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MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS
THE HAIRY FACTS
Mental health and well-being is equally important to physical well-being. It is now well documented that the two are linked and many of the things that help with our physical health (e.g. physical activity/exercise) also improve our mental health.
Mental health problems in men can often go undetected or untreated. The reasons for this are numerous and complex but can often be attributed to a lack of awareness that there is a problem in the first place. Men may not be able to recognize or confidently articulate the signs and symptoms they experience. There is additional pressure due to associated stigmas (shame and embarrassment) preventing them from taking action and accessing mental health services. Some men may act out with risk taking behavior to numb or avoid the problems they face. To many men, being “manly” means not admitting vulnerability or expressing emotions. However, men are not alone in what they are experiencing, the information below shows that men’s mental health problems should not be ignored:
Types of mental health problems
Mental health problems encompass a multitude of conditions that can have different symptoms and require different treatments. Here are some of the major types of mental health problems affecting men:
Psychosis and Schizophrenia
Depression affects how you think and feel about yourself. The good news is, just like a physical illness, depression can be managed with effective treatment.
Signs and symptoms can include all or some of the below:
Lack of interest in work, hobbies and doing things you normally enjoy
Low energy levels and lack of motivation
Sleeping too much
Lack of concentration
Anger or irritability
Who is at risk?
Some major events or situations have been linked with depression while others also contribute to increasing the risk for men:
Major Risk Factors
Previous experience of depression and/or anxiety
Drug and alcohol use
Serious medical illness (physical or mental)
Isolation or loneliness
Other Risk Factors
Stress (work / financial / life)
Poverty / Homelessness
Lack of physical exercise
Family history of depression
Conflict (family / political)
It’s important to remember that each person is different and it is often a combination of factors that puts a person at risk of depression.
One in five adults each year experience an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed or worried. While stress and anxious feelings are a common response to a situation where a person feels under pressure, it usually passes once the stressful situation has passed, or ‘stressor’ is removed. An anxiety disorder may be present when these anxious feelings don't subside and are ongoing and exist without any particular reason or cause. This makes it hard for a person to cope with daily life. We all feel anxious from time to time, but for a person experiencing an anxiety disorder, these feelings cannot be easily controlled. There are numerous different types of anxiety disorders, including social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, specific phobias, obsessive compulsive disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and panic disorder.
Signs and symptoms can include all or some of the below:
Hot and cold flushes
Tightening of the chest
Obsessive thinking and compulsive behavior
Who is at risk?
Often, it’s a combination of factors that can lead to a person developing anxiety. Some triggers include:
Family history of mental health problems
Stressful life events
Physical health problems
Heavy or long-term use of substances such as alcohol, cannabis, amphetamines or sedatives
Personality factors – some research suggests certain personality traits are more likely to have anxiety
Avoiding particular situations (e.g. work meetings, leaving the house, social situations)
People with bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic-depressive illness) experience extreme moods — very high and over-excited (manic) or very low (depressed). The person may be affected so much that he or she experiences the symptoms of psychosis, and is unable to distinguish what is real. The symptoms generally respond well to treatment, and most people with bipolar disorder recover well from episodes of the illness.
Symptoms may vary with some people experiencing both extremes:
Feeling high, over-excited and reckless, or imagining that they are more important or influential than they are in real life
Feeling extremely low, feeling helpless and depressed, with difficulty making decisions or concentrating
Behaving in an uncharacteristically irrational or risky manner
Who is at Risk?
No one knows for sure what causes bipolar disorder; most likely it is a combination of genes and other factors. Research shows that a person’s genes play a strong role, making the person more vulnerable to life events such as stress, alcohol or drug use or lack of sleep. Changes in a person’s routine or excessive stimulation may also trigger a manic episode.
PSYCHOSIS AND SCHIZOPHRENIA
When someone experiences psychosis they are unable to distinguish what is real — there is a loss of contact with reality. With help, most people are able to recover from an episode of psychosis. The causes of psychosis are not fully understood. Schizophrenia is a medical condition that interferes with a person’s ability to think, feel and act. Most people with schizophrenia find that their symptoms improve and they are able to manage future episodes with treatment.
Confused thinking - when acutely ill, people with psychotic symptoms experience disordered thinking. The everyday thoughts that let men live their daily lives become confused and disjointed
Delusions - a false belief held by a person, which is not held by others of the same cultural background
Hallucinations - the person sees, hears, feels, smells or tastes something that is not actually there. The hallucination is often of disembodied voices which no one else can hear
Male eating disorders are on the rise with increasing rates of body dissatisfaction amongst men. An eating disorder is characterized by obsessive thoughts about food and body weight. This includes people who limit the amount of food they eat (Anorexia nervosa), eat lots of food in a very small time and then purge (Bulimia) or overeat often (Compulsive overeating).
Societal messages which factor in men developing an eating disorder:
Males should only have one body type
Being defined by one’s physical appearance
Males need to be in control
Eating disorders are not masculine
Warning signs more likely to occur in males signaling the onset or presence of an eating disorder:
Preoccupation with body building, weight lifting or muscle toning
Weight lifting when injured
Anxiety/stress over missing workouts
Decreased interest in sex, or fears around sex
Possible conflict over gender identity or sexual orientation
Using anabolic steroids
How can you take action if you or someone you know experiences mental health problems?
The most important first step is to talk to someone about what you’re going through. Whether it’s your doctor, your family, your friends, or an anonymous person on a support line – advice and effective tools are available. Different health professionals can provide different types of services, treatments such as psychological or drug therapy and further assistance to help people on the road to recovery. It’s very important to find the right mental health professional to suit your individual needs.
Additional support and information is available through:
provides one-stop access to U.S. government mental health and mental health problems information.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
was created by the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs (IWGYP) to promotes the goal of positive, healthy outcomes for youth.
Men’s Health Tips
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