Depression

Depression in Men

Depression in Men

While clinical depression was once considered a “woman’s disease,” more than 6 million men in the U.S. have at least one episode of major depression each year. Unfortunately, the lingering image of depression as a female condition may keep men who are clinically depressed from recognizing the symptoms of depression and seeking treatment.

Depression actually affects both sexes. It disrupts relationships and interferes with work and daily activities. The symptoms of depression in men are similar to the symptoms of depression in women. But men tend to express those symptoms differently. The most common symptoms of depression include low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts, loss of interest in usually pleasurable activities, fatigue, changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, apathy, and sexual problems, including reduced sex drive. In women, depression may cause them to feel sad and emotional. Depression in men, on the other hand, may cause them to be irritable, aggressive, or hostile.
Why is depression in men commonly not recognized?

Depression in Men

While clinical depression was once considered a “woman’s disease,” more than 6 million men in the U.S. have at least one episode of major depression each year. Unfortunately, the lingering image of depression as a female condition may keep men who are clinically depressed from recognizing the symptoms of depression and seeking treatment.

Depression actually affects both sexes. It disrupts relationships and interferes with work and daily activities. The symptoms of depression in men are similar to the symptoms of depression in women. But men tend to express those symptoms differently. The most common symptoms of depression include low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts, loss of interest in usually pleasurable activities, fatigue, changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, apathy, and sexual problems, including reduced sex drive. In women, depression may cause them to feel sad and emotional. Depression in men, on the other hand, may cause them to be irritable, aggressive, or hostile.
Why is depression in men commonly not recognized?

There are several reasons why the symptoms of clinical depression in men are not commonly recognized. For example, men tend to deny having problems because they are supposed to “be strong.” And American culture suggests that expressing emotion is largely a feminine trait. As a result, men who are depressed are more likely to talk about the physical symptoms of their depression — such as feeling tired — rather than symptoms related to emotions.
Does depression in men affect sexual desire and performance?

Yes. Depression in men can affect sexual desire and performance. Unfortunately, some antidepressants, like SSRIs, can do the same. Men often are unwilling to admit to problems with their sexuality. Many mistakenly feel that the problems are related to their manhood, when, in fact, they are caused by a medical problem such as clinical depression.
What are some observable symptoms of depression in men?

Observable symptoms of depression are not as well understood in men as they are in women. Men are less likely to show “typical” signs of depression, such as crying, sadness, loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, or verbally expressing thoughts of suicide. Depression in men may cause them to keep their feelings hidden. Instead of expressing the depressed mood, they may become more irritable and aggressive.

For these reasons, many men — as well as doctors and other health care professionals — fail to recognize the problem as depression. Some mental health professionals suggest that if the symptoms of depression were expanded to include anger, blame, lashing out, and abuse of alcohol, more men might be diagnosed with depression and treated appropriately.
What are the consequences of untreated depression in men?

Depression in men can have devastating consequences. The CDC reports that men in the U.S. are about four times more likely than women to commit suicide. A staggering 75% to 80% of all people who commit suicide in the U.S. are men. Though more women attempt suicide, more men are successful at actually ending their lives. This may be due to the fact that men tend to use more lethal methods of committing suicide, for example using a gun rather than taking an overdose of pills.

Depression in Men

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Why is depression in men so hard to accept?

Understanding how men in our society are brought up to behave is particularly important in identifying and treating their depression. Depression in men often can be traced to cultural expectations. Men are supposed to be successful. They should rein in their emotions. They must be in control. These cultural expectations can mask some of the true symptoms of depression. Instead, men may express aggression and anger — seen as more acceptable “tough guy” behavior.
Is a stigma attached to depression in men?

Yes. And men generally have a hard time dealing with the stigma of depression. They tend to deal with their symptoms with a macho attitude or by drinking alcohol. This attitude still pervades many male-dominated institutions, such as the military and athletics, where men are taught that “toughness” means putting up with physical pain. Admitting to emotional distress is considered taboo.

Rather than seeking help, which means admitting to what they perceive as a weakness, men are more likely to deal with their depression by drinking heavily or committing suicide.
Is depression common in elderly men?

With aging, men must cope with all kinds of stressors. For example, there is the loss of income and meaningful work. Retirement is difficult for many men because they end up with no routine or set schedule to follow. These changes may increase the stress they feel, and a loss of self-esteem may lead to depression. In addition, the death of family and friends and the onset of illness and health problems can trigger depression in many men.
Is grief difficult for men?

Men deal with the loss of a loved one differently than women. This may also be related to their belief that men must be strong in the face of adversity. Showing emotion, some men feel, is a sign of weakness. Men tend to assume full responsibility for their bereavement and suppress their grief. Studies show that this suppression can increase the time it takes to grieve and lead to complications such as escalating anger, aggressiveness, and substance abuse.
What are some physical symptoms of grief in men?

Physical signs of grief in men may include increased cholesterol levels, ulcers, high blood pressure, and pain. Because many men are unable to openly express their feelings, they deal with grief by taking on more activities — such as working overtime or going on business trips — to occupy their time. They may become involved in risk-taking behavior, such as dangerous sports or compulsive sexual activity. Some addictive behaviors, such as over-consumption of alcohol or drug abuse, can escalate as the result of suppressed grief.
How is depression in men treated?

More than 80% of people with depression — both men and women — can be treated successfully with antidepressant medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. If you are uncertain about whom to call for help with depression, check out the following list from the National Institute of Mental Health:

    * community mental health centers
    * employee assistance programs
    * family doctors
    * family service/social agencies
    * health maintenance organizations
    * hospital psychiatry departments and outpatient clinics
    * local medical and/or psychiatric societies
    * mental health specialists such as psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, or mental health counselors
    * private clinics and facilities
    * state hospital outpatient clinics
    * university or medical school affiliated programs
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