Did you know the signs of anxiety and depression in men are different from women? Men often don’t realize that they are suffering from anxiety and/or depression because they don’t feel scared or sad like women often do when they are anxious or depressed. In fact, men frequently have physical symptoms or feel angry or stressed instead of sad or scared. Men don’t usually feel scared or sad until their anxiety or depression becomes quite severe.
Men are also less likely to speak out about how they’re feeling and get the proper help. A study done by Cleveland Clinic in 2019 shows that 72 percent of men would rather do household chores than go to the doctors. However, lack of awareness also plays a role in why men don’t seek treatment so here are some less well-known signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression in men.
1. Poor Sleep and Increased Pain
Anxiety and depression also affect the body, not just the mind and emotions. Two of the most common physical effects of anxiety and depression are poor sleep and increased pain, which often occur together. Even though men don’t typically feel sad or scared when they have anxiety and depression, their stress level still increases in the form of elevated levels of the primary stress hormone, cortisol.
Elevated cortisol has a wide range of effects on the body, but two common effects are worsened sleep with increased difficulty falling asleep and middle of the night or early morning awakening as well as increased pain, often in the form of headaches and back and neck pain. Poor sleep then increases pain and increased pain then worsens sleep creating a vicious cycle.
Potential solution: Poor sleep and associated pain can often be addressed with sustained, moderate intensity aerobic exercise (brisk walking, jogging, bicycling, lap swimming, etc.) for 30 to 45 minutes at a time three to four days a week. Over the counter sleep aids such as melatonin and magnesium are mild, but effective. Just be careful with sleep aids that include diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or Valerian Root since diphenhydramine can have cognitive and reflex dulling effects and Valerian Root is addictive.
Stretching and yoga are also helpful for pain and muscle tension as well as promoting relaxation to help insomnia. Chiropractors can also help back and neck pain as well as promoting relaxation. Over the counter pain medication is fine when taken according to the instructions, but don’t take it every day since they can cause stomach and liver problems as well as cause excessive bleeding/bruising if taken too frequently.
2. Excessive Alcohol Use
While there’s nothing wrong with having a glass or two of wine occasionally, it can be an indicator of anxiety or depression if you’re using it as a crutch or consuming excessive amounts. For some people, alcohol can serve as a mind-numbing agent and a way to escape the things that are stressing them. If you find yourself reaching for multiple alcoholic beverages when you are going through a rough patch, you may be experiencing anxiety or depression.
Alcohol can also make anxiety and depression worse. Many people don’t realize that alcohol is a neurotoxin and directly causes depression due its effects on the brain. Initially alcohol does lessen anxiety, but over time, the toxic effects of alcohol on the brain builds and worsens depression and anxiety so that one has to consume alcohol to just feel “normal” or okay.
Potential solution: To help ease some of the stress that you may feel in your life, try picking up a productive and healthy activity instead. An activity like martial arts has many benefits and is a great way to stay physically fit while allowing your mind to focus elsewhere. Activities that are physically demanding serve as great outlets for the negative emotions you may be feeling, so you’re bettering your mental and physical health all at once.
3. Irritability and Angry Outbursts
As stated above, symptoms of mental illnesses do not look the same in everyone. Most people overlook increased anger and aggression as signs of anxiety and depression. Often when people feel like they are incapable of changing the negative things that are occurring in their lives, they can feel helpless. Constantly feeling helpless in situations can lead to increased frustration and anger.
Men especially don’t deal well with helplessness for both cultural and biological reasons. If you think about it, males have basically evolved to deal with problems by beating them with a stick, but modern problems are often complex and require patience and sophisticated strategies to solve, leaving aggressive urges bottled up with no place to go until they overflow.
Potential solution: Emotional outbursts typically occur when you aren’t properly dealing with your thoughts and feelings. To make more sense of your emotional and mental state, try writing your feelings down in a personal journal. This will help you to potentially understand your triggers and express yourself in a healthier way.
Similarly, having a trusted friend or mentor or even a counselor to share frustrations with is extremely helpful. The hard part is getting started, but once you start talking, it gets a lot easier. In fact, the more you talk the more you want to discuss what you’re going through. Seeing a counselor regularly not only can help you with current problems, but help you to build mental strength making you less vulnerable to future stressors.
4. Sexual Difficulties
Most men don’t connect sexual difficulties, such as erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation and lack of interest, with anxiety and depression. These symptoms are often overlooked due to feelings of embarrassment or shame. If men are already hesitant to go to the doctors, they may be even more hesitant to talk to a health professional about sexual difficulties.
Sexual intercourse is a normal and healthy part of adult lives, making sexual issues one of the first signs that something is wrong. If you have sex regularly without a problem, and then you suddenly begin to experience issues like erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation or loss of interests, red flags should go up immediately. Sex is a physical and mental activity, so even mild amounts of anxiety or depression can affect your sex life.
Potential solution: Consult trusted medical professionals to talk to about your sexual difficulties since they can be caused by both physical and mental issues. If the cause seems to be emotional, then all of the previously discussed solutions from exercise to counseling can be helpful.
However, if that’s still not enough, talk to your doctor about erectile dysfunction medications since they work for both physical and emotional causes, which can improve your performance and confidence. Restoring a healthy sex life along with the other techniques we have discussed here can go a long way to improving your anxiety and depression as well as your life.
Please Note: The symptoms listed above are not the only signs of depression and anxiety. Click here to learn about some additional symptoms people can experience.
The solutions suggested above are not the only treatments for anxiety and depression, which include different types of psychotherapy, psychiatric medication and physical treatments such as light therapy. Click here to learn more about psychotherapy and psychiatric medication and click here to learn more about seasonal depression and light therapy.
Also, if you are having thoughts of suicide or need to speak to someone immediately, use this number to get help 1-800-662-HELP (4357).