10 Common Causes Of Men’s Mental Health Issues

Poor mental health is widespread in the United States and impacts both men and women of every age, background, and income level. However, men as a whole tend to receive help with mental issues less often than women, even when it’s needed. By understanding common risk factors for men’s mental health problems, you may be able to reach out to those men in your life who need help.

Both men and women in America face numerous sources of stress, and many Americans will develop mental health concerns of one form or another at different points in their lifetimes. However, despite the fact that men in the United States are diagnosed with depression and mood disorders at substantially lower rates than women, men die from suicide almost four times as often. 

This statistic and others like it reveal that many men in the United States are suffering with mental health struggles in silence, living with serious mental and emotional challenges without getting the help they need. But where are men’s mental health conditions coming from, and what can be done about them?

Risk Factors For Men’s Mental Health Issues

Good mental health is a tremendously important part of every person’s overall health and wellness. However, many of us don’t always recognize it as such, and may put off getting the mental health care we need or may not even understand the extent of our own mental health struggles

While there is no one single cause of mental illness or poor mental health, there are a number of significant risk factors that healthcare professionals recognize. Some of the most common risk factors that negatively impact men’s mental health include the following.

1. Financial Insecurity

Numerous studies have concluded that financial capacity and poverty have a decisive influence on the development of poor mental health and vice versa. People across the United States recognize this, citing money problems among the greatest sources of stress and dissatisfaction in their daily lives. 

When someone doesn’t have the income to enjoy a reasonable standard of living and to access basic services, it piles on pressure and worry that change how the body and mind function. This stress may manifest through physical symptoms like headaches, illness, digestive issues, high blood pressure, muscle tension, and heart arrhythmias, and it can drive psychological distress and the development and worsening of diagnosable mental health disorders like depression, anxiety disorders, and others. 

Of course, both men and women struggle with poverty, debt, unemployment, and other financial issues. However, with frequent expectations to be the heads of households and breadwinners, many men are particularly vulnerable to this pressure and negative patterns of thought and behavior surrounding family income and security.

2. Poor Health

The mind and the body are closely intertwined, and what happens to one will impact the other. Serious physical health problems like injuries, prolonged illness, disability, and chronic pain are all known to increase the risk that someone will experience a dip in their mental health, develop a mental health condition, or experience aggravated symptoms of existing mental health conditions.

According to one recent study, 55.6% of U.S. adults who reported having chronic pain also reported significant symptoms of anxiety and depression, while only 17.1% reported no symptoms of anxiety and depression. And this relationship is thought to travel both ways, as those with anxiety or depression are more susceptible to pain and recover more slowly when an injury or illness occurs. 

Head injuries, which disproportionately impact males, are also strongly linked with the eventual development of serious mental illnesses like PTSD, major depressive disorder, and (between the ages of 11 and 17) schizophrenia. It’s also important to note that those living with financial insecurity or who are reluctant to seek medical care for other reasons are at a higher risk of developing more serious and chronic physical problems and worse long-term health.

3. Burnout

Even if a person is financially stable or even affluent, their occupation may still be a negative and harmful force in their life due to job-related stress and burnout. 

Burnout can occur for a wide variety of reasons, including some that are obvious and some that may be surprising. 

Some of these causes include:

  • excessive workload
  • unreasonable deadlines
  • lack of a sense of contribution, recognition, or personal/professional value
  • lack of belonging or camaraderie with others in the workplace
  • being denied resources necessary for one’s work
  • not having control or input over one’s work
  • lack of clarity about one’s role, responsibilities, and performance
  • job insecurity
  • unfair treatment
  • harassment, hostility, or abuse from clients, customers, coworkers, or managers
  • working for an organization that conflicts with one’s personal values or morals

When burnout occurs, people may experience symptoms ranging from irritability to depressed mood, anxiety, upset stomach, over- or under-eating, concentration problems, elevated blood pressure, increased susceptibility to pain and illness, fatigue, sleep problems, lack of motivation, and more. 

4. Isolation

Both American men and women are in the midst of a loneliness epidemic. According to the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General, the amount of time Americans spend alone has been increasing for decades, with the sharpest increase in recorded history occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that people are spending less time each month with friends, less time with colleagues, and even less quality time with their own family members. And this disconnection has profound long-term implications. 

Losing social connection can lead to neglecting one’s own self-care, reduced mental stability and functioning, and even harmful changes to hormone activity and gene expression. Loneliness can be so mentally and behaviorally damaging that it has been associated with the development of hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, substance abuse, reduced cognitive function, and reduced lifespan, not to mention the development and aggravation of mental conditions of all kinds. 

On the other hand, maintaining positive relationships and cultivating a sense of belonging and trust with others can be extremely protective for one’s mental health and positivity, as well as one’s resilience and ability to cope and recover when physical or psychological problems do emerge. 

5. Substance Abuse

Drug and alcohol abuse directly damages the human brain and behavior over time, making it more likely that one will develop mental health problems or that existing mental health problems will get worse. And men are disproportionately impacted. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), men tend to drink more often and to drink more at a time than women. And men are also more likely to abuse illicit drugs of all kinds than women, leading to increased rates of both physical dependence and psychological dependence/addiction. 

In fact, the link between substance abuse and mental health is so strong that an estimated 50% of those who experience a substance use disorder (i.e., drug or alcohol addiction) also have some form of mental illness.

6. Environmental Factors

Stress is an important mental and physical reaction that helps people deal with challenges and dangers in their everyday life. But when that stress doesn’t let up and a person is stuck on alert for days, months, or years at a time, it can be extremely physically and psychologically damaging. 

This unease often occurs when a person finds himself or herself living in a neighborhood, a home, or another environment in which there is a high prevalence or possibility of violence, abuse, criminal activity, unrest, instability, crowding, or other uncertainties and dangers. 

7. Childhood Trauma

Likewise, when a person experiences a short- or long-term period of psychological distress as a child, the effects of that stress can continue to echo long into adulthood, no matter how safe and secure that person’s current circumstances might be. Examples include emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, neglect, bullying, family dysfunction, war, losing a loved one, or experiencing a serious accident or injury. 

Those who experience trauma often struggle to relate to others or regulate their own emotions, and may develop any number of psychological disorders ranging from OCD to PTSD, panic disorder, personality disorders, and others. 

8. Major Stress Events

Adults are not immune to the damaging effects of difficult situations, however. Men who experience the unexpected loss of a loved one, divorce, physical or emotional abuse, job loss, or major accidents or injuries often struggle to fully process and manage the resulting psychological fallout. 

This can lead to profound feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, anxiety, panic attacks, anger, a wide variety of physical health problems, substance abuse, and other behavioral or mental issues. 

9. Developmental Factors

While still poorly understood, certain developmental factors and events have been linked to the development of specific mental illnesses. 

Examples include certain types of infection or diseases acquired early in life, the disruption of early fetal brain development (e.g., due to drug or alcohol exposure, etc.), loss of oxygen to the brain during birth, and head injuries that occur between the ages of 11 and 15.

10. Genetics

If a person’s family has a history of poor mental health, there is a greater likelihood that the person will also develop similar problems due to shared genetic factors. 

While most health professionals would not say that genetics cause mental illness directly, there is strong evidence that a person’s genes do heavily influence the development of mental illness in combination with other developmental and environmental factors. And, according to some estimates, the influence of genetics in this equation may be as great as 30% to 50% in total. 

This is why mental illnesses tend to run so strongly in families and also why different brothers in the same household and even some identical twins may or may not develop psychological issues on an individual basis. 

Recognizing Poor Mental Health In Men

While men and women can both develop the same range of mental disorders or experience periods of generally poor mental health, the signs and symptoms of poor mental health that each gender tends to exhibit can be different. 

Common signs and symptoms of poor mental health in men specifically include:

  • lashing out: anger, irritability, or aggression
  • instability: sudden swings in mood, energy level, and appetite
  • sleep problems: difficulty getting enough sleep or sleeping too much
  • restlessness: jitters or other signs of poor concentration and focus
  • distraction: prolonged periods of worry or stress, obsessive or compulsive behavior
  • substance abuse: use of illicit drugs, problematic drinking, or misuse of prescription drugs
  • depression: low energy, sadness, or trouble feeling or expressing positive emotions
  • recklessness: unusual high-risk behavior
  • poor health: generalized aches, headaches, or digestive problems, among others
  • falling behind: problems keeping up with expectations at work or with family or social life
  • hallucinations: hearing voices or seeing things that are not there
  • delusions: developing bizarre behaviors or beliefs
  • suicidal thoughts: talking about death, dying, or suicide 
  • suicidal activity: taking steps towards suicide, like buying a gun

Why Men Don’t Get Help

For as much as America is different today than it has been in the past, many things are still the same. And this includes a never-ending pressure that calls on men to be strong, to be independent, and to be successful providers and producers. Seeking help for anxiety, depression, or other mental health struggles cuts directly against this expectation, exposing men to external and internal vulnerability, judgment, and stigma. 

At the same time, men often have poorer emotional self-knowledge and less experience with the practice of mental healthcare. This can make it difficult for men to recognize when they need help, make it less likely that they will understand the benefits of getting help, and can make it more challenging for men to express and explain their particular feelings and needs.

Even the diagnostic criteria and treatment methods used for conditions like depression may be biased in favor of women, making it that much less likely that men’s conditions will be detected or managed effectively. 

But this doesn’t mean that men are on their own, or that there is nothing you can do. 

Getting Help For Your Loved One

If there is a man in your life who you think may be struggling with poor mental health, talk to him about it and share your concerns. Be ready to listen and be ready to offer solutions (if he is receptive) that include seeing a professional or even participating in a short-term residential treatment program like those offered by the team here at Ohio Recovery Center. 

Remember, mental healthcare works. It saves lives. To learn about our evidence-based treatment services, please contact us today.

  1. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health - Risk and Protective Factors of Mental Health Conditions: Impact of Employment, Deprivation and Social Relationships https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9180102/
  2. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) - Men and Mental Health https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/men-and-mental-health
  3. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) - Suicide https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/suicide#:~:text=In%202021%20%2C%20the%20suicide%20rate,females%20(5.7%20per%20100%2C000).
  4. National Institutes of Health (NIH) - Mental health disorders common following mild head injury https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/mental-health-disorders-common-following-mild-head-injury
  5. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Excessive Alcohol Use and Risks to Men's Health https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/mens-health.htm
  6. U.S. Surgeon General’s Office - Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/surgeon-general-social-connection-advisory.pdf

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: June 21, 2024

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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