Depression in Men
Male depression is a widespread problem in the United States, and to deal with it, we need to understand how it differs from female depression. Whether it’s because some men are ashamed to admit they have a mental condition or they just aren’t as attuned to their mental health as women, research shows that men tend to ignore symptoms of depression.
Women are more likely to have pure depression than men; men are more likely to have other, co-morbid disorders. Women are more likely to have anxiety in association with their depression, while men are more likely to exhibit signs of substance abuse or conduct disorder.
Some evidence indicates that depression may be even more dangerous for men than for women. Men are more likely than women to commit suicide, although women are more likely to attempt suicide. To make matters worse, men shy away from talking about their feelings, asking for help, and seeking treatment for depression.
Perhaps one of the reasons male depression often goes undiagnosed is that men fear the repercussions of admitting they have a mental disorder. Some research has indicated that men are concerned that their coworkers, friends, and family would look down on them if they sought help for depression. Also, many men fear that their job security, promotion potential, and health benefits would be negatively affected if their coworkers or boss found out they were depressed.
Symptoms of Depression
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) says the following symptoms are common in depression, regardless of gender:
Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
Feelings of hopelessness and pessimism
Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
Decreased energy and increased fatigue
Difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
Restlessness and irritability
Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain
Although these symptoms appear in both men and women who are depressed, studies show that men handle them differently than women. For example, most men don’t realize that physical symptoms—headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain—can be associated with depression. Also, depressed men are less likely to experience sadness, worthlessness, and guilt as symptoms of depression. They are, however, able to experience fatigue, irritability, anger, loss of interest in relationships, decreased interest in hobbies, excessive time spent at work, and sleep disturbances. The more we find out about how depression differs between men and women, the better health professionals will become at recognizing depression in men.
If you think you may be depressed, schedule a visit with your physician. It is possible that another condition—such as an infection, thyroid disorder, or low testosterone—is causing you to feel depressed. Sometimes when this condition is treated, your symptoms will disappear. But, if your physician determines that your symptoms aren’t caused by another condition, you will likely undergo psychological evaluation for depression, either by your physician or a referred mental health professional.
During a psychological evaluation, the doctor will ask you about your symptoms, your drug and alcohol use, whether or not you’ve had thoughts of death and suicide, and if depressive disorders run in your family. Also, the doctor will assess your mental status, including your speech, thought patterns, and memory.
Depending on your diagnosis, treatment for depression may include a combination of medications, psychotherapies, and other therapies thought to help alleviate symptoms of depression.
In addition to your prescribed therapy, the NIMH suggests you incorporate the following strategies into your life to help cope with depression:
Participate in mild exercise
Go to movies, ball games, or other social activities
Set realistic recovery goals
Make it a point to be around people
Find someone to confide in
Expect your mood to improve gradually, not overnight
Postpone important decisions—job changes, changes in your marital status—until your depression has lifted.
Let your family and friends help you cope with depression
It is important for men to understand that depression is a disease of the brain, not a sign of weakness. Depression can be successfully treated, and seeking treatment can improve the quality of life of the man who is depressed, as well as those close to him.
National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Healthhttp://menanddepression.nimh.nih.gov/
National Mental Health Associationhttp://www.nmha.org/
Depression Can Differ in Men and Women. National Institutes of Health (NIH). Available at:http://www.nih.gov/news/NIH-Record/05_15_2001/main.htm Accessed August 13, 2003.
Depression: What You Need to Know. National Mental Health Association. Available at: http://www.nmha.org/infoctr/factsheets/21.cfm Accessed July 31, 2003.
Real Men, Real Depression. National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health (NIH). Available at: http://menanddepression.nimh.nih.gov/default.aspAccessed July 31, 2003.