What You Need to Know About Men and Depression
Have you been feeling a prolonged and overwhelming sense of sadness, irritability, and a loss of interest in things you used to love? It’s possible you may be depressed. Everyone feels a little down from time to time, but when you still feel this way after a few weeks, it’s an indication you should seek help from a mental health professional. This way, you can be evaluated and get an official diagnosis.
Depression has been seen as a health issue only faced by women, but the illness does not discriminate. Women, men, and even children can become crushed under the crippling weight of depression. Dr. Margaret Rutherford, a clinical psychologist who recently completed a study on men and depression, says more women than men typically seek therapy, which explains the myth of depression as a “woman’s disease.”
“Although women can be extremely independent, they are socialized to be more comfortable with asking for help. As one male survey respondent replied, ‘Going to therapy is like asking for directions.’ I don’t think people realize either that depression is not simply a disorder of emotion, it’s disordered thinking as well. ‘I can’t make up my mind like I used to’ or, ‘I’m not thinking straight,’ might be better depression clues for men,” Rutherford told The Cheat Sheet.
Internationally, more than 350 million people have depression, a leading cause of disability, according to the World Health Organization. Men who are diagnosed with depression often feel ashamed and try to hide their illness. If you feel this way, know that you are not suffering alone.
Here are five things you need to know about depression in men and tips on how to get your life back.
1. Recognize the signs
Men exhibit signs of depression and experience symptoms differently than women. Men also utilize different ways of coping. Both men and women with depression tend to be more tired, feel sad, have increased sleep difficulty, and loss of interest in once pleasurable activities. However, men differ in that they may act out by abusing alcohol or controlled substances, work very long hours, and exhibit violent behavior, according to Mayo Clinic research. It’s important to note that depression in men is often missed because symptoms can manifest in uncharacteristic ways such as headaches, irritability, and seeking distraction.
“Men may not recognize depressive symptoms. Their irritability, anger outbursts, throwing themselves into work, or substance use — all common signs of depression in men — are likely to be blamed on other things, discounted, or justified. A man may say, ‘I have to earn a living,’ or ‘You are on me all the time…’ They are feeling the same symptoms as women, but just expressing it differently,” said Rutherford.
A combination of biological, psychological, and social factors can cause depression. However, some common catalysts are money problems, marital discord, problems on the job, and poor health.
2. Seek professional help
If you’ve been feeling down for a long time or are experiencing one or more of the signs and symptoms listed above, get help right away. Psychology Today has an extensive online directory of trained psychologists, clinical social workers, and psychiatrists. Symptoms of depression may be treated with therapy alone or sometimes a combination of both therapy and antidepressants.
3. You are not weak
You may be embarrassed by your depression diagnosis and either deny it or feel the need to hide it from others. However, being depressed is nothing to be ashamed of. Contrary to what others may say or imply, depression is not a sign of weakness. Seeking help requires a tremendous amount of courage and strength.
4. Let your loved ones know what is happening
Make sure that you don’t shut those closest to you out. Let your loved ones know you are dealing with depression and that you will need their support. Don’t try to go it alone. Creating a strong support system will help you move forward with your recovery. If you don’t have a strong support system at home, try looking for a local support group. The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance has an online directory. You can also try an online support group.
On the other hand, if you are the spouse of a man with depression, take time to discuss what you can do to help. Dr. Rutherford recommends taking a gentle approach.
“You can tell him in the gentlest of terms what it’s like for you to watch him change and how you see it affecting him. Don’t approach in anger. That won’t work. (This, of course, does not mean if you are being abused in any way, that you must put up with it.) Two top survey reasons men would consider getting help? If he was at his ‘wit’s end,’ and a close second, ‘I’m having a negative impact on others.’ Letting him know the two of you can work it out practically is also a huge factor in his willingness to seek treatment. The time needed and possible financial issues can be a barrier for many men,” said Rutherford.
5. There is hope
With help from a mental health professional and strong support in place, depression is treatable. However, if you ever feel like you are going to hurt yourself, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.