Up against an illness that affects two to four times as many women as men, males with chronic fatigue syndrome often feel isolated from their families, society and even from their own concepts of what it means to be a man. Because ME/CFS can be perceived by some as a “women’s illness” men can feel doubly struck down by this condition. Although it might be a bit of a gross generalisation most men do not express their feelings easily, even when feeling sick, and visit doctors less often causing them to suffer in silence.
Typically, men’s self-image or self-worth is connected to their career and their ability support themselves and/or their family. So when they fall ill with a chronic condition they may feel less masculine and want to ignore the symptoms and continue on as normal, thus exacerbating the symptoms. Trying to keep up appearances will just lead to the “push” and “crash” or “boom and “bust” cycles making the illness worse.
While this is not unique to men, women will often try their best to keep their career going despite a chronic illness, there are many societal pressures on men to keep going.
Beyond Blue have a page devoted to Depression and Anxiety in Men when Serious health events and chronic illnesses occur. They also have a Men’s Program. Please also take a look at our page on Depression and Anxiety.
There are other support services specifically for men such as:
- Mensline on 1300 78 99 78 available 24/7;
- Dads In Distress (help and hope for separated Dads) on 1300 853 437;
- Mens Shed – Australian Mens Shed Association. Call 1300 550 009 to find a Men’s Shed in your area, or email: email@example.com (not a helpline).
Research into Men and ME/CFS
Recently Dr. Mary Fletcher and Dr Nancy Klimas and the ME/CFS research team at the Institute for Neuroimmune Medicine at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, USA, have received a very large grant ($1.9 million USD) from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at the NIH. This grant will look for biomarkers in, men with ME/CFS. The grant builds on the work provided by $10 million worth of work on Gulf War Syndrome. It may be first study devoted to specifically understanding this illness in men.