Vitiligo can have a significant impact on a person’s self esteem. In fact, studies suggest a person’s self confidence can be severely impacted because of the visible nature of the condition. This, over time, can lead to low self esteem, anxiety, depression and other mental health problems.
For men, these issues can be even more pronounced, not only because men are expected and more likely to hide their emotions but because body confidence issues are not as openly discussed as they are for women, yet studies have revealed men experience the same concerns around trying to achieve the ‘perfect body’ as women do. Mainstream media, social media and peer pressure are the most common reasons why such pressures exist.
But how do mental health issues present themselves in men?
Vitiligo and self-esteem
Any visual difference can make us feel self-conscious and anxious in certain situations because it’s something that separates us from others and takes us away from what society believes is the ‘norm’. Often, it can make us feel as though we are on a emotional rollercoaster because of the stress and anxiety a visual difference such as vitiligo can place upon us, which can often lead to an individual experiencing a range of social and emotional repercussions.
Everyone responds differently to vitiligo; it’s a very individual journey for all of us. For some men, vitiligo can have a positive effect because it’s something that can make us feel unique and special. But others may not feel the same way, and instead can feel angry, lonely and/or depressed. For men in particular, the discussions around body image and appearance are far less prominent, making it harder for men to vocalise how they feel and the issues they’re facing on days when they don’t feel as confident. Coping with these feelings every day can be a challenge and it can take its toll on a person’s mental health and wellbeing.
Depression in men
Statistics show that men are typically less likely to reach out for support or seek help for mental health issues including depression, because of the notion that they are supposed to be tough and self-reliant. It can be harder for men to acknowledge when they need help, particularly where emotions are concerned because for many years they were encouraged to hide their feelings because it was the ‘manly’ thing to do. It can often mean that men remain undiagnosed because of these traditional views upheld about men. However, over recent years things have slowly started to change and men are being encouraged to express how they feel and seek support from organisations that specialise in male depression and anxiety.
Spotting the signs
The side effects of mental health issues for men can vary depending on the individual, but there are some common signs that you may notice, either in yourself or a male you might suspect could be struggling:
- Anger or aggressive behaviour
- Irritability and frustration
- Intense agitation
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed
- Withdrawing and isolating themselves
- Abusing alcohol or drugs
- Significant weight changes or changes to their appearance
Often, someone with mental health concerns will experience several of the common symptoms of depression or anxiety but they may not always notice it in themselves. This could be because they are in denial and don’t want to admit to being depressed or are unsure of what the symptoms are and so choose to ignore it and carry on.
While a difficult conversation to have, it’s important that men struggling with their mental health feel supported and cared for, and that often starts with trust in those they can talk to which can help them to see the reality of their situation. Providing a safe space where they can talk and be open is vital to someone feeling supported.
How men can manage depression
Depression can be a very hard subject to speak about and it requires sensitivity and care. But it’s a necessary step in tackling the problem as it might just be the conversation that helps someone you know, acknowledge how they feel and what’s causing it which can lead to them seeking professional help.
Talking to a friend, relative or a professional about your feelings can be helpful in getting to the root of what’s causing your mental health concerns. When you’re dealing with self-esteem and body confidence issues it can be easy to feel consumed by your emotions.
Talking to someone who is non-judgemental can help you to broaden your mindset and help you to see things from a different perspective. Exercise can also help, not only in improving your mental health through the release of endorphins but also by boosting your confidence and how you perceive your body. It also helps with encouraging you to form a routine.
In some cases, professional help may be more beneficial, however making an appointment with your GP to discuss how you are feeling, can be hard. They’ll be able to advise on what type of treatment might work for you as every situation is different to others. Some men may benefit from psychological support, such as talking therapies and CBT which has proved to be effective for those with vitiligo. Others may benefit from antidepressants or a combination of the two. Talking to a medical professional will help you determine the best route for you and your situation.
From engaging in activities you enjoy, to talking about how you feel with a professional or a friend and exercising and eating well to maintain your body confidence, there are a number of different ways you can manage your feelings, whilst attempting to change your outlook from negative to positive. Reaching out to vitiligo support groups to speak with others who have the condition is incredibly useful, as talking to others who are on a similar journey can ease the emotional impact of vitiligo.
It’s not uncommon for those diagnosed with vitiligo to feel ashamed, worried, or depressed about how they look or how others will perceive them, but there is plenty of support for people of all ages and backgrounds to help with living a happy and healthy life with vitiligo.