Mental illness usually comes with warning signs. When you notice these signs early, you can help a loved one get help before their mental health spirals on a path of substance abuse, self-destruction, legal problems, and, in the worst case, suicide. While mental illness can affect both men and women, the warning signs of mental illness in men can become masked by American cultural expectations that men are to be self-reliant, unemotional, and not allowed to be vulnerable.
The Prevalence of Mental Illness in Men
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the United States” and more than 50% will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime.”
However, as the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) states, “the prevalence of mental illnesses in men is often lower than women,” and men with mental illness are less likely to get treatment than women. Yet, data from the CDC shows that more men die by suicide per year than women.
Men might be just as prone to mental illness as women; however, men might be less likely to seek treatment. Without getting treatment, these men have undiagnosed mental illnesses, which might account for the lower rates of mental illness in men than women. In other words, men could have just as many mental illnesses as women, but they aren’t getting help.
What Are Signs of Mental Illness in Men?
Men and women might differ in getting help; however, warning signs of mental illness can be similar for both genders. Since men are less likely to admit they have an issue, express emotions, or seek help, you might need to look out for these warning signs of mental illness in your loved one:
- Anger, irritability, agitation, and aggression
- Mood swings or significant changes in mood
- Appetite changes resulting in either weight loss or gain
- Sleeping too much or being unable to sleep restfully
- Trouble focusing, thinking, or concentrating
- Feeling restless or on-edge
- Increased worry or stress
- Misusing prescription drugs
- Abusing alcohol and other substances
- Sadness and hopelessness that lingers for weeks
- Suicidal thoughts or ideations
- Difficulty feeling any positive emotions or joy
- Risky or reckless behaviors, like unsafe sex or driving under the influence
- Bodily aches and pains without a medical cause
- Obsessive thinking and compulsive, repetitive behaviors with no purpose
- Usual or odd thoughts and beliefs, like seeing or hearing things others cannot
Additionally, you might see men dealing with these issues in unhealthy ways. They might be spending more time at the bar after work, gambling frequently, or getting into fights with others. Men are less likely to express their emotions; however, their stressors and mental health issues might surface in unhealthy behavioral patterns that can have negative consequences, like getting fired, a DUI arrest, or divorce.
Men might write these behaviors and thoughts off as “just blowing off some steam” or “it’s nothing, I’m fine.” However, when you see these signs in your loved one for more than two weeks, or they just “don’t seem like themselves,” they might have a mental health disorder that could worsen over time.
Why Are Men Less Likely to Get Mental Health Treatment?
According to the American Journal of Men’s Health, cultural norms and expectations in American society have created an issue of “toxic masculinity.” Toxic masculinity impacts the mental health of men in the United States, as men are expected to adhere to a specific gender role of being tough, strong, independent, and emotionless.
The article continues to state that “adherence to these rigid masculine norms may lead to” some of the following issues related to mental health:
- A decline in mental health leading to an increase in symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Substance abuse and addiction
- Struggles with intimate relationships
- Being discouraged from asking for help
- Homophobia can contribute to mental health issues in men; gay and bisexual men have higher rates of major depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, as noted by the CDC
Many of these expectations lead to men not admitting when things are going wrong or reaching out for help when they need it. Men are more likely to feel shame regarding a mental health issue. American culture attaches a negative stigma to men who can’t handle their problems on their own.
In addition, substance abuse, especially alcohol, is sometimes a rite of passage among men. Young men might feel the need to prove themselves to their peers by binge drinking or using illicit drugs. Men might look to use substances to avoid their problems or to “self-medicate” for underlying mental health issues. As a result, “illicit drug use is more likely to result in emergency department visits or overdose deaths for men than for women,” according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA).
Mental Health Treatment for Men in South Florida
If you or your loved one are showing warning signs of mental illness, it is crucial to seek treatment today before things get worse. Men might struggle to admit that they have an issue due to cultural norms of toxic masculinity. If you are concerned about your loved one, reach out to Ambrosia Treatment Center in Palm Beach County, South Florida, by visiting our admissions page or calling us today.