Men and Mental Illness
Mental illness is a difficult challenge for anyone to face. It can affect men and
women of any age. But mental illness can cause different symptoms in men than in women.
So some disorders in men may be harder to recognize. Men who are depressed, for example,
may seem angry and grouchy rather than sad and withdrawn. It also may be harder for
men with depression to get help. Some may see it as a sign of weakness rather than
a treatable illness.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is a type of anxiety disorder. It is caused by witnessing a violent or life-threatening
event, such as war. It is common in men, particularly those who have served in combat.
Those with PTSD often relive the traumatic event. They are distrustful and always
on guard. They have terrifying nightmares. And they feel emotionally numb and detached.
They may also have panic attacks, job and relationship problems, depression, and suicidal
thoughts. Women may feel on edge or anxious as a result of PTSD. But men may get angry
and aggressive. They may start abusing drugs or alcohol as a way to cope.
Depression affects many men. But it's more often linked to women. Men and women may
feel many of the same symptoms of depression, such as:
A sad or grouchy mood most of the day, most days of the week
Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
Isolating from family and friends
A major change in appetite and energy
Lack of ability to feel positive emotions
Having headaches, body aches, or digestive problems without a clear reason
Feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or worthlessness
Lack of interest in life
But men and women often show different signs of the condition. Men who are depressed
may not cry or talk about their feelings. They may not even hint that they're thinking
about suicide. Men with depression may try harder to hide their symptoms. As a result,
they may get angry and aggressive. They may also be more likely to seek relief through
alcohol or drugs.
Eating and body image disorders
Eating disorders are more common in women. But they can affect men as well. Anorexia,
bulimia, and binge eating disorders are serious, possibly life-threatening disorders.
They are marked by abnormal attitudes toward food and weight. Men with an eating disorder
may watch calories obsessively. Or they may work out at the gym to excess. Men with
body image issues may also become obsessed with their muscles, skin, genitals, nose,
or hair. These are parts of the body that women with body image issues don't often
This mental illness causes swings between depression (see the symptoms listed above)
and mania, a state of extreme euphoria and high energy. This disorder used to be called
manic-depression. Symptoms of mania include:
Being easily distracted
Talking too fast or too much
Not sleeping for days at a time
Making grandiose plans
Taking part in high-risk activities, such as multiple shopping sprees, gambling, or
Like women who have the disorder, men may have ongoing problems with work, sex, money,
and relationships. Without treatment, many turn to substance abuse, act out aggressively
and in anger, or think about suicide.
Coping with mental health issues
If you are suffering from one or more of these illnesses, treatment will let you lead
a full, productive life. These mental illnesses may be difficult and painful. But
they are all very treatable. Treatment may include counseling, medicine, or both.
You may possibly also be treated with complementary therapies, such as biofeedback.
It's important to know that you have nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. These
conditions are illnesses, not weaknesses. The same goes for any addictions you might
Many men have had trouble communicating what they're feeling and figuring out how
to talk about it. Here are some important first steps:
Get medical care. Your healthcare provider is used to dealing with these issues. Don't be embarrassed
to bring up your concerns. Your provider can help you get the treatment you need.
In some cases, you may be able to resolve your problems with therapy rather than medicine.
Find healthier ways of sharing your feelings. It can be tempting to yell or act out or turn to drugs or alcohol when you are feeling
unhappy. But instead of lashing out in anger, try something different. Breathe deeply,
count to 10, and give yourself some time to calm down.
Manage your stress. Stress at work and at home can worsen the symptoms of many mental illnesses. Don't
feel guilty about taking time for yourself to do things you enjoy. You may also want
to see if deep breathing, meditation, or stretching help you relax.
Get regular exercise. Research suggests that daily exercise can help relieve the symptoms of depression.
People who exercise regularly in their free time are less likely to have this mood
Take care of yourself. You deserve it. Exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and eat healthy meals with
lots of fruits and vegetables. Stay away from drugs and alcohol. Being gentle and
forgiving with yourself can put you in a better frame of mind to deal with your mood
Tell someone right away if you have thoughts of harming yourself. Call 911 or go to a hospital emergency room. Ask a friend or family member to stay with you.
Don't stay alone. You can also call the toll-free 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255), TTY: 800-799-4TTY (4889) and talk to a trained counselor. This
line also serves the Veterans' Crisis Line. It offers help in both English and Spanish.
Protect yourself and your family . If you have thoughts of self-harm, have an adult family member or close friend remove
all weapons and ammunition from your home and lock them in a safe place that you can't
access. They can be returned when you're feeling better.
Taking the first step
Even though it can be hard to do, don't be afraid to talk with your healthcare provider.
You can tell them about constant anxiety, grouchiness, depression, thoughts of self-harm,
or any other abnormal moods or symptoms you're having. Getting treatment and learning
some coping methods can help bring these disorders under control.