Depression in males is a real problem.
6 million men are affected by depression every year. More than 30,000 suicides a year are committed each year in the United States, and the majority are carried out by men. Because depressive symptoms manifest differently in men than women, they often go misdiagnosed or untreated. The stigma of mental illness is particularly harmful to men, who often feel ashamed about experiencing depression.
We have made significant strides in breaking gender stereotypes, particularly for women. We now teach little girls that they can run major corporations, become doctors, scientists, and that they don’t have to buy into a pink frilly existence.
But have we made the same efforts for men? Do we teach little boys that expressing their feelings is not equivalent to weakness, that there is no shame in feeling down or hopeless, and that reaching out for help does not reflect their masculinity?
Depression does not indicate weakness or a lack of “manliness.” It is a treatable mental health condition. Millions of men and women are affected by depression each year. Depression does not discriminate: it affects individuals of any race or economic background. Men with depression often overlook the emotional symptoms and focus more on the accompanying physical components that can arise, such as bodily aches and pains, headaches, disturbances in sleep, or problems in sexual functioning.
Over time, and going untreated, these symptoms can lead to dangerous circumstances. Men experiencing depression are four times more likely to commit suicide than women. Such statistics highlight the significance of seeking help when experiencing depressive symptoms. Reaching out to family, friends, your primary care physician, or mental health professional can alleviate some of the distress and allow the implementation of an appropriate treatment plan.
Men Experience Depression Differently
Men can experience the classic attributes of depression, such as feeling down and depressed and a decrease in pleasure in activities (playing sports, hanging out with friends) once enjoyed.
Depression in men is commonly experienced in three ways:
Anger: A spectrum of emotions can be experienced with anger, from mild irritability to having a shorter temper to episodes of rage, verbal abuse, and physical violence.
Physical Pain: Physical symptoms sometimes are indicative of depression. Headaches, backaches, digestive problems, sexual dysfunction, or sleep disorders that do not respond to treatment may be signs of depression.
Dangerous Behavior: Risky or avoidant behavior may also point to signs of depression in men. Engaging in reckless activities such as gambling compulsively, practicing unsafe sex, or driving carelessly may be masking depression.
There is no single cause for depression in men. Biological and environmental factors both play a role in its development. Common causes for the onset of depression include extreme stress at home, work, or school, relationship problems, change in job or loss of job, financial struggles, chronic physical conditions, and loss of independence.
Treating Depression in Men
Recognizing the symptoms that are common in men who have depression is an important step in treatment. Developing social support networks, lifestyle changes, therapy, and medication (and often a combination of these options) are all methods of successfully treating depression in men. Seeking help, from a physician or a mental health clinician, is a courageous step in the process of managing depression.