Receiving a Mental Health Diagnosis in Adulthood

You or your loved ones may have recognized the symptoms of a mental health concern, so you made the right choice by seeking a diagnosis for your struggles. Now you need to consider the impact of receiving a mental health diagnosis in adulthood, including the range of emotions you might be experiencing now. Understanding how mental health affects men, as well as understanding how to overcome the stigma of seeking treatment, is critical for you. The important thing to keep in mind is that you are not alone and help is available.

Diagnosis in Adulthood

The onset of most mental health disorders usually happens during the first three decades of life. Mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders, along with psychotic disorders, often emerge during adolescence and early adulthood; however, effective treatment is usually not sought until many years later. Intervention and treatment during the early stages of the mental health disorder may help reduce the severity and/or the persistence of the primary disorder and help prevent secondary disorders that may result.

Mental Health Stigmas for Men

Although diagnosis and treatment is critical for mental health in adulthood, many men do not seek help. There is a stigma attached to a mental health diagnosis and men tend to feel that stigma even more than women. A number of studies have been done on the effects of receiving a mental health diagnosis for men. Although men experience a higher rate of suicide, they are much less likely to seek out treatment for mental health or substance use disorders.

The World Health Organization, in a 2018 report, emphasized that cultural stigma around mental health issues is one of the chief obstacles for people admitting they are struggling and for them to seek help. In a separate study of 360 respondents with direct experience with depression or suicidal thoughts, published in the Community Mental Health Journal, more males than females said they would be embarrassed to seek formal treatment for their depression.

Major Mental Health Disorders Affecting Men

Seeking treatment after receiving a mental health diagnosis in adulthood is critical, for both mental health and physical health in men. The Mental Health Association (MHA) has identified five major mental health problems affecting men, including:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Psychosis and Schizophrenia
  • Eating Disorders

In addition, researchers found that the suicide rate among men in the US is about four times higher than that for women. Although women are more likely to attempt suicide, men are more likely to succeed in their attempts. Almost 31% of men have suffered from a period of depression at some point in their life. At least 9% of men in the US have feelings of depression or anxiety daily. One in three men have taken medication because of their feelings. Only one in four have spoken to a mental health professional.

Mental Health’s Effects on Adults

The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) states that 1 in 5 adults experienced a mental illness in 2019, with 1 in 20 experiencing a serious mental illness. Mental health issues in adults can create other issues, such as with physical health, career and family, and substance use.

Individuals diagnosed with depression have a 40% higher risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases than the general population. The rate of unemployment is higher among adults in the US who have mental illness, as compared to those who do not. Of those adults who have been diagnosed with a mental illness, 18.4% also experience a substance use disorder.

Other findings include the fact that alcohol dependence is twice as high in men than in women. Also, men are more than three times as likely to be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorders than women. When a man develops a substance use disorder and has received a mental health diagnosis, the diagnosis is referred to as co-occurring disorders. Overcoming the stigma of mental health and substance use treatment is critically important for those with this dual diagnosis.

Dual Diagnosis Support for Men

At PACE Recovery, we optimize your recovery success with integrated treatment that will address both your mental health and substance use issues. We address your whole person, including your spiritual, medical, psychosocial, and relational facets.

The professionals at PACE understand the challenges you are facing during this period of isolation and uncertainty. We’re here to help. Our men’s-only programming has transformed hundreds of lives over the years, and we believe that you can recover. To learn more about our mental health and addiction services, contact our Admissions team.

Eating Disorders Among Young Men | National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

February 22-28 is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Although eating disorders are typically associated with women, eating disorders among young men are also a serious concern. Eating disorders can result in major issues that can affect both the individual’s mental and physical health.

Spotlight on Eating Disorders

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is designed to shine the spotlight on eating disorders by providing education, spreading a message of hope, and providing lifesaving resources to those who need them the most. This year’s message invites “every body to have a seat at the table.” One goal of the designated week of awareness is to build a movement that will support those affected by eating disorders, including men.

Types of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are serious and often fatal illnesses that are associated with severe disturbances in an individual’s eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions. Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.

When someone sees themselves as overweight even when they are dangerously underweight, they have anorexia nervosa. Individuals with anorexia nervosa severely restrict the amount of food they eat, often exercise excessively, weigh themselves repeatedly, and/or may force themselves to vomit or use laxatives to lose weight. People with anorexia nervosa experience the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder. Some die from complications associated with starvation. Others die of suicide.

An individual who has recurrent and frequent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food and feeling a lack of control over these episodes has bulimia nervosa. Their episodes of binge-eating are followed by forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise, or a combination, as they try to compensate for their overeating. People with bulimia nervosa can be underweight, normal weight, or overweight.

When a person has lost control over their eating, they have binge-eating disorder. Unlike bulimia nervosa, their binge-eating episodes are not followed by purging, excessive exercise, or fasting, so people with binge-eating disorder often are overweight or obese. Binge-eating disorder is the most common of the eating disorders in the US.

Eating Disorders and Men

The stereotype around eating disorders is that they usually affect women. However, one in three people struggling with an eating disorder is male. Binge eating, purging, laxative abuse, and weight loss fasting are almost as common in men as in women. In the US, eating disorders will affect 10 million men during their lives. Given the stereotype and the cultural bias, though, men are less likely to seek treatment.

Eating disorder prevalence among men and boys is such that males make up a significant percentage of those diagnosed with the most common disorders:

  • Anorexia Nervosa – 25%
  • Binge Eating Disorder – 36%
  • Bulimia Nervosa – 25%

In addition, men with eating disorders often suffer from comorbid conditions such as anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders.

Body Image Differences

Eating disorders among young men often concern their image of their own body. The way that males view their bodies is typically different than body image for women. In men, body image may involve muscularity, as muscle-enhancing goals and behaviors are common among young men and boys. The male population that may have an elevated risk of developing an eating disorders include athletes as well as racial, ethnic, sexual, and gender minorities.

Gender-Specific Treatment for Men with Eating Disorders

Men and boys are typically undiagnosed or under-diagnosed and they may fear the ramifications of seeking help for their disorder. Because of the stereotype, the social stigma, and different needs and dynamics, treatment for eating disorders among young men should be gender-sensitive and gender-specific.

Many of the assessment tests are filled with language geared toward women and girls, which has also led to misconceptions about the nature of these disorders in males. When they do seek treatment, men and boys can feel out of place when the program is predominantly female. An all-male treatment environment is more conducive to the specific needs of men with eating disorders.

Support for Men at PACE Recovery

Eating disorders can negatively impact your physical and mental health and may lead to an addiction to drugs or alcohol. At PACE Recovery, we offer gender-specific treatment options to optimize your recovery success with integrated treatment that will address both your addiction to drugs or alcohol and mental health issues. We address your whole person, including your spiritual, medical, psychosocial, and relational facets.

The professionals at PACE understand the challenges you are facing during this period of isolation and uncertainty. We’re here to help. Our men’s-only programming has transformed hundreds of lives over the years, and we believe that you can recover. To learn more about our mental health and addiction services, contact our Admissions team.

Addressing Complex Childhood Trauma After Adoption

You’ve adopted a child and are ready to make them part of your family. You want to provide a nurturing home, realizing that may have been something that was missing from the child’s life previously. When your adopted child shows signs of trauma, you want to know the best way to help them and to help your family as a unit. Addressing complex childhood trauma after adoption can be challenging but is necessary to guide all members of your family through the healing process.

Childhood Trauma

Some stress in a child’s life can actually help them develop new skills and help their brain to grow. For example, they may be nervous about riding a bike without training wheels for the first time or going to a new school. However, there can be traumatic events in the child’s life that cause their bodies, brains, and nervous systems to adapt in an effort to protect them.

Traumatic events in a child’s life can include neglect, abuse, poverty, separation, bullying, witnessing violence, or erratic parental behavior that is affected by addiction or mental illness. Being in the child welfare system, being placed in foster care, or being placed with an adoptive family can become another traumatic event for a child.

Trauma can result from a stressful experience that overwhelms the child’s natural ability to cope. Just as in adults, the events can cause a “fight, flight, or freeze” response. The trauma can result in physical changes to the body, including a faster heart rate and higher blood pressure. It can also cause changes in how the brain perceives and responds to the world, even when that world now involves a loving father reaching out to include the child in their new family.

Your Child’s Behavior

It can be unsettling and frustrating as a parent when your child “acts out.” It is important to remember that the child’s trauma could result in distrusting or disobeying any adults, feeling disconnected from reality, and increased aggression. Children who are in danger engage in these behaviors to protect themselves. Even after they are in a safer environment, living with a loving adoptive family, their brains won’t necessarily recognize that the danger has passed.

Your child’s behavior may be a result of that learned response to stress. It may take time for the child’s brain and body to learn how to respond in more appropriate ways when they are in a new, safe environment. They will need to learn that they can relax and that their “fight or flight” response is no longer necessary.

Addressing Trauma After Adoption

Children are resilient. With your help as their adoptive father, they can recover from complex childhood trauma. Learn as much as you can about any trauma they may have experienced. Then take the following steps to address the trauma, to help everyone heal.

Identify Trauma Triggers. Be aware of whether something you say or do, or something in your home that may seem harmless, could actually be triggering your child’s trauma reactions. Watch for patterns of behavior or reactions and note what seems to make your child more anxious or results in an outburst. Take care to help your child avoid these triggers until you are able to help them process their trauma and heal.

Be available, emotionally and physically. While it may be difficult, given the child’s potentially aggressive behavior, let them know you are there for them by giving them attention, encouragement, and comfort. You may need to spend extra time with your adopted child as a family. Your child may just need a loving, trusting hug.

Respond but don’t react. Do what you can to calm your child by lowering your voice, acknowledging your child’s feelings, and being honest and reassuring. Don’t take your child’s behavior personally. Help your child find words and more acceptable methods of expressing their feelings. A professional counselor can help with this step as well.

Take the time to listen to your child. Don’t force your child to talk about their experiences but when they are ready to express their feelings, give them your focused attention. Help them process their stress by encouraging them to practice slow breathing, listen to calming music, or repeat positive statements such as “I am safe now.” Most importantly, be patient as your child works through the changes in their life and realizes they are in a secure, loving environment now.

Encourage your child’s self-esteem. When your child has experienced complex childhood trauma, they can have difficulties with their self image as well. You can work with your child to help them to have more positive experiences that will increase their resilience. They can participate in school activities, sports groups, volunteer efforts, and other experiences that will help them feel better about themselves.

Secondary Traumatic Stress

When you are parenting a child who has experienced complex childhood trauma, it can put a strain on your relationship with the child, your relationship with other family members, and on your own physical and mental health. When you are affected in this way by someone else’s trauma, you may be experiencing secondary trauma.

You may need help yourself, to work through the effects of secondary traumatic stress. Self-care, skills training, social support, mindfulness and other stress reducing activities, as well as professional counseling and therapy can be beneficial to you and your family. Strategies such as psychotherapy can help ensure your well-being and provide the resources you need to work with your adopted child and their complex trauma.

Specialists in Adoption-Related Addiction Treatment

When you’re the father of an adopted child who is struggling, healing is possible for you and your family. You are not alone. You have resources available to you, such as the adoption-related treatment program at PACE Recovery. Our unique adoption-specific program can facilitate healing and healthy, productive discussions around adoption, attachment styles, and treatment for mental health issues or substance use.

Today, please contact us to learn more about our mental and behavioral health specialized services for parents of adopted children. Call the PACE Recovery Center team at 800-526-1851 to learn how we can help you or a loved one heal and lead a healthy life in recovery.

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