Male depression: Understanding the issues
Do you feel irritable, isolated or withdrawn? Do you find yourself working all the time? Drinking too much? These unhealthy coping strategies may be clues that you have male depression.
Depression can affect men differently than it does women. When depression occurs in men, it may be more severe than in women and can be masked by unhealthy coping behavior. For a number of reasons, male depression often goes undiagnosed. Male depression usually gets better with treatment, but it can have devastating consequences when it goes untreated.
Male depression signs and symptoms
Depression signs and symptoms can differ in men and women. Men also tend to use different coping skills — both healthy and unhealthy — than women. It isn't clear why men and women may experience depression differently. It likely involves a number of factors, including brain chemicals, hormones and life experiences.
Like women, men with depression may feel blue or may not get pleasure from activities they once enjoyed. But a few other things commonly show up in men that may not be recognized as depression signs and symptoms:
- Escapist behavior, such as spending a lot of time at work or on sports
- Alcohol or substance abuse
- Controlling, violent or abusive behavior
- Inappropriate anger
- Risky behavior, such as reckless driving
- Infidelity or unhealthy sexual relationships
Male depression often goes undiagnosed
Men with depression often aren't diagnosed, for several reasons. Some of them include:
- Failure to recognize depression. If you're like many men, you may think that feeling sad or emotional is always the main symptom of depression. But for many men that isn't the primary depression symptom. For example, headaches, digestive problems, fatigue, irritability or chronic pain can sometimes indicate depression. So can feeling isolated and seeking distraction to avoid dealing with feelings or relationships.
- Downplaying signs and symptoms. You may not recognize how much your symptoms affect you, or you may not want to admit to yourself or to anyone else that you're depressed. But ignoring, suppressing or masking depression with unhealthy behavior won't make it go away.
- Reluctance to discuss depression symptoms. As a man, you may not be open to talking about your feelings with family or friends, let alone with a health care professional. Like many men, you may have learned to place an emphasis on self-control. You may think it's "unmanly" to express feelings and emotions associated with depression, and instead you may try to suppress them.
- Resisting mental health treatment. Even if you suspect you have depression, you may avoid diagnosis or refuse treatment. You may avoid getting help because you're worried that the stigma of depression could damage your career or cause family and friends to lose respect for you.
Male depression and suicide
Although women attempt suicide more often than men, men are more likely to complete suicide. Men may be more likely than women to complete suicide because:
- They use methods that are more likely to be lethal, such as guns
- They act more quickly on suicidal thoughts
- They show fewer warning signs, such as talking about suicide
When you have suicidal thoughts
If you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, get help right now:
- Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
- Call a suicide hot line number — in the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to reach to a trained counselor.
If you're feeling suicidal but you aren't immediately thinking of hurting yourself:
- Reach out to a close friend or loved one — even though you may be reluctant to talk about your feelings.
- Seek help from your doctor, a mental health provider or other health care professional.
- Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone in your faith community.
- Call a suicide crisis center hot line.
- Make an appointment with your primary care doctor or other health care provider or mental health provider.
Get help when you need it
Asking for help can be hard for men. You may not recognize your depression symptoms or you may downplay your feelings. You may see depression as a weakness and be reluctant to bring it up with your doctor.
But without treatment, depression is unlikely to go away, and it may get worse. Untreated depression can make you and the people close to you miserable. It can cause problems in every aspect of your life, including your health, career, relationships and personal safety.
Depression, even if it's severe, usually improves with medications or psychological counseling (psychotherapy), so don't try to tough out depression on your own. If you or someone close to you thinks you may be depressed, talk to your doctor or a mental health provider. Have the courage to ask for advice or seek help when you need it.
Male depression and coping skills
Like other men, you may feel that your depression symptoms aren't severe. You may believe that you should be able to just get over them or tough them out. You may try to deny depression symptoms, ignore them or blunt them by drinking too much alcohol, taking illicit drugs or working longer hours.
But these kinds of attempts at coping with male depression will likely just leave you chronically unhappy and miserable, and possibly at risk of losing your life.
It takes effort to practice healthy coping skills rather than automatically turning to alcohol, speeding or frequent sex. Treatment with a doctor or mental health provider can help you learn healthy coping skills. These may include:
- Goals. Set realistic goals and prioritize tasks.
- Support. Seek out emotional support from a partner or family or friends. In general, men tend to disregard the value of emotional support in coping with male depression.
- Activities. Engage in activities you enjoy, such as exercise, movies, ball games or fishing.
- Decisions. Delay making important decisions, such as changing jobs, until your depression symptoms improve.
Many effective treatments are available for depression. So don't try to tough out male depression on your own. The consequences may be devastating.
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