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.