5 Ways Stress Affects Men’s Health

By January 10, 2022Guest Post

Stress affects all people, regardless of sex. Signs of stress can range from racing thoughts and trouble sleeping to tense muscles and even lower sex drive. While most symptoms are experienced by both sexes, research shows that men may have different emotional and craving responses to stress when compared to women.

In a separate study, women reportedly experience greater sadness, anxiety and fear than men. They are more likely to open up about their feelings with loved ones and seek professional help more readily. Men, on the other hand, tend to conceal their emotions by venting through physical activities or alcohol use instead of voicing them out. However, being dismissive of stress does not make them immune from its effects. In fact, this act of coping response common to men can make them more vulnerable to serious health conditions linked to long-term stress.

What Is Stress?

The A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia defines stress as “a feeling of emotional or physical tension”. It occurs when a person experiences changes or challenges in certain situations that can be difficult to handle. Surprisingly, though, stress has its own benefits too. In fact, the human body is designed to experience stress and learn how to manage it. Eustress is considered a type of stress that motivates people to achieve their goals and is, therefore, considered beneficial. For example, if you have an important work deadline coming up, stress responses help your body adjust to that situation by working harder to meet your goal. 

As helpful as it sounds, stress becomes a problem called distress when stressors persist in a sustained period without signs of relief. Too much distress can lead to mental and physical health conditions if left unchecked. In some cases, men with chronic distress tend to manage it with unhealthy behaviours, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, using drugs or overeating, which only exacerbate the issue. Therefore, it is vital to understand the impact of stress as well as find suitable coping strategies and natural solutions like CBD to help address the issue.

Common Effects of Stress In Men

The difference in the coping mechanisms between men and women is what leads to higher rates of diseases associated with chronic stress in men. Stress can take a toll on several aspects of a man’s life, including his emotions, behaviours, sexual desires, cognitive abilities and physical health. Here’s how stress influences men’s overall health and wellbeing.

Changes In Women Preferences

It might sound strange, but the female’s body size that most men find attractive can possibly change when under stress. One study suggests that men placed in stressful situations or environments are likely to choose women with heavier frames than their unstressed counterparts who idealise lean body figures. 

The researchers examined 81 heterosexual men in a spontaneous job interview, where they were asked to rank images of 10 women with different body sizes ranging from skinny to overweight based on their physical attractiveness. Women were numbered according to their body mass index (BMI) scale, with 1 being the most emaciated and 10 being the heaviest. In conclusion, many of the stressed men rated number 7, which fell in the obese category, as the most attractive. The unstressed group, however, picked number 3, whose BMI was considered normal.

The results are linked to evolutionary theories suggesting that slimmer women in countries with scarce resources may manifest weakness and lower capacity to sustain a pregnancy. Heavier bodies, on the other hand, may indicate higher social status to afford food in poor environments. This quality is what men suffering from physiological, economic or social stress may look for in a potential partner, thereby causing a shift in physical attractiveness preferences in stressed men.

Emotional Eating

Stress makes some guys eat their worries away, causing them to overeat and gain weight. But, why food exactly? Here’s the deal. Too much stress often results in a feeling of emptiness, also known as emotional void. Some people believe that eating can comfort themselves by filling that void and creating a sense of “fullness”, even for a short time. On a more scientific note, chronic stress stimulates the secretion of a naturally-occurring steroid hormone called cortisol into the bloodstream. While it’s a normal immune response to stress, an increased level of cortisol can boost overall motivation, including the motivation to eat. Food may help counter the influence of daily stressors, but it’s important to understand the difference between physical and emotional hunger to make it work.

Skin Conditions

Oily skin is another significant result of increased cortisol levels due to stress. Cortisol causes the sebaceous glands under the skin’s surface to produce more sebum (oil) than what the skin requires. It is well known that excessive oil is the skin’s number one enemy, the root cause of all breakouts ranging from acne to blackheads, blemishes and other skin impurities. 

To make it worse, stress can impact your lifestyle choices negatively. For instance, it is not likely for men going through a difficult time to keep with their grooming routines. Perhaps, skincare becomes one of the least priorities when struggling to tackle a significant cause of stress. Lack of grooming due to stress can be seen visibly as the effects wreak havoc on your skin.

Erectile Dysfunction

As you age, your risk of developing erectile dysfunction (ED) also increases. However, ageing is not the only one to blame. In some cases, men can experience erectile dysfunction from time to time, especially when they are stressed. There are three types of erections. Namely, they are reflexive erection (a result of physical stimulation), psychogenic erection (visual or mental associations) and nocturnal erection (occurs during sleep). Erectile dysfunction is a result of certain disruptions in any of these processes.

Stress, for example, affects how the brain signals your body to create physical or psychological responses. In the case of a psychogenic erection, stress affects the erection process by interrupting the way your brain sends signals to the reproductive organ to allow extra blood flow and cause erection. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine has found that posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in some veterans increased their risk for erectile dysfunction by roughly three times or more.

Suicidal Ideations

High anxiety levels caused by severe stress can increase the risk of suicidal ideations in men. As previously stated, men are less likely to disclose feelings of anxiety and depression to other people. Even if they do, men will likely describe such feelings as stress at work or in relationships instead of extreme sadness or hopelessness. Looking at how men and women handle daily life stresses differently, one may find some clarity on why men’s suicide rates are often higher. In the UK alone, suicide remains the most common cause of death among men.

Final Thoughts

To say that stress is not going anywhere is an understatement. Everyone may experience stress in one form or another. Since it’s here to stay, the best way to cope with stress is to learn how to deal with it. Indeed, this can be easier said than done, but deep breathing, eating right and regular exercising and mindful meditating can help. In case you/your loved one is having suicidal thoughts, do not hesitate to seek help from a trained counsellor.

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