Men and Depression
Women who are depressed often feel sad, guilty, hopeless, and worthless - and many find that their appetites and sleeping habits have changed.
Many men with depression may likely have different symptoms. These can include fighting with their spouses, losing interest in sports or sex, working six or seven days a week, and becoming even more uncommunicative than they usually are.
“And, instead of asking for help, some men who are depressed are likely to drink alcohol to excess, take drugs, or become frustrated, discouraged, irritable, and sometimes abusive or violent,” says Reed Schimmelfing, M.S.W., a therapist in Northampton, Mass., who specializes in men’s mental health. “Men also can become self-destructive when depressed, which is played out by engaging in dangerous behaviors, such as driving too fast or engaging in high-risk unprotected sex.”
These behaviors are often an attempt by men to hide their depression, which they see as a weakness.
“To help men, it’s important for family members, employers, and men themselves to realize it’s dangerous to accept society’s expectations that men should ignore emotional pain,” he says.
It’s dangerous to family members who can be targets of domestic violence, dangerous to strangers who may bear the brunt of anger and reckless behavior, and dangerous to the men themselves, who suffer a high rate of depression-related suicide.
“Men are more prone to suicide because they’re less likely to recognize they’re in trouble,” Schimmelfing explains. “And, although more women attempt suicide than men, men are more likely to be successful.”
In addition, because of a cultural stigma that labels men who need help as weak and vulnerable, they often fear being diagnosed with a mental illness could cost them the respect of their family and friends, or their standing in the workplace.
“In a culture that expects males to be tough and independent, many men are reluctant to seek therapy,” Schimmelfing explains. “They feel ashamed that they can’t solve their problems by themselves, which can isolate them further.”
Help is available
One of the most important steps men can take to preserve their mental health is to establish a network of family and friends to rely on.
Here are other steps that may help:
Seek help. The first step to getting appropriate treatment for depression is a physical exam by your health care provider. Certain medications, as well as some medical conditions, can cause symptoms similar to depression, so your doctor should rule out these possibilities first. If no such cause is found, ask your doctor to refer you to a psychologist, therapist, or psychiatrist.
Exercise regularly—every day—if you can. Numerous studies have demonstrated exercise can combat depression and stress almost as well as some medications.
Take a look at your life. Are you happy in your job and relationships? If not, what can you do to make things better?
Read a book on depression. “Spend time in a bookstore until you find a book on depression that speaks to you,” says Schimmelfing. “This will give you a resource you can learn from in private.”