Depression is a surprisingly common condition.
In fact, each year depressive illnesses affect an estimated 6 million men in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Depression involves the body, mood, and thoughts. It affects how a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things.
People experiencing a depressive illness cannot just “pull themselves together” or “snap out of it” and get better. That’s because depression is a medical condition, and like other medical conditions – whether diabetes, heart disease or cancer – it requires treatment.
Many men, however, do not get the treatment they need because they don’t recognize the signs, admit how they are feeling, or seek help for their depression. While health care providers are more likely to identify depression in women, men often show very different symptoms and have different ways of coping.
In short, while women get sad, men often get mad. When experiencing symptoms of depression – including feeling tired, irritable, angry, discouraged, disinterested, etc. – a man usually will do one of three things:
Deny to himself and everyone else that he might have a problem.
Turn to drugs or alcohol to mask the problem, or throw himself into work to avoid dealing with the issue.
Act out with hostility or aggression, or by doing something dangerous or self-destructive.
What causes depression?
No one is 100 percent sure what causes depression. Most experts agree, however, that it’s probably a combination of factors, including:
Genetics (depression often runs in families).
An imbalance of certain brain chemicals (called neurotransmitters) which help brain cells communicate with each other.
A disorder of the part of the brain that regulates mood, sleep, appetite, behavior, and thinking.
Major life events, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, financial problems, or the birth of a child.
The build-up over time of many smaller, negative life events.
Other personal issues, especially those involving family and work lives, also can cause depression. These may include: conflicts with your partner, feeling like you aren’t living up to expectations, feeling inadequate as a father, having children getting in trouble or having issues at school, money issues, feeling you don’t have as much as you need, or worrying that a personal relationship may not work out.
In addition, job performance and salary are key contributors to the identity of many men. Therefore, contributing factors include disappointment with your career, conflicts with your boss, issues with salary, job security, or control over the work environment. For older men, retirement can be especially difficult.
These all can have a negative impact on life outside the workplace.
Despite these contributing factors, most men feel content with their lives, confirming the fact that depression is not a normal or inevitable part of aging.
Symptoms of depression:
One of the most difficult and confusing aspects of depression is that the symptoms can occur in so many areas, including mood, appetite, sleep patterns, sex drive, behavior, memory, and concentration.
Getting the Help You Need
Not feeling like yourself? One or more symptoms persist, even after several weeks? Are they interfering with your life in any way? If so, it’s important to make some changes immediately.
Review the Symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. Recognizing the problem is half the battle.
Physical and mental health are closely related, and small changes in your lifestyle can improve your overall well-being. Visit Tips To Stay Well for ideas.
You don’t have to do this on your own. Reach out to a family member, friend or peer, and visit the resources page on this website to identify local organizations and professionals who can help.
Asking for help is not a weakness, it’s actually a strength. If someone you cared about was in trouble and needed to talk, what would you tell them? Wouldn’t you be there for them? So why not reach out yourself…take a chance, you have nothing to lose.
Talk to your health care provider. You may simply have a hormone deficiency – something as basic as an underactive thyroid gland. In addition, many men over 50 have low testosterone levels, and replenishing that hormone may make you feel better. If you do have a medical condition, you and your health care provider will work together to come up with an action plan for how to deal with it. If the medical tests come back negative, talk with your health care provider about getting a depression screening.
Don’t wait to take action. With the right treatment, most men who experience mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety or stress can recover and feel like themselves again. It’s never too late to ask for help.