Mental, emotional, and physical health are intertwined. Here’s why men’s mental health is important and how you can care for it.
Why Is It So Important?
Nearly 1 in 10 men report experiencing anxiety or depression. However, due to societal pressures, many men do not report their experiences with mental health struggles. Also, less than half of those who report experiencing anxiety or depression seek treatment. This has led to men dying by suicide 3.5x more than women.
Beyond the most common mental illnesses of anxiety and depression, there are several other mental illnesses to be aware of. 1.8% of men experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. PTSD is your body trying to protect itself after experiencing an intensely traumatic experience. Treatment can be very effective at reducing or even eliminating symptoms over time.
11-20% of veterans experience PTSD during their lifetime as a result of their service. This can be due to combat or sexual assault while serving. It is estimated that 30% of Vietnam War veterans have experienced symptoms of PTSD during their lifetime.
On average, about .34% of men experience schizophrenia. This highly misunderstood mental illness is similarly common in men and women. However, men usually show symptoms earlier than women. Men start showing symptoms in their late teens to early twenties. It is rare to start showing symptoms before 12 or after 40 as it seems to be linked to puberty and other hormonal changes. While it is a rare illness, it can be extremely debilitating. Early treatment can help keep symptoms manageable.
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (commonly known as ADHD) is 3x as common in males than females. 13% of male adolescents and 5.4% of male adults have a current diagnosis for ADHD. Many other people are most likely undiagnosed. Having untreated ADHD can affect your relationships, your ability to hold down a job, your ability to finish education, lead to low self-esteem, depression, or anxiety, drug or alcohol misuse, and a higher risk of dying young. This is especially true if ADHD is not diagnosed in childhood and has been mismanaged into adulthood.
Several other mental illnesses affect men and need proper management. Eating disorders, dissociative disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and others can all manifest in several ways. Taking care of yourself and consulting with a professional can help keep mental health in check. It can be helpful to check in with a men’s mental health professional once a year or so, just like you would with a physician.
What to Look for
As you reflect on your own mental and emotional health, you should be aware of what to look for. Also, you can keep an eye on the people around them. Sometimes people show warning signs outwardly of being in a mental health crisis, while others hide it more carefully. However, it is important to know what are the most common indicators.
The National Institute of Mental Health lists the following as common indicators of poor mental health:
- Anger, irritability, or aggressiveness
- Noticeable changes in mood, energy level, or appetite
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Difficulty concentrating, feeling restless, or on edge
- Increased worry or feeling stressed
- Misuse of alcohol and/or drugs
- Sadness or hopelessness
- Suicidal thoughts
- Feeling flat or having trouble feeling positive emotions
- Engaging in high-risk activities
- Aches, headaches, digestive problems without a clear cause
- Obsessive thinking or compulsive behavior
- Thoughts or behaviors that interfere with work, family, or social life
- Unusual thinking or behaviors that concern other people
If you are experiencing any of the above or witness someone around you showing any of these symptoms, it is time to get some help. Mental health should be taken care of just like physical health. If you are not sure where to get help, the NIMH gives a few tips for where to start at https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/find-help. Take some time to check in with yourself regularly to make sure that you are staying on top of your mental health. There is no shame in asking for help.
Many people may not immediately notice these changes in behavior in themselves. So it is best to check in with the people around you. Men are especially less likely to seek support for their mental health. Check in with your friends, brothers, and other men around you, especially. Ask questions if you are concerned about a change in their behavior. Being a good friend can save someone’s life.
The resources linked to above are helpful if you or someone you know is struggling with poor mental health. However, if you or someone you know is in a crisis, get help immediately. You can call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
How Testosterone Levels Can Impact Men’s Mental Health
Did you know that if your testosterone levels are out of the normal range that it can have significant impacts on your mental health? All hormones are related, so having testosterone too high or too low can affect your brain chemistry in negative ways.
Having too high testosterone levels is quite rare. Most people who have unhealthily high testosterone levels are taking steroids or other hormonal supplements. However, here are the negative effects of having unhealthily high testosterone levels:
According to Harvard Health Publishing, problems associated with abnormally high testosterone levels in men include:
- Low sperm counts, shrinking of the testicles, and impotence (seems odd, doesn’t it?)
- Heart muscle damage and increased risk of heart attack
- Prostate enlargement with difficulty urinating
- Liver disease
- Fluid retention with swelling of the legs and feet
- Weight gain, perhaps related in part to increased appetite
- High blood pressure and cholesterol
- Increased muscle mass
- Increased risk of blood clots
- Stunted growth in adolescents
- Uncharacteristically aggressive behavior (although not well studied or proven)
- Mood swings, euphoria, irritability, impaired judgment, delusions
On the other hand, there are negative effects from having too little testosterone, also. Testosterone levels naturally steadily decrease as men age. Younger men can also have low testosterone levels due to injury, disease, or several other factors that are still being researched. Common symptoms of low testosterone levels are:
- Reduced body and facial hair
- Loss of muscle mass
- Low libido, impotence, small testicles, reduced sperm count, and infertility
- Increased breast size
- Hot flashes
- Irritability, poor concentration, and depression
- Loss of body hair
- Brittle bones and an increased risk of fracture
In summary, testosterone levels that are too high or too low can affect you physically and mentally. If testosterone levels that are off are affecting your mental health, treatment can have a dramatic effect on your emotional well-being.
Mental health is affected by a wide variety of factors. Much of mental health is genetic, but it is almost always manageable. Psychologists and counselors can work with you to prepare an effective treatment plan. You may need to make adjustments as you see what works for you over time. Taking care of your body and your mind are very similar. Small lifestyle changes can have a major impact. Consistency is key.
Start with changing your diet. While there are mixed results about the impact of specific foods on mental health and specific mental illnesses, there are consistent links between a poor diet making mood disorders worse. Research seems to indicate that eating a Mediterranean diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, complex grains, and low in processed sugars and grains can improve symptoms of depression. Eating a balanced diet can improve your overall physical health and energy levels, which in turn impacts your mental health.
Research also shows that exercise has a positive effect on your mental health. 30 minutes of cardio consistently can make all of the difference. It is not about muscle building, but about being active. Also, it does not matter whether the 30 minutes are all at once or split throughout the day. Taking three 10-minute walks per day can have dramatic health impacts.
Health benefits of regular exercise can include:
- Improved sleep
- Increased interest in sex
- Better endurance
- Stress relief
- Improvement in mood
- Increased energy and stamina
- Reduced tiredness that can increase mental alertness
- Weight reduction
- Reduced cholesterol and improved cardiovascular fitness
While lifestyle changes can certainly support good mental health, often more direct treatment is needed. Therapy is an important tool for supporting mental health. Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, has been shown to improve how the brain functions. However, for psychotherapy to be effective, the client needs to follow through on treatments. This may require homework between sessions and collaboration with the therapist to achieve goals.
Psychotherapy can improve symptoms and quality of life. Psychotherapy may be used in combination with medications. Medications can be very helpful to address chemical imbalances in the brain and should be taken only under strict psychiatrist supervision. For many people, a combination of psychotherapy and medication can dramatically improve people’s mental health.
There are several different styles of therapy. Psychotherapists may specialize in a particular type, or they may try a variety of options to fit the needs of a client. Psychiatry.org lists potential therapeutic interventions as the following:
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps people identify and change thinking and behavior patterns that are harmful or ineffective, replacing them with more accurate thoughts and functional behaviors. CBT involves practicing behaviors and thought patterns so that they come more easily in real-world situations.
Interpersonal therapy (IPT) is a short-term form of treatment. It helps patients understand underlying interpersonal issues that are troublesome, like unresolved grief, changes in social or work roles, conflicts with significant others, and problems relating to others.
Dialectical behavior therapy is a specific type of CBT that helps regulate emotions. It teaches new skills to help people take personal responsibility to change unhealthy or disruptive behavior. It involves both individual and group therapy.
Psychodynamic therapy is based on the idea that behavior and mental well-being are influenced by childhood experiences and inappropriate repetitive thoughts or feelings that are unconscious (outside of the person’s awareness).
Psychoanalysis is a more intensive form of psychodynamic therapy. Sessions are typically conducted three or more times a week.
Supportive therapy uses guidance and encouragement to help patients develop their own resources. It helps build self-esteem, reduce anxiety, strengthen coping mechanisms, and improve social and community functioning.
Additional therapies sometimes used in combination with psychotherapy include:
- Animal-assisted therapy – working with dogs, horses, or other animals to bring comfort, help with communication and help cope with trauma.
- Creative arts therapy – use of art, dance, drama, music, and poetry therapies
Mental, emotional, and physical health significantly impact each other. Neglecting one can have long-term effects on the other aspects of your health. It is important to consult with professionals and take daily actions to maintain your health. Small, simple lifestyle changes make the biggest difference long-term. We guarantee you’ll see results.
Genesys Men’s Health Can Help
So much of mental and emotional health is based upon the careful balance of hormones and chemicals in your body. Hormone levels that are too low can cause several mental and physical health issues. At Genesys Men’s Health, we perform free testosterone level checks. If you are experiencing any of the following—a decrease in sex drive, irritableness, or low energy, low testosterone levels may be to blame. If you would like to visit our office in Midvale, Utah, we can help you out. Contact us to schedule a visit.
If you do have low testosterone, we can help you with hormone treatments. If you have questions about what that is, or how it can help you, visit our page about what you should know about testosterone therapy.
Here at Genesys Men’s Health, we know how important men’s mental health is, as well as physical and emotional health. We are here to answer your questions and can help in several ways. Reach out at https://www.genesysmenshealth.com/contact-us/ with any questions that you may have.