Common Signs of Depression in Men
We’re all bound to feel a bit sad at times or find ourselves struggling to fall asleep for one reason or another. While these feelings may last for a little while and then go away, depression is a serious mood disorder that can cause severe symptoms and seriously affect your day-to-day life. The term “mood disorder” indicates how depression affects a person’s ability to feel, think, and handle daily activities.
If you find that you are feeling irritable, isolated, or withdrawn, or if you find yourself working all the time or drinking too much, you may be making use of unhealthy coping strategies that may indicate that you have depression. There are several types of depression, including Major Depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder, Persistent Depressive Disorder, Psychotic Depression, Bipolar Disorder, and Minor Depression.
The symptoms and causes underlying these common types of depression differ, but the symptoms must last at least two weeks and represent a change in your previous level of functioning for a diagnosis of depression to be made.
Depression is a widespread reality, with many people across the United States and the world afflicted by it. Having depression is not a sign of weakness, and thanks to the gradual removal of stigma around mental health, many successful men have come forward and acknowledged their struggles with depression and other mental health challenges.
This is encouraging as more men feel emboldened to step forward and recognize that what they’re struggling with is nothing to be ashamed of and addressing it sooner could save their lives.
According to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 19.4 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode, and this figure represented 7.8% of all U.S. adults. While the prevalence of major depressive episodes was higher among adult females (9.6%), around 6% of males had depressive episodes, and the prevalence of adults with a major depressive episode was highest among individuals aged 18-25 at around 15.2%.
Knowing the Signs of Depression in Men
Sometimes the signs of depression in men go unnoticed or they don’t get addressed appropriately, and that happens for several reasons. First, many men have been taught to bottle up and not talk about their feelings. If you’re feeling down, you’re supposed to just power through it and get the job done, right?
The reluctance to discuss feelings may make a man unwilling to talk about his depression symptoms with family or friends, let alone with a doctor or mental health professional. Like many men, one may have learned to emphasize self-control or emotional detachment, thinking that it’s not manly to express feelings and emotions associated with depression, leading to attempts to suppress them.
Second, not only do some men feel reluctant to discuss what they’re feeling, but they can go to great lengths to downplay the signs and symptoms of depression. Whether a person doesn’t see for themselves how the symptoms of depression are affecting them, or whether they simply struggle to admit that something is wrong, they may try to ignore, mask, or suppress their depression.
Third, some of the symptoms of depression in men may be masked behind what is viewed as typical male behavior. Thus, aggression and irritability may be mistaken for being on edge or stressed, while they may be pointing to depression instead. Aside from masked symptoms of depression, a man may also simply fail to recognize depression. This is because feeling sad or emotional is not always the primary symptom of depression.
For many men, digestive problems, headaches, tiredness, irritability, or long-term pain can sometimes suggest depression, as can feeling isolated and seeking out various distractions to avoid dealing with their feelings or with relationships that are affected by the depression.
Lastly, one last obstacle for men struggling with depression is simply that they may resist mental health treatment, either by avoiding a proper diagnosis or refusing treatment after receiving a diagnosis from a mental health professional. Sometimes people avoid treatment because of the stigma of depression and fears over how it might affect how people relate to and perceive them.
Below are some of the signs of depression in men. If you suspect that you may be depressed, seek the help you need from a mental health professional.
Men may exhibit a variety of symptoms, but some common ones include:
- Irritability, aggression, anger, or controlling, violent or abusive behavior
- Suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts
- Feeling anxious or “on edge”
- Losing interest in the hobbies and activities you previously enjoyed, like sports, work, or hanging out with friends and family
- Isolating yourself or withdrawing from your loved ones
- Risky behavior, such as reckless driving
- Struggles with sleep – fatigue, insomnia, or too much sleep
- Changes in your eating habits. Some people will try to address their emotions by eating comfort foods that elevate mood in the short term. Sugary and fatty foods can be attractive in this regard but lead to weight gain and attendant health issues. while some overeat, others will not want to eat at all
- Unwanted changes in your weight, whether gain or loss
- Inability to concentrate on work, being indecisive, lacking motivation and drive
- Low libido, or having problems with sex
- Physical aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems
- Inability to meet the responsibilities of work, caring for family, or other important activities
- Engaging in high-risk activities
- Alcohol or drugs abuse
- Escapist behavior such as spending a lot of time at work or on sports
Each man is different, and so not every man who is depressed experiences every symptom. While some men may experience only a few symptoms, others may experience many more.
How Depression Affects Men’s Lives
As one can imagine, depression not only affects the person experiencing it but the people in their lives as well. No man is an island, and whatever we go through has some kind of impact on our lives, and the lives that are touched by our own.
While both men and women can both experience depression, because men who are depressed may simply appear to be feeling angry or aggressive, their loved ones or even their doctors, may not always realize that the anger or aggression are symptoms of depression. Depression affects a person’s mood, and that means it affects how they do life and interact with others.
A man’s family may slowly begin to lose him as he withdraws and isolates himself because of depression. His wife and children may note an edge of anger and irritability in their everyday interactions with him, affecting the family’s sense of intimacy. At work, he may become less productive or more difficult to work with, affecting his career and work relationships.
Some men may turn to drugs or alcohol to try to cope with their emotional symptoms, which can cause additional problems. Also, while women with depression are more likely to attempt suicide, men are more likely to die by suicide. This is because men tend to use more lethal methods.
Additionally, they may act more impulsively on suicidal thoughts after having shown fewer warning signs, such as talking about suicide. Depression has a profound effect on a man’s life and needs to be taken seriously.
How to Handle Depression Well
If you have been diagnosed with depression or suspect you have it, what’s the best course of action? For one thing, acknowledge it and recognize it for what it is; you just can’t power through depression and the sooner you recognize that, the better.
The stigma around mental health can prevent a man from admitting the problem and seeking help for it. Many successful men struggle with mental health challenges such as depression – seeking help isn’t a sign of failure or weakness.
Second, find help, for your sake and that of your loved ones. Get a proper diagnosis from a mental health professional. If your doctor creates a treatment plan for you, which may include a combination of therapy and medication such as antidepressants, stick to your treatment plan, and don’t deviate from it without talking to your doctor first.
Consider joining a men’s health group that deals with depression. If you’re feeling suicidal, but you aren’t immediately thinking of hurting yourself, seek help by reaching out to a trusted friend, loved one, spiritual leader, or call a suicide center hotline. You can also make an appointment with your doctor or mental health professional.
Your treatment plan can help you learn healthy coping skills which may include:
- Delaying making important decisions such as relinquishing relationships or changing jobs until your depression symptoms improve.
- Learning strategies for making social connections and seeking out emotional support from your loved ones.
- Setting realistic goals and learning how to prioritize tasks.
- Learning ways to manage stress, such as meditation and mindfulness, and developing problem-solving skills.
Lastly, you should take care of your physical well-being by sleeping well, eating well, and making sure you’re being physically active through exercise or engaging in activities you typically enjoy, such as ball games, swimming, or some other hobby. Try to stick to a regular schedule and make consistent, healthy lifestyle choices.
“Pondering”, Courtesy of Karl Fredrickson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Brown-Haired Man”, Courtesy of Brooke Cagle, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Man With Glasses”, Courtesy of Ben Tofan, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Man With Glasses”, Courtesy of Amir Riazipour, Unsplash.com, CC0 License