Male Mental Health: Themes



Stress or stress is not a new phenomenon, but it seems to be more common nowadays than in the last century.

What is stress?
Stress is the tense physical response that someone experiences when under pressure. It usually only lasts for a short period. Pressure can e.g. retrenchments at work or meeting a deadline. Stress can be positive - and encourage a certain work ethic - but can also be negative and lead to insomnia, increased levels of irritation and physical discomfort.

What is the difference between stress and anxiety?
Everyone experiences stress in certain stages of life. Anxiety occurs when a person experiences high levels of stress for some time - to a point where it becomes almost unmanageable for the person and / or adversely affects their life. Anxiety has a negative effect on someone's quality of life and functioning. Stress can also have a negative impact, but the effect is less intense.

What causes stress?
Although certain themes or trends can be identified in the prevalence of stress among men, the causes are not the same for everyone. One's temperament, personality and life experiences play a major role in what types of things cause stress to an individual and to what extent it bothers the person concerned. Common causes of stress include: restructuring at work, unemployment, relationship problems, conflict, criticism and problems with children.

Physical consequences of stress
The following physical symptoms may be stress related. If you or a loved one show any of these symptoms, it is important to consult a medical practitioner:

  1. chest pains
  2. palpitations
  3. high blood pressure
  4. shortness of breath
  5. fatigue
  6. decreased sex drive
  7. muscle pains, especially in the back and neck
  8. headaches
  9. dizziness
  10. gnashing of teeth or jaws clamping together
  11. tight feeling on the chest, a lump in the throat or a dry throat
  12. indigestion
  13. constipation or diarrhea
  14. more sweat than usual
  15. stomach cramps
  16. weight gain or loss
  17. skin problems

How does one handle stress?
It is well known that an active lifestyle has a positive impact on one's health and ability to cope with stress. Therefore, it is important to have a routine of physical exercise. Furthermore, supportive friendships play a big role. Even if you don't always want to talk about what's bothering, it helps to know you're not alone.

See also our section: How do I know I have a problem?



The following ten occupations are considered professions in which people burn out easily:

  1. medical doctor
  2. nursing
  3. social worker
  4. teacher
  5. principal
  6. lawyer
  7. police officer
  8. public accounting
  9. workers in the takeaway industry
  10. persons involved in retail activities

What is burnout?
"Burnout" is not a clinical diagnosis, but a condition that can occur if someone's emotional resources are destroyed or "burned out". This usually happens when people overwork themselves at work and feel that they no longer have enough motivation to do their job and perform adequately. Some people believe that burnout is a form of depression.

What is the difference between burnout and depression?
There are many similarities between burnout and depression, but where burnout does not occur because someone is overworked or overworked, there are other causes for the depression. Someone who is "burned out" and not paying attention to it can develop depression.

The symptoms of burnout include the following:

  1. unexplained headaches, stomach problems or other physical complaints
  2. change in sleep patterns
  3. overeating, drinking too much or taking drugs to escape
  4. sense of disillusionment about work or career
  5. can't "feel good" about performance
  6. struggling to focus or concentrate
  7. lack of energy to do work
  8. more irritated than usual with colleagues and / or clients
  9. struggling with motivation to work
  10. over-critical attitude about work, work environment, colleagues, etc.

What causes burnout?
Several factors can contribute to burnout. One's perspective on his / her work and expectations of the work environment usually play a role. The following are examples:

  1. unstable work environment and / or unclear goals
  2. lack of supportive relationships
  3. unrealistic demands at work
  4. feeling of powerlessness regarding workplace decisions
  5. repeated failures
  6. lack of relaxation
  7. unhealthy work environment eg. an intimidating colleague or a boss who applies micro-management
  8. struggling to say "no"
  9. your work is demanding or tedious

How do I handle burnout?
It is important to pay attention to burnout, as it can lead to numerous other physical and emotional health problems.

You can take the following steps:

  1. Communication
    You may need to talk to your boss and / or colleagues to address the workload or procedures that frustrate you. Then consider whether it can bring about enough change for you.

  2. Support
    In some work environments, health services are available to support employees. It can also help to talk to a colleague, friend or loved one you trust. Professional help from e.g. a psychologist can also help you gain perspective.

  3. A healthy lifestyle
    The normal “healthy” choices - such as enough sleep and rest, exercise and time to relax - are essential to protect one from burnout.

Read more about this topic at: Which Professionals are Prone to Burnout

See also our section: How do I know I have a problem?


Depression and anxiety

How does the initial incidence of depression in men differ from the same condition in women?

In men, it is usually other people who first notice / recognize that there is a change in the person's behavior. He will e.g. less laugh or more often in a bad mood, start to avoid social events or even become "more explosive". Often the people around him will notice it and say something about it.

Read more here: Saturday: Men and Depression

A diagnosis of depression is the clinical diagnosis of a serious psychological condition made by a professional when certain symptoms are observed over a period of time.

For more information, please read our sections depression en mood disorders.

Also check out the interview between Anton and Lise about depression on Who Am I? see Facebook page:@wieisekSA

According to an Australian website, one in eight men, and one in five women, will experience anxiety during their lifetime. Men are also said to be less likely to experience anxiety and depression than women.

Read more on the topic: Anxiety and depression in men

Read more about anxiety in our section anxiety disorders.


Alcohol and substance abuse

Substance abuse (the abuse of alcohol and drugs) is a greater problem among men than women. For every three men who abuse drugs, there is one woman who does the same. The following facts are interesting:

  1. Men are more likely than women to take risks when under the influence of a drug.
  2. Men are more likely to drink too much (binge drinking).
  3. Most people who drink too much are not dependent on or addicted to alcohol.

The risks of excessive alcohol use / abuse include:

  1. increase the risk of alcohol-related death and / or injury;
  2. the suicide risk increases;
  3. increase the risk of certain cancers;
  4. the person experiences more problems due to risky sexual behavior (eg unprotected sex); and
  5. sexual problems, such as testicular dysfunction, occur more often.

Read more here: Fact Sheets - Excessive Alcohol Use and Risks to Men's Health

More information is also available in our section on addiction.



Getting angry is a normal human emotion, but not everyone struggles with anger and aggression. The latter two emotions are the destructive or harmful expression of the emotion associated with "evil". It happens when one has not learned to recognize, recognize and deal with that emotion successfully.

An issue of anger and aggression may be related to disorders such as bipolar mood disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, adjustment disorder and personality disorders, to name a few.

Substance abuse, such as alcohol, usually exacerbates the problem because a person's judgment and inhibitions are impaired while under the influence of the drug. They often act less controlled in such situations.

Read more about this: Anger Disorder: What It Is And What We Can Do About It


Relationship problems

Five common problems that men experience in relationships are:

  1. fear of rejection;
  2. to hide mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety;
  3. the pressure of being the financial provider;
  4. performance anxiety about sex.

The above is compounded by the general tendency that men are not taught from childhood to recognize, handle and communicate their emotions effectively.

The basis of all relationships is the relationship you have with yourself. Therefore, one has a positive "starting point" for successful relationships if you, for example. accept yourself, laugh at yourself and admit when you made a mistake. This makes it easier to accept and get along with other people.

Furthermore, one's relationships are greatly influenced by the extent to which you can handle your emotions and how effectively you can communicate. People (men and women) who struggle with a negative sense of self-worth and / or lack of emotional and communication skills will normally also struggle to maintain healthy relationships. “Relationship problems” not only refer to problems within relationships with partners, but problems in relationships with friends, family members and colleagues can also occur.

Of course, there are also many other factors that can cause problems in relationships, for example:

  1. mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety en substance dependence or abuse;
  2. attention deficit;
  3. problems in and with the larger family;
  4. financial problems;
  5. abuse;
  6. different expectations and priorities between parties;
  7. problems with confidence;
  8. the demands of the stage of the relationship e.g. if there is a baby or young children.

Read more about this on the following website: Top 10 Reasons Relationships Fail

Furthermore, men generally experience less social support than women and have less contact with friends, family and society. Many men mainly make friends in their work environment. The amount of personal support they receive then remains limited. This trend further causes, when men retire, to break the majority of their social contact. A lack of social support means that someone does not have a place where they can talk about what is bothering or what they are struggling with. It is problematic and usually contributes to mental health problems.

Good friends and spending time with them play an important role in one's life. It is necessary to make time for healthy socialization during which one can talk about how you are doing. To be there for someone, to give of your time to them - and to listen - is as valuable to the one who gives as to the one who receives.

What can I do if I have relationship problems?

  1. Listen to the other party, without thinking what to say next. Try to understand what the person means.
  2. Communicate how you feel and how things affect you.
  3. Try to bridge different views, and find a solution that accommodates both parties.
  4. Make use of a soundboard - talk to a friend you trust and who can provide objective feedback.
  5. Handle the personal issues that can have a negative impact on the relationship (eg talking to someone, developing skills by reading self-help books, or attending an enriching course).
  6. Get professional help if you are struggling to make progress in solving the problem.

The ideal is, of course, to invest in a relationship before the problems arise or become too big to handle. This is especially important for intimate relationships and marriages. Therefore, it is necessary to spend time with your loved one and pay attention to each other. Establish a habit of talking to each other about the small and big things that happened, as well as what their emotional impact was on you. In this way, one grows towards one another and the relationship is strengthened and prepared to handle pressure better. All relationships are sometimes under pressure as life stages and circumstances change. Relationships in which the relationship partners invest enough when things go well have a better chance of successfully managing pressure.

Practical advice:

  1. Turn off all cell phones and computers when talking to your loved one.
  2. Spend time after a business day just talking about what each day was like. The more times a week you manage, the better.
  3. Make regular (at least once a week) more time to talk about important things.
  4. Try to spend an entire evening, morning or day together regularly to do something fun together, e.g. dine out, hike together, explore the town or have a picnic. Preferably, there should be no screen time involved.
  5. Communicate your love to each other - talk to each other, touch each other, help each other, etc.
  6. Be considerate towards one another (make a cup of tea, help with tugging, etc.).


Physical health

Five common health risks for men are:

  1. heart problems
  2. prostate cancer
  3. depression and suicide
  4. diabetes
  5. problems with erection (erectile dysfunction)

Read more about this here: 6 Top Health Threats to Men

Why do you read on this site - which deals mainly with aspects of psychology - about physical health problems and illnesses? There are good reasons for this. One of these is that the body and the soul do not exist in isolation, but function in a relationship to one another, ie psychological problems affect the health of the body and physical problems affect the mental health of man.

For example, the stress hormone, cortisol, plays a role in physical illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, decreased immunity and cognitive problems. Cortisol is important for survival and to “activate” the body during stressful events. Cortisol and adrenaline are released in a stressful situation to trigger a fight-or-flight reaction. Increasing cortisol levels also causes increased cholesterol levels.

It is important for the balance in the body that cortisol levels fall again and recover after the stressful events are over. Unfortunately, the high stress levels in society - due to a lack of rest and recovery in most people's lives - cause people's cortisol levels to remain too high or to decrease too much as the gland that secretes the cortisol becomes depleted . An increase in cortisol levels can cause elevated (bad) cholesterol levels. In that case, a person is very vulnerable to physical illness and mental health problems. Elevated cholesterol may e.g. leading to heart disease. This illness and any other serious medical diagnosis can in itself also cause a person suffering from it, and their loved ones, stress and sadness.

Elevated cortisol levels can also cause anxiety, depression and damage to brain functions.

Therefore, it is essential for one's physical and mental health that you must manage and manage your stress levels purposefully. It is not always possible to avoid stressful events or circumstances, but you can control your reaction to them. This means giving yourself enough time to rest and relax, make healthy lifestyle choices and, if necessary, get professional help to develop cognitive and emotional skills that can help with stress management.

Read more about this at: How Does Stress Contribute To Cholesterol? en Stress hormones in health and illness: The roles of work and gender

Heart disease and strokes are the leading and second leading causes of death worldwide.

Men 's death age due to heart disease is younger than 65 years. It is lower than that of women. Experts believe this is because men naturally have lower levels of good cholesterol than women. Men therefore have to work much harder than women to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Erectile dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction (also called impotence) is present when someone is struggling to get an erection, or maintain it sufficiently to have sex. Sometimes such a person also experiences a reduced interest in sex.

It is normal to struggle with this sometimes, but when it happens regularly, it is important to get help. Erectile dysfunction can be indicative of a medical or emotional problem, or of a problem with intimacy in the relationship.

Other sexual problems that men may experience include: premature ejaculation, delayed or absent ejaculation, as well as little interest in sex.

There are numerous possible causes (physical and emotional) for erectile dysfunction. This includes:

  1. heart ailments
  2. diabetes
  3. high blood pressure
  4. high cholesterol
  5. damage caused by cancer or surgery
  6. injuries
  7. being overweight
  8. high age
  9. stress
  10. anxiety
  11. depression
  12. relationship problems
  13. drug abuse
  14. alcohol abuse
  15. smoke

This condition can be caused by one or a combination of factors. Therefore, it is important to be examined by a medical practitioner so that any medical problems can be identified and treated.

Treatment for erectile dysfunction
The cause of the problem will affect which treatment is appropriate.

  1. A complete medical examination is the starting point to determine if any medical treatment, such as medication, will be necessary / effective.
  2. Psychotherapy / talk therapy may be appropriate if medical causes have been eliminated / treated and there are suspected emotional and relational factors that play a role. Ask your GP for a referral to a psychologist with experience in this field of treatment.

Translated and adapted from: Everything You Need to Know About Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

Serious medical diagnoses
Being diagnosed with a serious medical condition is usually a big shock. In some cases, the person may have suspected something is wrong for some time, but the possibility of negative results sometimes causes people to avoid the necessary medical tests. However, the longer you wait to identify a problem and get help, the worse the condition usually gets. Either way, a diagnosis, especially when chronic or terminal, usually has a profound effect on one's life.

A diagnosis often has practical implications - decisions must be made about treatment, care and other aspects of the person's way forward. Questions you are faced with include: Can the condition be treated or not? What is the cost of the treatment? What is its effect on one's ability to work? How will someone's income be affected? Does the person need specific care? How are the family and loved ones affected?

In most cases, the diagnosis affects not only the person being diagnosed, but also a loved one or family members. That is why communication is so important. Talking to each other and listening to each other provides important support, but is also necessary for the decision-making process.

It is also normal to experience different emotional reactions when a person (or a loved one) is diagnosed with a serious or terminal illness. Initially, those involved are usually shocked, sometimes followed by a phase of denial because the reality is too threatening to accept. Reality feels unreal, and one feels it "cannot be true". Sometimes there is also a "negotiation phase" during which a person argues "if I just do this or that, I will no longer be sick". This negotiation phase is usually not directly related to the medical treatment a person receives.

It is necessary to give the reality of the diagnosis time to sink in, but it is also important to face the real situation because there are usually decisions that need to be made.

Anger and sadness are still emotions that can emerge very strongly during this time. Anger can be expressed directly or projected onto someone else (eg blaming someone or disagreeing over trivialities). Sadness, and being angry are normal reactions because there are several losses involved.

There is no order or specific steps in this process, but the goal is to experience longer times of acceptance - this emotion comes and goes, however. There are times when you can accept the diagnosis and its implications, and times when it is more difficult. The longer the person can hold on to acceptance, the calmer he / she will feel. However, it is essential that one experiences and processes the different emotions / reactions before acceptance can become a reality.

Sometimes it is necessary to consult a counselor, psychologist, or pastoral worker to guide you and your loved one (s) through this process. It is not a sign of weakness in seeking help, but rather an indication that one is taking ownership of the problem and wants to deal with it responsibly.


Occupational problems

A global survey showed that men are less satisfied with their lives than women.

Read more about this: A global survey shows women are more satisfied with their lives than men are

Why is it that men experience less life satisfaction than women?

Various factors may play a role, e.g. the change that has taken place in the gender roles over the past decades. Men's roles in previous generations were easily defined as "the breadwinner" and "the head of the house". Nowadays, there are more and more men who are not the breadwinner and may "stand back" for a career-driven relationship partner. This can lead to a loss of meaning and pride in many men. A large group of men may be uncertain about where they fit in, what is expected of them and how to find meaning and meaning in their existence.

Burnout is also a factor that can play an important role in a man's life. Burnout occurs when you overuse and stress excessively for some time, without devoting enough time to rest and recovery. Burnout will also have a negative impact on one's life satisfaction.

Professional Satisfaction
Along with burnout, one can also call job satisfaction. In our “high-pressure society,” one's profession usually makes high demands. Economic pressure makes it hard to say "no" at work - which often leads to burnout. Good management and a stimulating and healthy work environment will help counteract negative experiences, but the "fit" between the worker and the work is also important.

Psychologists often hear during therapy that someone is doing a job, or studying in a certain direction, because it is "what is expected of the person" or "what his / her parents wanted". For some, this is acceptable, but in others it causes great sadness and frustration.

When choosing a career, factors such as temperament and personality, as well as interest and ability or skill level, should be considered. Of course, it is also important to consider the economic viability of a profession, but making a decision based solely on the financial benefits usually does not create a sustainable situation. Psychologists can provide guidance through tests and evaluation so that informed career decisions can be made. In certain companies and at tertiary institutions, there are also career counselors in the human resource departments who can help with this.

Sometimes it is necessary to solve problems with the help of a manager, the human resources department or a psychologist; other times it is necessary to change work environment. Being unhappy at work exposes you to burnout and other mental and relationship problems. Therefore, it is important to try to solve problems at work.



According to global statistics, more men than women apply suicide.

Although applying suicide is sometimes an impulsive act, there is a strong link between suicide and depression. Pay attention to the danger signs that may occur and ask for help early. For more information, see our sections on depression en suicide.


If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health issues, we suggest the following options:
  1. call your GP (if available);
  2. go to your nearest hospital emergency room;
  3. call one of the following emergency numbers: SADAG (the South African Depression and Anxiety Group) 24-hour helpline: 0800 456 789 or suicide crisis line: 0800 567 567; or
  4. contact Wie is ek?