Mental Health Concerns for Men
by Nancy Smith Seigle
Hopefully, we’re moving far away from this particular parlance while raising up our young boys in today’s culture.
This catch phrase is just one of the many ways we socialized males in our society and reinforced—over too many generations—the expectation that men, in order to be manly and strong, must deny their emotions.
And, that could be why, even now, men are less likely to realize they might be dealing with depression and anxiety … and less likely to seek treatment.
Those that do recognize the symptoms are often too reluctant to ask for help. Admitting vulnerability goes very much against the traditional masculine, tough and stoic image many men still identify with and embrace—an image, unfortunately, propagated through social media and other marketing outlets.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, the reasons any person might experience symptoms of depression and anxiety include adverse childhood experiences; a tendency toward neuroticism or responding negatively to stressful events; or a genetic link to a first-degree relative with similar mental health issues.
Leading research suggests women are one-and-a-half to three times more likely than men to be treated for depression and anxiety. Under-diagnosed men, however, that push aside depressive and anxious thoughts and feelings rather than consciously face them, can help explain that gap.
Men also have a greater tendency to manifest depressive and anxious symptoms highly differently:
Emotional symptoms in men are typically anger, irritability and restlessness.
Physical symptoms such as heart palpitations and chest tightness, low testosterone, erectile and other sexual dysfunction issues, and digestive issues can also present.
Cognitive symptoms can include obsessive-compulsive thought patterns, memory problems, racing thoughts and difficulty concentrating.
Behavior symptoms, like excessive alcohol and drug use, risky behavior and suicide completion are seen more often exhibited in depressed and anxious men than women.
Research also shows the suicide rate among males is approximately four times higher than the rate among females. While men make up about half of the population, they complete nearly 80 percent of the suicides.
Further, many studies and surveys over the past several decades show men of all ages and ethnicities are less likely than women to seek help. This unwillingness can harm men's own mental and physical health and can make life more difficult for those friends and family members who love them.
Eating healthy, trying natural remedies and supplements, practicing meditation, getting regular exercise, improving sleep and finding ways to reduce stress where possible can all go a long way in helping with mild depression and anxiety.
If we think a male friend or loved one may need professional treatment, try showing support by starting a conversation. Just as a broken leg or bad cut cannot heal on its own, a mental health crisis needs immediate attention.
True healing happens only when the men in our lives—our fathers, brothers, sons, cousins, nephews and friends—are free to be vulnerable, to have the courage to seek help and the insight to understand, and to grow into the fine, strong role models we all need to thrive in this life, together.