In the UK, approximately 1 in 8 men have a mental health problem. However, despite the fact that it is a common concern, men are reluctant to seek support for their mental health or disclose male mental health problems to loved ones so this figure may be greater. Whilst both men and women experience depression and depressive disorders, some of the strains and influences on mental health may be especially relevant for men.

In our culture, we have developed societal expectations about gender roles and what masculinity means. These include the strong belief that men should be the high earners in their family, and that they should have traditionally masculine traits like strength, stoicism, and control. Whilst these traits are not bad in themselves, research suggests that an acceptance of these traditional ideals of maleness may negatively impact male mental health. Mental health is a huge topic and there is no one single trigger as it is a completely individual experience, however, it is important to note the differences between how men experience depression compared to women.

Most of us feel sad sometimes, experience bursts of irritability and have trouble sleeping occasionally. These feelings are usually fleeting and have obvious triggers which, when resolved, order is restored. In contrast, depression, although common, is a serious mood disorder often with severe symptoms. Depression affects your ability to feel, think, and handle daily activities.

Mental Health Symptoms

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Both men and women get depression but their approach to dealing with it can be very different. For example, some men with depression hide their emotions and come across as being angry, irritable, or aggressive while many women seem sad and are able to express sadness. Men often report feeling exhausted and lack interest in work, friends and family. Research shows that men seem to have more problems with sleeping than women who suffer from depression. Oftentimes, mental health symptoms can manifest physically. It can cause a rapid heartbeat, tightening sensation in the chest, and almost continual headaches. Digestive tract disorders can often be a sign of a mental health issue. In fact, men are much more likely to go and visit their GP about their physical symptoms than their emotional symptoms.

Maybe not surprisingly, some men turn to substance abuse to mask their feelings, using drugs or alcohol to take the edge off. Sadly, men are more likely to die by suicide than women, and it is the leading cause of death of men under the age of 35. Depression can affect any man at any age, but it does not have to be isolating and stigmatised. In fact, with the right treatment, the majority of men with depression get better and gain back their interest in work, family, and friends, and stability can be restored.

Dr Jeff Foster

Dr Jeff Foster specialises in men’s mental and physical health. When men visit with symptoms of depression he will first check for biochemical causes, testing for factors such as low testosterone, thyroid disease, anaemia, and low B12 which are relatively easy to correct with the right treatment. He will discuss family history and any relevant genetic triggers. He will then examine potential environmental triggers such as loss of a loved one or a relationship break up, financial concerns, or work stress whilst always being aware of the social pressures that weigh heavy on some men to be strong and the breadwinner. If the depression is not biochemical then Doctor Jeff will explore different treatment options with patients, such as lifestyle changes, talking therapies, or medications.

Initially, some men are reluctant to engage in talking therapies but after a short time on antidepressants, they feel more comfortable about discussing the condition. Dr Jeff works closely with his patients to build trust and attempts to remove the stigma surrounding antidepressants, as sadly some men can view taking medication as a sign of weakness. However, Dr Jeff believes that the tide is beginning to change and says that once the patient begins to take the antidepressants and gains life stability, they are coping better at work and in relationships, they are feeling more motivated and can recognise the triggers for their depressive disorder, then he is able to aid the patient in a managed withdrawal from the antidepressants.

In some cases, patients are weaned off within months when they reach a point of stability, while in others it can be years, but it is done collaboratively as part of an ongoing doctor-patient relationship. For a male mental health check-up with Dr Jeff Foster contact 01926 801111.