 35% experience a binge eating disorder. Men and boys with anorexia often have lower levels of testosterone and vitamin D. Eating disorders are often underdiagnosed and undertreated.

What to Do

It’s okay to not be okay. Being able to admit you are not okay does not make you weak or any “less of a man.” There are many steps you can take now to improve your mental health and emotional wellbeing.

If you suspect a man in your life is struggling with mental health, consider these tips:

  • Start a conversation. Make sure you’re in a safe, confidential space where they will feel comfortable sharing.
  • Begin the conversation by expressing that you care deeply and are concerned about their wellbeing. Show compassion.
  • Resist getting emotional or blaming.
  • Avoid antagonizing and using labels.
  • Be willing to stand by them as they get help.
  • Share resources for help and treatment that can improve their quality of life.
  • Encourage a healthy lifestyle.

Get Help When You Need It

If you or someone you know is in a crisis, get help immediately. Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) now.

There are also resources available through Frederick Health Behavioral Health. Emergency evaluation, inpatient hospitalization, and psychiatric partial hospital programs are all an option. Once patients get immediate urgent help, we connect them with outpatient counseling, psychiatric medication management, and case-management services.

Even though it’s hard to do, taking the first step and talking to others about your anxiety, depression, thoughts of self-harm, and more are keys to getting treatment and learning coping methods to help you lead a healthier life. Contact us today if you need help.