“You’re fine!” “Big boys don’t cry.” These are the messages most little boys hear when they get hurt or feel sad. They learn not to trust or acknowledge how they genuinely feel. Little boys grow up, and society tells our men to “Be strong!” and “Man up!” The message is clear to men; hide how you feel.
We’ll examine the hidden signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression in men, including reasons men often hide their anxiety and depression.
High Rates of Suicide Deaths in Men
We have all heard accounts of men dying by suicide, and their loved ones devastated because they didn’t see the warning signs of their depression. But should we be surprised that men are more likely to hide anxiety and depression?
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that men are 3.54x more likely to die by suicide than women. In 2017, white males accounted for nearly 70% of deaths by suicide, and most of these men were middle-aged. It’s no secret that depression is an underlying cause of suicide.
Anxiety and Depression Are Often Undiagnosed in Men
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders by the age of 50. However, does that mean that women experience anxiety and depression more than men? There are many reasons why anxiety and depression are often undiagnosed in men, including:
- Suppressing signs and symptoms. Often, when things feel “off,” men will “tough it out.”
- Hesitancy to discuss symptoms. Men tend to feel it’s not “manly” to discuss their symptoms or see a physician about them.
- Resistance to mental health treatment. Fortunately, stigmas about mental health are diminishing; however, they still exist, particularly for men.
- Not recognizing symptoms to be anxiety and depression. Many people expect anxiety and depression to show up as feeling emotional and sad, but it is hidden in men because it manifests differently in them.
Signs of Hidden Anxiety and Depression in Men
Depression and anxiety look different in men than in women. Men have been conditioned to “stuff down” their emotions. These emotions are eventually visible somewhere, and some signs and symptoms can appear explosive. Common signs of hidden anxiety and depression in men include:
- Anger: This can range from frequent irritability to abusive behavior.
- Risky or reckless behavior: This includes escapist behaviors to escape reality, abusing alcohol and drugs, unsafe sex, compulsive gambling, and participating in dangerous sports or activities.
- Physical pain: Men might suffer from high blood pressure, frequent headaches, backaches, and other physical symptoms that aren’t relieved by traditional treatment.
- Change in sleep patterns: This includes being unable to sleep and sleeping too much.
- Low energy: Fatigue that is not alleviated by sleep or rest can be a sign of depression.
As a society, we can change the narrative about anxiety, depression, and mental health care. We can begin by educating ourselves about anxiety and depression and how to respond in healthier ways to the boys and men in our lives. If you, or someone you know, can benefit from non-judgmental and supportive counseling services, contact LifeStance Health for more information.