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Men and mental health: Overcoming stigmas and recognizing symptoms

July 03, 2024

Nearly 10 percent of men report feelings of anxiety and depression. However, that number is likely not accurate because stigmas regarding men and mental health make them less likely to seek help or be diagnosed accurately with mental illnesses. What’s more, only 40 percent of men experiencing symptoms seek mental health care. 

Raising awareness of men’s mental health issues is a step toward overcoming stigmas that create barriers to care. Knowing the symptoms of mental health conditions in men can also help their loved ones know when they may need help.

Why Do Men Hide Mental Health Symptoms?

Social pressures include many messages that equate “being a man” with “toughing it out.” From a young age, some men are taught expressing emotion is a sign of weakness. As a result, many men feel embarrassed and try to hide mental health struggles because talking about them isn’t considered “manly.” In addition, studies have shown men often mistake symptoms of depression for stress resulting from outside circumstances.

What’s more, when men do seek help for their mental health, some feel they’re not taken seriously. Physicians sometimes misdiagnose men’s mental health conditions or underestimate their needs due to their own gender biases. In some cases, this happens because men’s symptoms can look different than those of women, so traditional diagnostic tools developed for women are less effective with men. 

Not only can stigmas around men’s mental health lead to misdiagnosis and men not seeking help, but they can also contribute to worsening symptoms, problems in personal relationships and higher risks for developing cardiovascular diseases and substance abuse. 

Symptoms of Mental Health Conditions in Men

Men and women can show signs of anxiety and depression in different ways. Some symptoms may be similar, while others are more common in men. Signs of mental health disorders in men include:

  • Inappropriate anger or aggressiveness

  • Changes in mood and appetite

  • Unexplained headaches, body aches or digestive issues

  • Misuse of alcohol or drugs

  • Changes in sleep habits 

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Risky or compulsive behavior

  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness or trouble feeling positive emotions

  • Obsessive or unusual thoughts

  • Increased worry or stress

  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Men are four times more likely than women to die by suicide. They’re also much more likely to die due to causes related to alcohol use. These statistics show that men are more likely to engage in dangerous behaviors when they face mental health challenges.

Where to Seek Help for Mental Health Issues

If you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health disorder, ignoring the signs can make them worse over time. For both men and women, a good place to start is by talking to your primary care doctor, who may refer you to a mental health specialist, such as a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist. 

When preparing for an appointment, follow these tips:

  • Write down a list of questions, as well as any current medications you are taking.

  • Review your family history so you can tell your doctor if any mental disorders run in your family.

  • Be honest when talking with your doctor. Describe your symptoms and provide details about how often they occur and how severe they are. If you have any stressors in your life that could be triggering symptoms, tell your doctor. 

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions or express any concerns about particular treatments your doctor suggests. 

When considering your treatment options, remember that seeking other opinions is always an option, and finding the right treatment may take some time.

If you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health disorder, find a doctor at St. Luke’s Health who can help.

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