Most men experience significant roadblocks when it comes to treatment for depression. The greatest challenge is that men are more likely to mask their problems or not to talk about them as compared with women.
Depression statistics for men are pretty sobering. While women are twice as likely to experience clinical depression in their lifetimes, men are four times more likely to commit suicide because of it.
As a result, it is imperative for men to be properly diagnosed when clinically depressed and to receive the help they need as quickly as possible.
What Depression in Men Looks Like
While all men are a little different in how they exhibit depression, here are some tell-tale signs:
Physical pain: The saying that depression hurts is true of men. They may experience back pain, headaches, general body aches, digestive issues or sexual dysfunction. Men with depression who go to the doctor because of physical pain may become frustrated because there is no physical explanation for their health problem. These men also may receive medication to help the physical symptoms of depression instead of depression itself.
Self-Destructive Behavior: Many men try to make themselves feel better in unhealthy ways. They may self-medicate through an excessive pursuit of hobbies, substance abuse, alcoholism, or risky sexual encounters.
Hopelessness: Helpless or hopeless feelings are common and can lead to suicide without proper intervention.
Loss of Interest: Activities and relationships that once were fulfilling aren’t anymore.
Fatigue: Men may feel like they are way more tired than they should be for their age. This is another reason for a loss of interest in activities and friends. Some men are too tired to keep those things up even if they wanted to.
Sleep Disturbances: Men may either lose sleep due to high anxiety levels or sleep too much because of fatigue. Sometimes, they experience a combination of both in turns.
Anger: This doesn’t necessarily mean explosive anger or aggressiveness though it can. Sometimes it means a “slow burn” of consistent irritability and low-scale anger. Other times, it simply presents itself as the absence of happiness, inability to have a sense of humor or difficulty smiling.
Appetite Changes: Depressed men may either eat too much or too little. The result, not surprisingly, is either weight gain or loss. The fatigue factor already mentioned can contribute to weight gain as energy for exercise is in short supply.
Difficulty Concentrating: Some depressed men struggle with concentration, staying on task and overall productivity. Job performance may suffer as a result.
Negative Thoughts: This isn’t just the occasional negative thought. Negative thoughts often control depressed men, exacerbating their symptoms in many other ways. It becomes difficult to step back and objectively evaluate negative thoughts and find the truth anymore. These persistent thoughts high jack a previously healthy and well-balanced thought process.
How Depression in Men Can Improve
As already shared, men usually attempt to hide their depression whereas women are more likely to talk about it.
To a lot of men, it’s considered taboo or just not manly to open up about depression.
The opposite actually is true. It takes great courage for a sufferer to admit such a personal struggle.
That being said, the very first thing a male sufferer must do is admit they are depressed. Even if nearly everyone around realizes there is a problem, there is little help until this happens.
Once, arguably, the greatest barrier is scaled (awareness) men can start doing battle with the disease in pointed and intentional ways.
Here are a few things that are helpful:
Increased Social Support
Men, by and large, are not as verbal as women. They struggle more to be in touch with their emotions and identify pitfalls. Men also tend to have greater difficulty forging and maintaining deep friendships.
This is especially a problem when depression presents itself. The natural inclination to isolate or handle things by oneself is already present by nature. Add to that the greater desire to isolate because of the illness and it’s easy to see how quickly things can unravel.
Depressed men need added social support. The occasional banter at work or with a neighbor simply isn’t enough.
Men need to find several “safe” people to share their struggles with who won’t judge them.
Equally, men need to do what they can to avoid overly critical individuals who could create a toxic environment and thereby sabotage their treatment.
In our disconnected society, counseling can help men get their feelings out with less risk of their honest feelings and fears being used against them.
Counseling is also beneficial because deep friendships take time and many men don’t have the time or energy to forge those kinds of friendships (At least at first).
Physical Exercise and a Healthy Diet
In our sedentary culture, depression is far more prevalent. Too often, our bodies become obese and simply don’t work right.
The physical strain on the body can increase risk. Even small amounts of physical exercise can go a long way in improving your mood and making your body function correctly.
Men need not be “macho” and start out with an exercise routine that would scare away an Olympic athlete.
Small, daily consistency is far more important. You need something you can stick with for the long haul. In time, as your symptoms lessen, you’ll be able to increase your routine.
In addition, most men will greatly benefit from a diet free of processed foods. Sugar is also something to steer clear of as it can cause emotional highs and lows.
The best foods are fresh fruits and vegetables and lean proteins. Avoid foods that would require a chemist to explain the ingredients to you!
Visit a Therapist
As already shared, therapy can go a long way in helping depressed men to open up about their struggles.
Sometimes just having a nonjudgmental, trustworthy person to listen improves quality of life significantly. Your therapist can also help you come up with a plan to help you fight depression in a variety of ways.
Although depression for men can seem like an insurmountable challenge, there is help and there is hope.
By taking consistent, small steps over time, the suffering of depressed men can decrease dramatically.