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Article. Published on June 01, 2018.

Men and Mental Health

Depression in Men

Mental health disorders are on the rise. It is estimated that at least 13.7% individuals in India will suffer from a mental illness in their lifetime. Women, in general are two times more likely than men to suffer from a common mental illness (CMD). While some of the reasons behind this discrepancy could involve hormones and biology, another reason involve the cultural that surrounds us. That is, men tend to underestimate and under-report signs and symptoms of their mental illnesses. In most societies, men are expected to be “tough” and “strong” and many times, this implies that they should not be asking for help. It is important to recognize that both men and women are affected by mental illnesses, so that we can ensure that men get the help they need as well.

There are some mental health disorders that affect men differently from how they affect women.

  • Depression: According to the World Health Organization, around 40% of Indians suffer from mild to severe depression. While affecting a significant proportion of all men, depression is often overlooked, most often because it is seen as a sign of weakness or a failing of masculinity. Further, because depression tends to manifest physically in men, with symptoms such as backaches and insomnia, the treatment may focus on alleviating the physical symptoms rather than treating the underlying issue. Men are also more likely to display symptoms such as anger and irritability, as well as use alcohol and drugs to cope with their depression.
  • Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED): A behavioural disorder which is characterised by explosive bursts of anger and violence, IED affects 7.3% of the global population, and more men than women. Individuals with IED are also four times as likely to suffer from common mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, and three times as likely to develop substance use disorders.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Affecting 2-3% of the Indian population, OCD is seen to have an earlier onset in men, where it manifests with a higher frequency of symptoms of hoarding and sexual and religious obsessions. Men are additionally more likely to also suffer from a co-occuring social phobia. Studies indicate that gender is an important factor to be taken into consideration when evaluating and providing treatment for people with OCD due to its varying manifestation.

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): Men are three times as likely than women to be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, which can, to a certain extent, be explained by the difference in symptomatology in men and women affected by ASD. In any case, around 1% of the world’s overall population has been diagnosed with ASD. Autism Spectrum Disorder is characterised by an difficulty to communicate and interact with other people, restricted interests and repetitive behaviours, and other symptoms that affect the individual’s functioning in daily life.
  • Personality Disorders: A personality disorder is a way of thinking, feeling and behaving that differs from the expectations of one’s culture, causes distress in one’s daily life, and lasts over a long period of time. There are certain personality disorders that are more common among men than women:
    • Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD): According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM- V), men are more likely than women to suffer from NPD. NPD is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of self importance, an excessive need for attention and admiration and display a lack of empathy for other individuals.
    • Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD): Men are three times as likely than women to suffer from ASPD, and have a higher tendency to express violent antisocial behaviours, aggressiveness and irritability. Characterised by a disregard of morality, persistent lying and deceit, and superfluous charm used to manipulate others, this personality disorder affects 1% - 4% of the population.
    • Schizotypal Personality Disorder (SPD): Affecting around 4% of the population, SPD manifests differently in men and women. Studies indicate that men with SPD were more likely to express symptoms such as constricted affect, odd behaviour and odd speech as compared to women with SPD, who were, in turn, more likely to express the symptoms of social anxiety and odd belief.

These mental health disorders affect a significant part of the population, and it is vital to ensure that suffering individuals have access to the required treatment. Most of the disorders stated above can be effectively treated with a combination of medicine and therapy.

In India today, there already an immense amount of stigma associated with seeking support. 60% of individuals feel that mentally unhealthy people should have their own groups so as to not ‘contaminate healthy people’. This issue directly affects men in our country, as they are expected to act a certain way. Since men are expected to be “tough” and to not express their emotions openly, they may be unable to seek the support that they require. For disorders that affect women more than men, there is always a chance of underreporting for men. Additionally, there are several disorders, such as some of the ones listed above, that affect men more than women. If we do not create a culture of acceptance and expression, these illnesses will go unchecked. If we want to address the burden of mental health in India, we need to start looking into men’s mental health.

If you or anybody you know has been experiencing symptoms for any of the disorders listed above, please contact a mental health professional. To find mental health professionals in your areas, please click here.