What Every Man Should Know About Mental Health
We all know mental health is an important aspect of overall wellbeing. Yet, it’s still often brushed under the rug–especially for men. Our culture has created an aversion to male sensitivity and honesty; historically, a “manly man” has been seen as one who deals with his emotions privately and doesn’t communicate his thoughts or issues.
This is wrong. It’s created a toxic culture of bottled up emotions and an inability for men to feel comfortable opening up or asking for help. And, it has real consequences: suicide is the second-most common cause of death in men aged 20-44.
Here are the things men should know about mental health so everyone feels comfortable coming forward with personal issues and seeking the help that they deserve.
Mental health issues are fairly common
If you’ve been struggling emotionally, you certainly aren’t alone. The National Alliance on Mental Health states that 1 in 5 adults deal with mental illness every year, and men deal with it silently much more often than women. While experts believe both genders are equally susceptible to mental illness, men are 14% less likely to be treated than women– a stat that researchers believe is due to a lack of self-reporting symptoms.
Depression and anxiety are the two most common mental health issues in men, often influencing each other, but other issues like obsessive-compulsive disorder, PTSD, addiction, and bipolar disorder are more prevalent than most think. Whatever illness you think you have or have actually been diagnosed with, there are likely thousands of others experiencing the same symptoms.
Symptoms are recognizable
While everyone has “off” days, recurring symptoms that interrupt your daily life can indicate an illness that you should speak with your doctor about. Common symptoms of a mental illness like depression in men include irritability, mood swings, fatigue, insomnia, social withdrawal, and thoughts of self-harm. Sometimes one symptom may pop up and cause another without necessarily being tied to illness, so it’s important to always consult a doctor for a diagnosis as soon as possible.
Unaddressed issues can lead to side effects
If you begin experiencing some of these symptoms but don’t seek treatment, they can begin causing other issues within your life. Long-term depression, for example, can cause lowered libido in men and ultimately lead to erectile dysfunction or relational issues. Mood swings and social withdrawal can also cause rage toward loved ones and increased stress. The affected sleep schedule can wreak havoc on your immune system and lead to more frequent sickness. Often, these issues begin to pile up and can actually worsen the symptoms of your illness, so it’s critical that you get treatment right away in order to maintain a healthy life.
There are effective treatments available
Contrary to many men’s beliefs, mental illness is not something that has to be a silent, personal battle. Individual counseling, group therapy, support groups, and medication are all proven ways to address mental health issues. It’s important to consult with your doctor and stay in communication, however, to ensure your treatment is working the best for you. For more information on effective treatment plans, check out the articles on ManTherapy, an organization dedicated to helping men talk about their issues.
There are also ways to treat the side effects of mental illness if you’re experiencing any. Couple’s therapy can help open a dialogue between you and your partner in order to help them better understand your struggles and the way it might be affecting your relationship. A prescription medication for ED can help boost your sexual fulfillment (and thus, oxytocin levels) by improving your ability to perform. Or, if you struggle with insomnia, you might want to ask your doctor about an antidepressant medication like Trazadon which is widely used to treat both depression and insomnia.
Long story short, there are several ways you can get the help, treatment, and support you need, however you need it. You just need to reach out.
If you’re interested in learning more about mental illness in men and how to get treatment, consider reading up on the latest news from the American Psychology Association. And if you, or someone you love, is having suicidal thoughts, reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.