Mental health helps us face the challenges in our life, makes us feel comfortable, supports our physical health, and more. But day-to-day stress and difficult times can wear down our mental health. Major changes like losing a job, the death of a loved one, going off to combat, or coming out as gay can be especially hard. And even happy times — like becoming a father — can take a toll on your emotions.
Today, we know a lot more about ways to promote mental health. Try some simple steps, like making sure to get enough sleep, getting social support, exercising, and finding healthy ways to cope when you feel stressed.
If you are struggling with your mental health, you are not alone. In fact, about 1 out of 4 American adults suffers from a mental health condition each year. Experts don’t know exactly what causes mental illnesses, but a combination of genes and life events often is involved. It’s important to remember that mental health disorders are real medical illnesses that can’t be willed or wished away.
Click the headings below to learn about common mental health conditions:
Alcohol and drug abuse
Alcohol and drug use in men often begin early in their lives, during the teen or young adult years. The reasons men begin drinking too much or using drugs vary, and the path from casual, social use to abuse and addiction is complex. What we do know is that abusing alcohol and drugs is very harmful — not only to you, but to the people in your life.
Anything more than moderate drinking can be risky. For a man, moderate drinking is considered two drinks a day. Years of heavy drinking can lead to heart disease, cancer, and other health problems. Binge drinking, which is drinking five or more drinks at one time, can be especially dangerous.
Consider these risks of drinking too much or using drugs:
- Depression, anxiety, suicide
- Violence, often against loved ones
- Risky sexual behavior, such as unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners
- Employment problems
- Health problems, including cancer and HIV
- Addiction, which is a disease described by uncontrollable cravings and physical dependence
In the moment, it may seem like a good idea to use drugs or alcohol to get high, relax, or escape. But alcohol and drug abuse can soon cause serious problems. Fortunately, substance abuse disorders are also treatable. If you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, seek help from your doctor or a treatment facility. With treatment, it’s possible to not only regain your health, but also restore the relationships that matter to you.
Anxiety disorders and PTSD
It’s natural to feel worried or nervous at times, like before a work presentation or having an operation. But for people with anxiety disorders, everyday situations cause much more worry than most people feel. Often, people with these disorders know their anxiety is extreme, but they can’t make the anxious feelings go away.
Types of anxiety disorders include:
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of the more common anxiety disorders. Its symptoms include feeling like you are reliving a dangerous experience. Men who serve in combat may develop PTSD. But it also can come from living through any dangerous experience, like an accident or hurricane. Men who have PTSD may experience it differently from women. For example, women with PTSD may feel very jumpy, but men are more likely to feel angry or have problems with alcohol or drugs.
Social phobia, which makes a person feel very strong fear in social situations, also often affects men. It can come up when you need to speak in a large group, for example, and can cause both emotional and physical symptoms, like feeling sick to your stomach.
You can get help
If symptoms of anxiety are affecting your life, tell your doctor. A doctor can help figure out whether the symptoms are due to an anxiety disorder or some other illness. Anxiety disorders can get worse if not treated, but treatment very often helps people lead productive, fulfilling lives
Body image and eating disorders
Did you know that men, like women, can struggle with body image issues or an eating disorder? Men may feel a lot of pressure to have a “perfect,” muscular body and may focus too much on exercise and dieting. This focus can wind up hurting a man’s body, job, and relationships. But medicines and counseling can help men with eating and body image disorders lead healthy lives.
Eating disorders involve extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors around weight and food. The most common eating disorder for men is binge eating disorder. With binge eating disorder, people eat a lot of food even if they feel full. They sometimes may try to make up for their overeating episodes by dieting. Other eating disorders that affect men include anorexia and bulimia.
Body image issues
People with body image issues may feel unhappy with how they look and feel self-conscious about their bodies. If these feelings are extreme, the person may have body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). People with BDD have extreme concern over what they see as flaws. Men and women are affected equally, but may focus on different parts of the body. Men tend to worry more about their skin, hair, nose, muscles, and genitals.
Obsession with food or how you look can be very painful. If you have eating or body image issues, don’t let shame or embarrassment keep you from seeking help.
Depression is not the same as a passing blue mood. It is a serious illness that affects the body, mood, and thoughts. People with a depressive illness cannot merely “pull themselves together” and choose to get better. Without treatment, depression can lead to personal, family, and financial problems, and, in some cases, to suicide.
Studies have found that depression is more common in women than men. But we don’t know if depression is really less common in men. It may be that men are just less likely than women to recognize and seek help for depression. Some signs of depression include:
- Ongoing sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feeling hopeless
- Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyable, including sex
- Decreased energy
- Trouble staying focused, remembering, or making decisions
- Trouble sleeping
- Changes in appetite and/or weight
- Restlessness or irritability
- Ongoing physical symptoms like headaches or digestive problems that don’t get better with treatment
- Thoughts of death, suicide, or suicide attempts
Men often cope with depression differently than women do. Men may turn to alcohol or drugs, or they may become frustrated, discouraged, angry, irritable, or, sometimes, violent.
If you have symptoms of depression or if emotional problems interfere with your work or family life, see your doctor. Treatment can help most people with depression. Treatment usually involves counseling (talk therapy), medication, or both. If you or someone you care about shows signs of depression, don’t wait — seek help now.
If you think you or someone you know may have a mental health problem, get help. Treatment with talk therapy, medications, or a combination of the two can be extremely effective.