New research suggests that one in every six men is affected by mental illness in any given year. That’s a lot of guys, and it makes this the perfect time for us to take a closer look at what is often overlooked as just another part of life — but needs to be treated as something more. If you’re reading this, it means that you care about your friends and family members who are men. Perhaps you’ve been reading the statistics with increasing alarm, or perhaps you have a close friend who just recently opened up about his own struggles with mental health issues. In any case, we commend your willingness to learn more about these critical matters. Read on for important insights into men’s mental health that every man should know...
Depression in Men
We don’t often see depressed men coming out of the woodwork to talk about their despair — even though they experience it at the same rate as depressed women. Why is that the case? Men who feel that “real men” don’t cry or feel weak may think they’re being emasculated by depression. They’re afraid that other men will see them as unmanly and weak. So they stay silent, hurting inside. One study shows that men are less likely than women to receive a diagnosis of depression, even if they display similar symptoms. And men are more likely to experience a delayed onset of depression — 15 years later than women.
Anxiety in Men
Men, regardless of age, race, and income level, are more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety than women. But the real problem is that many men, especially young men, don’t even realize that they have anxiety. Their anxiety manifests in different ways than it does in women, so it’s often misdiagnosed. When it comes to young men and anxiety, experts have theorized that the rise in social media and digital communication plays a large role. The constant pressure to “perform” on social media can lead to high levels of anxiety. In general, anxiety is characterized by a sense of worry or fear that isn’t always linked to an identifiable cause. It can be related to a specific situation or it can be generalized and persistent. Symptoms include muscle tension, irritability, sleep disturbance, difficulty concentrating, and a sense of being on edge or “on guard” all the time.
Bipolar Disorder in Men
Like depression, bipolar disorder affects men and women at roughly the same rate. But it’s often misdiagnosed in men because it often presents itself quite differently in men than it does in women. The most common misdiagnosis is depression, so it’s important for you to know the difference between the two conditions. A man who is depressed may be lethargic and withdrawn. A person with bipolar disorder, on the other hand, will often exhibit manic behavior like talking a mile a minute or engaging in risky or impulsive behavior. Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder characterized by periods of extreme mood swings. During a manic episode, a person might feel extremely happy, experience racing thoughts, or have very little need for sleep. During a depressive episode, on the other hand, a person will experience feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and decreased interest in daily activities.
Substance Abuse in Men
Substance abuse is one of the most overlooked signs of mental illness in men. This is partially because men are more likely to abuse alcohol than other substances. But it’s also because men tend to use alcohol and other drugs in different ways than women. Women who abuse substances are more likely to use prescription medication for non-medical reasons, like tranquilizers or sleeping pills. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to abuse alcohol and may also use hard drugs like cocaine or methamphetamine. Of course, you can’t diagnose mental illness just by looking at someone’s drinking or drug habits. But if someone you care about is showing signs of addiction, it’s important to get help because addiction often coexists with other mental illnesses, like depression and anxiety.
Schizophrenia in Men
Schizophrenia is often confused with other mental illnesses, like bipolar disorder, because of its symptoms. And it’s frequently misdiagnosed because those symptoms are so common in the general population. You’re more likely to see signs of schizophrenia in men in their late teens and early twenties — which is also when other mental illnesses present themselves in most people. What are those signs? If a person experiences a change in their perception, like hearing voices or seeing things that don’t exist, that’s a major red flag. So is an abrupt and drastic change in their mood, like going from being outgoing and friendly to reclusive and suspicious.
When a man doesn’t get help for his mental health issues, he not only risks ruining his own life — he also risks ruining the lives of the people around him. And with the many different mental illnesses out there, it’s important that men know what signs they should look out for. We understand that men may be reluctant to talk about their feelings and open up about their struggles. But it’s also important for men to know that they can talk about their mental illness and not be judged for it. If you think a friend or family member may be suffering from a mental illness, you can help by showing your support and talking to them about your concerns. It’s important to remember that the silence and stigma surrounding mental illness isn’t helpful. It’s harmful — and it needs to end.