Male depression is a serious medical condition, but many men try to ignore it or refuse to talk about it and refuse treatment; it can strike anyone at any time.
Mental illness is unique. It comes in different forms; it can strike anyone at any time.
We live in an ever changing world and society judges you based on how they see you, good or bad.
For those of us with mental issues, especially for men, society has put a big label around our necks claiming that we are unstable, unable to cope with modern life, we carry a stigma.
Men are not supposed to suffer from depression; it’s not within our DNA.
Depression is an illness, depression doesn’t discriminate, it finds it home in anyone, and we never know when it may strike and to whom. The frightening thought is that it may live you.
Here is a sobering thought for all men:
Why do People working in mental health services see far fewer men with depression?
On the face of it, men seem likely to suffer from depression just as often as women, but the underlying problem is that MEN ARE LESS LIKELY TO ASK FOR HELP.
Depression in men is treatable just like when it affects a woman, but it must be treated as early as possible. The key to this is that men need to find out about:
- What is depression
- How to get effective help.
So what is depression?
Depression is more than simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days.
Most people go through periods of feeling down, but when you’re depressed you feel persistently sad for weeks or months, rather than just a few days.
Some people think depression is trivial and not a genuine health condition. They’re wrong – it is a real illness with real symptoms. Depression isn’t a sign of weakness or something you can “snap out of” by “pulling yourself together”.
Depression is not a choice.
I was diagnosed with depression about 5 years ago, which came as a bit of a shock. It sort of just crept up on me, there were signs that things were not as they should be, but like most men, I just shrugged it off and went on if nothing was wrong.
For me, depression was something I knew nothing about and had no idea on how to ask for help if being honest I was more ashamed than scared.
Each day was a challenge, each day was different. Feelings ranged from being sad, sometimes feeling empty, and sometimes feeling absolutely nothing at all.
No one day was the same. Depression is not just a bad day or a bad mood and it’s not something someone can just “get over.” Remember no one chooses to be depressed.
Thankfully today I have come through the illness, and I call it an illness because it is. Treatment for me was prescribed drugs which I came off a couple of years ago, much to my relief, and since then I have taken the time to learn more about mental illness.
But even today I am mindful that my depression can come back if I lose sight of who I have become over last 5 years which has meant that I have to learn more about myself and what makes me happy, which has been a journey on which I am still travelling.
Even now, 5 years on, I’m not the same as I was. I don’t like to be on my own, I find it difficult to socialise and my work has changed. There are countless other little things as well. This is because my depression completely changed my entire outlook on life, and it changed who I was as a person
While doing some research on depression within men I came across this article, upon reading it, it just gave more inspiration to carry on with my own fight to beat my depression. If you want to leave any comments on this story please feel free.
Depression in Men is Different
Men have a different view of themselves compared to the opposite sex, we tend to be far more concerned with being competitive, powerful and successful.
If you were like me, most men don’t like to admit they feel fragile or vulnerable, and so are less likely to talk about their feelings with their friends, loved ones or their doctors.
Again my first-hand experience of this caused me to question so many things within my life and I didn’t have the answers to, which to be brutally honest kept me in the same spiral.
This may be the reason depressed men often don’t ask for help. Men tend to feel they should rely only on themselves and it is somehow weak to have to depend on someone else, even for a short time. Just because someone is depressed doesn’t mean that they’re weak.
This traditional view of how men should be – always tough and self-reliant – is also held by some women. Some depressed men actually find their partner rejects them because of their depression. Even professionals sometimes share this view, and may not diagnose depression in men when they should.
Symptoms of Depression in Men
- Feeling sad or unhappy
- High levels of anxiety
- Low energy
- Difficulties concentrating
- Feeling worthless or hopeless
- Losing interest in activities or people
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of sex drive
- Lapses in personal hygiene, such as not bathing or shaving as regularly
- Thoughts of suicide
The symptoms for some types of male depression may also include extreme opposites of those listed above; for example, unusually high or prolonged levels of energy, significant weight gain and so on.
Male depression often goes diagnosed
Men with depression often aren’t diagnosed for several reasons, including:
- Failure to recognise depression. You may think that feeling sad or emotional is always the main symptom of depression. But for many men, that isn’t the primary symptom. For example, headaches, digestive problems, tiredness, irritability or long-term pain can sometimes indicate depression.
- Downplaying signs and symptoms. You may not recognise how much your symptoms affect you or you may not want to admit to yourself or to anyone else that you’re depressed. But ignoring, suppressing or masking depression with unhealthy behaviour will only worsen the negative emotions.
- Reluctance to discuss depression symptoms. You may not be open to talking about your feelings with family or friends, let alone with your doctor. For many men, we have learnt to emphasise self-control. You may think it’s not manly to express feelings and emotions associated with depression, and you try to suppress them.
- Resisting mental health treatment. Even if you feel you may be depressed, you may avoid diagnosis or refuse treatment. You may avoid getting help because you’re worried that the stigma of depression could damage your career or cause family and friends to lose respect for you.
How Depressed Men Cope
Instead of talking about how they feel, depressed men may try to make themselves feel better by using alcohol or drugs. This will usually make things worse in the long run. Their work will suffer and alcohol often leads to irresponsible, unpleasant or dangerous behaviour.
Men with depression also tend to give their work a higher priority than their home life, which produces conflicts with their wives or partners. All of these things have been shown to make depression more likely.
Depressed Men and Relationships
For married men, research has shown trouble in a marriage is the single most common problem connected with depression. Depressed men can’t cope with disagreements as well as women. Arguments actually make men feel very physically uncomfortable.
So, they try to avoid arguments or difficult discussions. Depression in men often leads to the situation where a man’s partner will want to talk about a problem, but he will not and will do his best to avoid talking about it.
The partner feels they are being ignored and tries to talk about it more, which makes the depressed man feel he is being nagged. So, he withdraws even more, which makes his partner feel even more that they are being ignored . . . and so on. This vicious circle in male depression can quite easily destroy a relationship.
It’s worth remembering that it can happen the other way round. Impotence (difficulty in getting or keeping an erection) can be a cause of depression in men. Again, this is a problem for which it is usually possible to find effective help.
Helping Men with Depression
Many depressed men find it difficult to ask for help – it can feel unmanly and weak. It may be easier for men to ask for help if those who give that help take into account men’s special needs.
Men with depression are more likely to talk about the physical symptoms of their depression rather than the emotional and psychological ones.
This may be one reason why doctors sometimes don’t diagnose male depression. If you are feeling wretched, don’t hold back – tell your doctor.
It can help to be reminded depression is a result of chemical changes in the brain. Depression in men is nothing to do with being weak or unmanly, and it can easily be helped.
Antidepressants are often an important part of getting better – and it’s important to remember this sort of medication is not addictive.
If a depressed man is married, or in a steady relationship, his partner should be involved so she can understand what is happening. This will make it less likely for the male depression to cause permanent problems in their relationship.
Some men don’t feel comfortable talking about themselves and so may be reluctant to consider psychotherapy. However, it is very powerful and works well for many men with depression.
Male Depression Self-Help
Don’t bottle things up.
If you’ve had a major upset in your life, try to tell someone how you feel about it.
Get out of doors and get some exercise, even if it’s only a walk. This will help to keep you physically fit and you will sleep better. It can also help you not to dwell unhelpfully on painful thoughts and feelings.
A man with depression may not feel very hungry, but you should eat a balanced diet, with lots of fruit and vegetables. It’s easy to lose weight and run low on vitamins when you are depressed.
Men with depression may find alcohol makes them feel better for a couple of hours, but it will make the depressed man more depressed in the long run.
Do something restful that you enjoy.
Like listening to the radio or watching television. (Depression and sleep)
Use relaxation techniques.
If you feel tense all the time there are many ways of helping yourself to relax. These include exercises, audio-tapes, yoga, massage, aromatherapy etc.
Do something you enjoy.
Set some time aside regularly each week to do something you really enjoy – exercise, reading, a hobby.
Check out your lifestyle.
A lot of men with depression are perfectionists and tend to drive themselves too hard. You may need to set yourself more realistic targets and reduce your workload.
Take a break.
This may be easier said than done, but it can be really helpful to get away and out of your normal routine for a few days. Even a few hours can be helpful.
Read about depression.
There are now many books about male depression. They can help you to cope, but can also help friends and relatives to understand what you are going through.
Get enough sleep. When you don’t get enough sleep, your depression symptoms can be worse. Sleep deprivation exacerbates anger, irritability, and moodiness. Aim for somewhere between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
Reduce stress. Too much stress exacerbates depression but there are healthy ways to cope. A daily relaxation practice can help relieve symptoms of depression, reduce stress, and boost feelings of joy and well-being. Try yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation.
Seek social support to reduce stress and feel happier
Work commitments can often make it difficult for men to find time to maintain friendships, but close relationships are vital to helping you get through this tough time.
- The simple act of talking to someone face to face about how you feel can be an enormous help.
- The person you talk to doesn’t have to be able to fix you; they just need to be a good listener, someone who’ll listen attentively without being distracted or judging you.
- If you don’t feel that you have anyone to turn to, it’s never too late to build new friendships and improve your support network.
Make healthy lifestyle changes to lift your mood
Positive lifestyle changes can help lift depression and keep it from coming back.
In the long run, this depression might be helpful – It’s unpleasant to have it, but some men with depression find it to be a useful experience, and some people emerge stronger and coping better than before. You may see situations and relationships more clearly and may now have the strength and wisdom to make important decisions and changes that you were avoiding before.
Getting More Help with Male Depression
The best place to start is your general doctor. He or she will be able to assess a man for depression and discuss the options for treatment of depression.
It is true many depressed men are concerned the information held by their family doctors may need to be given in medical reports and so may damage their chances in work. In spite of this, your family doctor is the best person to approach.
Male depression may be due to physical illness, so it is important you have a proper physical check-up.
If you are already receiving treatment for some physical disorder, your doctor will need to know because of the possible interactions between drugs.
Any worries about confidentiality should be discussed with your doctor.
We really shouldn’t feel embarrassed or ashamed about it.
The most important thing to remember is to ask for the help you need when you need it. If you need more information on male depression, or to talk to somebody confidentially, the following lists of publications and other organisations may be helpful.
“Remember – depression is easily treatable and you are entitled to the help you need.”