What About Men & Depression?
Each year, 11 million new cases of depression are diagnosed in the United States. About on in ten of those are men. Depression, as a result, was once (and still is often referred to) considered a “women's disease”. Many doctors believed it was linked to hormones and even premenstrual syndrome. The fact is that ddepression is an illness that knows no gender. Men are less likely to seek help for the condition perhaps because of societal conditioning that depression is a woman's illness...or the belief that seeking out help is somehow 'weak'.
Who knows for sure?
The truth is that regardless of what keeps men from seeking help, the symptoms of depression in both men and women manifest in similar ways. These are:
- persistent sad, anxious or empty mood,
- feelings of hopelessness,
- pessimistic mood,
- loss of interest or decrease in pleasure in hobbies and/or activities,
- decreased energy,
- increased fatigue,
- feeling like you're moving in slow-motion,
- cognitive difficulties,
- trouble concentrating,
- memory problems,
- inability to make decisions,
- sleep difficulties – either too much or too little,
- eating too much or too little,
- suicidal thoughts or attempts,
- fascination with death or dying,
- and more.
Although the symptoms are similar, men may behave a little differently then women (or perhaps cope) differently while in a depressed state. In Jed Diamond's book, Male Menopause, he describes some scenarios such as:
- Women tend to blame themselves whereas men tend to blame others.
- Women avoid conflicts while men create conflicts.
- Women withdraw when they feel hurt whereas men attack.
- Women sleep too much; men sleep too little.
- Women get uncomfortable when they receive praise; men become frustrated if they are frustrated if they are not praised enough.
- Women use food, friends and “love” to self-medicate whereas men use alcohol, TV, sports and sex to self-medicate.
Depression is a treatable illness. In fact, it can be manageable. It does take time – in many cases, it can take up to ten years, three health professionals and a variety of different medications to get it right – but the process can (and does) work.
There are a variety of things you can do to help yourself throughout the process including following a healthy eating plan that reduces the intake of alcohol (or the elimination of it depending upon the medications your taking to manage your condition), sugar, caffeine and any other stimulants, getting regular exercise (at least 30 minutes 4-6 times per week), finding and sticking to a spiritual path and going to group and/or individual psychotherapy sessions. The depressed individual will also have to learn how to love and accept himself...and learn to be gentle with himself while doing it.
A man must find supportive friends, family and professionals to help him in this process and learn that it's okay to seek out this help. Remember that treatment can lessen the severity of the illness and reduce the duration of the episode and may help prevent future bouts of depression.
Real men get depression. Depression is real and it's really okay to seek help! Got that? Good!