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Mental health tips for men

Mental health concerns, such as anxiety and depression, affect men too, but they can be hard to talk about, especially with their health care providers.

“Traditionally, many men are taught not to express their feelings, such as sadness or anger,” says Siraj Abdullah, D.O., a Piedmont family medicine physician. “In addition, some medical providers don’t bring up mental health during routine visits and men aren’t as likely to mention these issues.”

Dr. Abdullah shares the signs of depression and anxiety in men, how to improve your mental health and when to talk to a health care professional.

Signs of depression and anxiety in men

“Anxiety is common in both men and women, and I’m starting to see more men in my clinic for depression and anxiety,” he says. “I see mental health issues in men of all ages, from college students to older adults.”

Depression and anxiety can sometimes manifest differently in men than in women. He says the following can be signs of depression in men:

  • Irritability and anger

  • Becoming more reserved and talking less

  • Avoiding social activities and hobbies they once enjoyed

  • Changes in eating habits

  • Decreased sex drive

  • Changes in sleep patterns

Anxiety can present with symptoms like:

  • Racing heartbeat

  • Shortness of breath

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Social anxiety

Factors that worsen mental health

Dr. Abdullah says the following factors can contribute to poor mental health:

  • Social isolation

  • Lack of physical activity

  • Overeating junk food, particularly processed, high-sugar foods

  • Major life stressors, such as job loss, divorce, financial issues, illness, the death of a loved one, a move or a new job

Dr. Abdullah says the COVID-19 pandemic likely contributed to the increase in mental health issues.

“Many people experienced trauma and major life changes, such as working from home full-time, lack of socialization, homeschooling children, dealing with illness, the death of a loved one or relationship issues,” he says.

Mental health tips for men

Here are Dr. Abdullah’s tips for improving your mental health:

  • Build social connections. “We’re all social beings,” he says. “It’s important to have a good social support group, whether that’s your family or your friends. Look for people who are positive, have an open mind and are supportive.”

  • Engage in a hobby. Having a hobby you enjoy can also support your mental well-being. So, whether you love hiking, woodworking, cooking, sports, working out, swimming, gardening, traveling, reading or watching movies, make time for the activities you enjoy.

  • Get regular exercise. Multiple research studies show that getting 20 minutes of physical activity three times per week reduces the risk of depression and anxiety, he says. This includes any form of exercise that increases your heart rate, such as walking, running, hiking, swimming, cycling or high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

  • Nourish your body. Eat fresh, whole foods as much as possible. This includes lean protein, healthy fats, vegetables, fruit and whole grains. Limit alcohol, sugar, processed food and refined carbohydrates.

  • Consider counseling. “Counseling is a great place to talk about your feelings,” he says. “A counselor can give you tips for managing stress and different situations in your life.”

When to talk to your health care provider about your mental health

If lifestyle changes don’t make a difference, have a conversation with your health care provider. They may recommend counseling, medication or other lifestyle changes to help you feel better.

If you have thoughts of harming yourself or others, contact your health care provider, call 911 or visit the emergency department right away. You can also contact one of the following emergency hotlines:

  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or call or text 988

  • SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

  • NAMI Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or text “NAMI” to 741741

Finally, know that getting help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

“It’s a sign of strength to talk about these issues with your health care provider, counselor or a supportive family member or friend,” says Dr. Abdullah. “As men, we tend to let stress build up until it affects our mental and physical health. Talking about your mental health is a way to take care of your body.”

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