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When was the last time you talked to your mates about your body?
Probably never, right? Research shows that men rarely talk about their health, and they visit the doctor far less frequently than women. This means that if something a bit different is happening with your body, it’s difficult to gauge whether or not you should be concerned.
To help you better identify what’s ‘normal’, we asked Dr Kieran Kennedy, a medical doctor and psychiatry resident, to explain five of the most common issues men tend to be concerned about.
You probably think erection issues only happen to older men, but Kieran says younger men can also have problems in that department.
“As men get older, it is very common, but it’s also quite common for younger, very fit and healthy men to now and then have a bit of trouble getting an erection,” he says. “That’s something I think a lot of men are actually quite surprised about. It can be related to stress, anxiety, sleep, alcohol or drug use.”
If erectile issues become a regular occurrence, or if you notice “any change in sensation or any problems with your waterworks”, see your doctor, Kieran advises.
When it comes to emptying your bowels, there isn’t one definition of what ‘normal’ looks like. One common concern Kieran hears is when coffee or caffeinated drinks, including pre-workout drinks, cause men to need the toilet quickly.
“That’s something that is completely normal and is not a sign of any kind of illness or that anything’s wrong,” he says. “Caffeine intake stimulates the bowel and the bladder.”
Bowel changes to take note of are stools containing blood or other changes that don’t resolve within a couple of days – if that happens, see your doctor.
We typically think of body image issues as something that women experience, but Kieran says more and more men struggle to feel good enough in their bodies. Body dissatisfaction can sometimes lead to dieting, over-exercising, eating disorders or mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
“It is becoming increasingly common for men to feel pressured in terms of working out, maybe feeling a little bit unhappy with their body, or comparing their body to others,” he says. “That is something I’m seeing more in my clinical work.”
If you feel you’ve become overly focussed on your body, it’s causing you stress or anxiety, or you’re developing unhealthy behaviours such as compulsive exercising or crash dieting, your GP can refer you to an expert who can help.
Although men and women both snore, it’s more common in men. Snoring can be frustrating for men and their partners, but it isn’t necessarily a medical problem in itself. However, in some cases it may be a symptom of sleep apnoea, a condition where someone’s throat is fully or partially blocked during sleep, causing them to stop breathing.
“If people are noticing that snoring is affecting their sleep or significantly affecting their partner’s sleep, or they’re noticing that they’re really tired during the day, even after they feel they’ve had an average night’s sleep, check in with your doctor,” Kieran says.
Although men and women both snore, it’s more common in men.
Kieran sees many men going through emotional challenges who don’t know whether their feelings are normal or whether they’re a sign of mental illness. He wants men to know that it’s common to experience challenging emotions if you’re going through stress, big changes or big losses, such as relationship break-ups or job loss.
“It’s not abnormal to experience anxiety, or to feel down for a period of time, or to have things like sleep and appetite not be quite what they normally were,” he says.
“It’s really good to notice and acknowledge those things, but you don’t have to necessarily worry that that means something’s wrong with you.”
If, however, your feelings are severe, have lasted two weeks or more, or are affecting your ability to cope with life at home or work, talk to your GP or contact one of the helplines below.
If you have concerns about your body, the first port of call should be making an appointment with your GP to get personalised advice. Finding a great GP can be tough, which is why at nib, we offer our Find a Provider search tool. This tool allows you to search for health professionals near you and we’ll provide you their contact details and location – all in one convenient location.
If you’re heading to your GP for a check-up, it could be a good opportunity to find out what other examinations you might be due for.
Please note: The tips throughout this article serve as broad information and should not replace any advice you have been given by your medical practitioner.