Mental health problems affect both men and women, but men are often subject to prejudice when it comes to mental health because society has a mistaken notion that males expressing their emotions are weak. Statistics show a higher prevalence of certain mental health disorders in women than in men because of reasons such as females carrying their spouse’s emotional baggage while dealing with their own problems, and men not being comfortable to express their concerns.
Moreover, anatomical differences between the brains of men and women, and the challenging experiences of womanhood, menstruation, pregnancy and motherhood also have a role to play in women’s increased susceptibility to mental health issues.
Mental health disorders men are more prone to than women
However, there are certain mental health disorders men are more prone to than women. These include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder, conduct disorder and developmental disorders. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), men are more likely to die by suicide than women.
Experts told ABP Live that the number of male deaths by suicide is twice as high as the number of female deaths by suicide. Three out of four suicides are in males because 40 per cent of men do not talk openly about their mental health.
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According to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), symptoms related to mental health problems that are more common in men than women include anger, irritability, aggressiveness, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much, increased worry, feeling stressed, persistent sadness, feelings of hopelessness, engaging in high-risk activities, obsessive thinking, compulsive behaviour, insult thinking, behaviours concerning other people, noticeable changes in mood, energy level, appetite, difficulty concentrating, feeling restless, substance abuse issues, feeling flat, having trouble feeling positive emotions, aches, headaches, digestive problems without a clear cause, thoughts interfering with work and family, and thoughts of death or suicide.
Since June is men’s mental health awareness month, ABP Live spoke to Dr Meenakshi Jain, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, Amrita Hospital, Faridabad; Dr Sameer Malhotra, Director and Head, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket; and Dr Shradha Malik, Founder and CEO, Athena Behavioral Health, Gurgaon, and asked them about the mental health problems men are more prone to than women.
According to the World Drug Report 2022 by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), there is a significant gender and age-specific difference in substance use disorders.
Dr Jain told ABP Live that there is a higher consumption of certain drugs among men than women. These include opioids, cocaine, cannabis, amphetamines, sedatives, tranquillisers, new psychoactive substances, and ecstasy like substances.
Citing the World Mental Health Report 2022 by the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Jain said about 970 million people worldwide were suffering from mental disorders in 2019, and about 47.6 per cent of these people were men. “A significant number of men were found to be suffering from depressive disorders, including both major depressive disorder and dysthymia, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder; and schizophrenia. They were found to be more likely to suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder, conduct disorder, and developmental disorder.”
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According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, dysthymia is a milder but long-lasting form of depression, and is also called persistent depressive disorder. It is characterised by episodes of major depression at times.
Dr Malhotra said that men are also more prone to stress-related disorders, psychosomatic disorders and psychosexual disorders than women.
A psychosomatic disorder is a condition in which psychological stresses adversely affect psychological functioning to the point of distress, and is characterised by structural damage in bodily organs through inappropriate activation of the involuntary nervous system and the glands of internal secretion, according to Britannica.
Sexual problems that are psychological in origin and occur in the absence of any pathological disease, due to physical, environmental or psychological factors are called psychosexual disorders.
He explained that significant roles and responsibilities, societal pressures, performance pressures, and excessive expectations from others make men prone to psychosomatic and stress-related disorders. “Men often face stress while balancing their relationships. They tend to neglect their own health because they are more focused on managing the concerns of their family members. There are many prevalent notions in society that ‘real men do not cry’, and ‘men are meant to be strong and resilient’. Therefore, men find it difficult to discuss or share their personal problems with others and become subject to self-neglect, absorb emotional abuse, and adopt malpractices such as drug and alcohol use. Of late, the number of middle-aged men with significant martial stress are increasing and report feeling burnt out and emotionally drained. They experience job pressure, go through relationship distress, and suffer from poor physical and emotional health.”
Dr Jain said that we are living in a world where males traditionally enjoy higher positions in power hierarchies, and the masculine ideology prevailing in our society discourages them from showing their vulnerabilities and forces them to hide their sensitivity and emotions. She explained that when a male member tries to express his struggles, not only is he ridiculed but also a question mark is placed on his capabilities. This forces many men to put on a brave face in front of others. “Insufficient mental health facilities, negative societal judgement, and a lack of support from family and society lead to an increase in the treatment gap of mental health issues”.
According to Dr Malik, men being discouraged from seeking medical help or openly expressing their emotions due to societal and cultural expectations leads to underreporting and underdiagnosis of mental health issues. “Traditional notions of masculinity promote stoicism and discourage them from seeking help. This results in men being less likely to seek professional support.”
She emphasised the importance of challenging societal norms, encouraging open discussions around mental health for men, promoting mental health awareness, destigmatising help-seeking behaviour, and providing accessible support services specifically targeted at men to make early intervention possible, and result in improved outcomes.
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