A Strong Front Sometimes Hides What Lies Beneath
Although the prevalence of mental health conditions in men is lower than in women, around six million men are affected by depression in the USA every year. (1) However, the number of men who take their own lives yearly is four times higher than women. (2)
Social norms around gender teach young men that they should be emotionally strong and that showing vulnerability is a sign of weakness. As a result, men tend to mask mental health problems, refusing to acknowledge what they’re going through and are reluctant to seek help, even when they receive a diagnosis.
Several high-profile campaigns and charities, such as Man Therapy(3), aim to increase awareness of mental health conditions in men, break taboos, encourage men to speak up, check in on friends and family, and share stories of men and their mental health problems. Ultimately, the target is to drastically reduce the number of male suicides, particularly in men aged 30-54.
Symptoms of Mental Health Conditions in Men
Men often find it difficult to talk openly about their emotional struggles, which often include feeling sad, worthless, or inferior compared to their peers. Often, mental health challenges experienced by men manifest themselves in dangerous and toxic behaviors. These are common tell-tale signs of mental health challenges in men:
- Aggression and violence.
- Taking part in high-risk activities.
- Substance abuse.
- Physical pains such as headaches or stomach aches.
- Difficulty focusing and feelings of restlessness.
- Changes in weight and appetite.
- Compulsive fatigue.
- Obsessive thinking.
If you notice a male friend or family member displaying these signs or symptoms, it could result from a severe mental challenge they’re experiencing.
Most Commonly Diagnosed Mental Health Conditions in Men
Men are much less likely to seek medical or psychological treatment when experiencing mental health issues, meaning that the actual number of adult males dealing with mental illness is far higher than statistics show. These are the most commonly diagnosed mental health conditions in men.
Male depression is one of adult males' biggest mental health challenges. Statistics show that 5.5% of young adult males suffer from diagnosed depression, around half the number of women of the same age. (4)
Symptoms of a depressive disorder in men are not necessarily typical, which means that depression in many young men goes undiagnosed. (5)
Anxiety disorders are among men's most commonly diagnosed mental health issues. Conditions include panic disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), social anxiety, and phobias.
Rates of social anxiety and OCD are around the same in men and women. (6) However, anxiety in men has a higher likelihood of diagnosis with substance abuse or ADHD. (7)
Substance Use Disorder
Men are generally more likely to abuse drugs, such as marijuana, prescription painkillers, and psychedelics, than women. In addition, young men are twice as likely to abuse alcohol than women, resulting in a higher rate of alcohol-related deaths and hospital admissions (8).
Substance abuse is often seen as socially acceptable and, in some circles, a sign of “masculine behavior,” making it more challenging to diagnose as a mental health disorder.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Commonly associated with military veterans, PTSD is a commonly-diagnosed mental health condition in men. Although statistics show greater diagnoses among women than men, it is estimated that approximately 60% of men experience at least one trauma in their lives.
However, the diagnosed number of cases in men is just 4%, providing further evidence of the likelihood of men “suffering in silence.” (9)
Formerly known as manic depression, bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme ups and downs in mood and energy levels. Symptoms tend to manifest in males in young adulthood, between the ages of 15 and 24, and affect around 2.6% of the U.S. population. The majority of bipolar cases, 83%, are classed as severe. (10)
Cycling between highs and lows is less frequent in males, making bipolar disorder more difficult to recognize and diagnose. Indeed, many symptoms are dismissed as “typical” young male behavior.
How to Seek Treatment
The first step to seeking treatment is acknowledging a problem and reaching out for help. Speaking with your primary care provider is an excellent first step, as they can provide an initial mental health screening and a referral to a specialist mental health treatment professional. You can make an appointment to discuss concerns about your mental well-being or bring them up during a regular review.
Other routes to finding the proper mental health treatment include looking at federal and national agencies that provide pathways to mental health care providers. A list of websites can be found at the end of this article.
If you have healthcare insurance, speak to your provider; they will have a list of local providers they cover as part of your plan. Meanwhile, anyone at school, college, or university should speak to their institution’s pastoral team, as they may provide mental health treatment.
The most effective treatment options for mental health conditions in men traditionally combine medication, such as anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medicine, alongside talking therapies, such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), depression counseling, or psychotherapy.
While medication helps stabilize the brain's neurological chemicals that impact mental health, talking therapies are effective in helping you understand emotions and behaviors. By challenging ingrained behaviors and learning to understand emotional triggers, it’s possible to develop healthy techniques to cope with challenging life events.
If you want further information on how to find treatment for men’s mental health conditions, the following organizations can help locate local providers and offer a range of additional information:
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
SAMHSA Find a Treatment Online Service
Health Resources & Services Administration
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Anxiety & Depression Association of America Find a Therapist Directory
- 1. Males and Mental Health Stigma
- 2. Infographic: Mental Health for Men
- 3. About Man Therapy
- 4. Few young adults seek help at a treatment center for depression
- 5. Gendered Manifestations of Depression and Help Seeking Among Men
- 6. Anxiety Disorders - Facts & Statistics
- 7. Gender Differences in Anxiety Disorders: Prevalence, Course of Illness, Comorbidity and Burden of Illness
- 8. Excessive Alcohol Use is a Risk to Men’s Health
- 9. How Common Is PTSD in Adults?
- 10. Suicidal thoughts are a primary symptom of bipolar disorder in young adults