Spring 2014 Edition
Recognizing Depression in Men
Depression in men may be under recognized because men suffering from depression may not exhibit the mixture of sadness, hopelessness or excessive guilt that dominate the standard diagnostic descriptions for depression.
Large scale research studies have found that depression is about twice as common in women as in men, but now researchers are asking the question, “Is depression in men under diagnosed?” Mental health experts say that while both women and men can develop the standard symptoms of depression, men often experience depression differently and may have different ways of coping with the symptoms.
Men get angry, not sad
Men are less likely to show “typical” signs of depression, such as crying, sadness, hopelessness, or excessive guilt. Instead, men are more likely to keep their feelings hidden and may turn to alcohol or drugs when they are depressed, or become frustrated, discouraged, angry, irritable, and sometimes violently abusive. Some men deal with depression by throwing themselves compulsively into their work, attempting to hide their depression from themselves, family, and friends. Other men may respond to depression by engaging in reckless behavior, taking risks, or putting themselves in harm’s way.
Standard symptoms of depression
The standard diagnostic symptoms of depression include the following. Not everyone who is depressed experiences every symptom below. Some people experience only a few while some people suffer many. The severity of symptoms varies among individuals and also over time.
- Persistent, sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyable, including sex
- Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling “slowed down”
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Trouble sleeping, early morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Changes in appetite and/or weight
- Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
- Restlessness or irritability
- Persistent physical symptoms, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain
that do not respond to routine treatment
Additional symptoms of depression in men
Frequently, male depression first shows up in physical symptoms, such as headaches, digestive disorders or sexual dysfunction. In addition to the common diagnostic symptoms of depression listed above, other common symptoms of depression in men can include:
- Anger, lashing out, blaming
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Reckless behavior
What is depression?
Depression is a medical disorder just like diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease are medical disorders. It is a “whole-body” illness, involving your body, mood and thoughts. It affects the way you eat and sleep, the way you feel about yourself, and the way you think about things.
Depression is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. People with depression cannot merely “pull themselves together” and get better. Clinical depression is a serious medical illness with clear biological roots. Depression is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain.
Tragically, only one-third of those who experience depression ever seek treatment. Men in particular may find it difficult to admit depressive symptoms and ask for help. To a large degree, depression remains stereotyped as “not manly” in American culture. Men tend to deny having problems because they are supposed to be “strong.”
Fortunately, for those who do seek professional help, depression is a very treatable illness. More than 80% of people with serious depression can be treated successfully with anti-depressant medications, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.
What to do
What should you do if you’re concerned about depression?
1. Drop the stigma. Realize that depression is nothing to be ashamed about. It is nothing you’ve “done wrong.” With the advancement of medical science, we have learned that clinical depression stems from a combination of genetic, biochemical and environmental factors, most of which you’ve had no control over.
2. See your doctor. If several of the symptoms listed above have persisted for longer than two weeks, or if the symptoms are severe enough to interfere with your daily routine, make an appointment to see your primary care physician. Mention to him or her that you are concerned about depression. Your doctor can either start treatment or refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist for further evaluation and treatment.
3. Seek treatment early. Because it takes several weeks for treatment to begin to work, it is important to get treatment early, before your depression gets worse. As with many illnesses, the earlier treatment begins, the more effective it can be. Most current research indicates that while both anti-depressant medications and therapy are effective in combating depression, the most potent treatment combines the two.
4. Take charge of your condition. Don’t believe in the myth that you should be able to “handle” depression on your own. Left untreated, the symptoms of depression can last for weeks, months or years, and often get worse. Instead, the best way to “handle” depression is to take charge of your condition by seeking treatment, following the recommendations of your doctor and working with your doctor and/or other healthcare professionals as part of a treatment team.
* Source: National Institute on Mental Health
Your EAP is here to help
If you suspect that you or a family member may be suffering from depression, your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can help you. EAP counselors are specially trained to help people get the right kind of help for depression. Remember, all EAP services are strictly CONFIDENTIAL. If you need help, why not call an EAP counselor today? We’re here to help you
NOTE: Professional help should be sought immediately if a person is experiencing suicidal thoughts.