From a very early age, boys are told to be tough, never show weakness, and (of course) don’t cry. There are so, so many reasons why this conditioning is negative. As it pertains to depression, our socialization can be debilitating. Depression is more common in women. However, since men are far less likely to talk about emotions, who knows how accurate the statistics are?
When a man feels depressed, he may decide to “man up.” He can power through the feelings and handle them himself — or so he thinks. Depression is a diagnosable mental health condition. It requires much more than grit to manage it.
Men & Depression: By the Numbers
- 10 to 17% of men (that we know of) will develop major depression
- More than 30 percent of the men you know have struggled enough with depression in their life to report it
- Men in the U.S. are four times more likely to die by suicide than women — even though women are more likely to make a suicide attempt
- The highest suicide rate for any demographic group is white men over 65
Again, until men start feeling more comfortable talking about depression, we can’t be sure how much higher these numbers actually are. A good first step is for all of us to become more familiar with the signs, symptoms, and red flags.
Some of the General Symptoms of Depression
- Intense sadness
- Losing interest in activities and experiences you once enjoyed
- Unable to concentrate
- Sleep disturbances
- Changes in appetite and weight
- General, unexplained fatigue
- Feeling low self-worth
- Feeling hopeless
- Social isolation
- Thoughts of death, dying, and suicide
(If any of these symptoms persist for at least two weeks, you might be diagnosed with depression.)
Signs of Depression Specific to Men
- Acting out in anger and/or aggression
- A general sense of edginess
- Being unable to handle basic daily functions and responsibilities
- Engaging in risky behaviors such as excessive substance abuse, drinking and driving, excessive gambling
All of these can be covered up by any man seeking to keep things private. However, there are also some physical symptoms to watch for like digestive disturbances, headaches, unexplained aches, pains, and muscle tension. This could be a net positive because men are more likely to seek help for physical ailments.
A touchy symptom involves low libido and/or sexual problems. Depression shifts the chemical balance in your brain. This can reduce the blood flow necessary to achieve and sustain an erection. In turn, erectile dysfunction often leads to a loss of interest in sex. Unfortunately, this often becomes yet another condition that men choose to keep to themselves as much as possible.
Treatment For Men With Depression
As explained above, you can’t “gut” this one out. But you can be very involved and in control. Working with an experienced therapist gives you the chance to learn healthy coping skills. Running parallel to your treatment is your own commitment to applying these coping skills. For example, you will be responsible for activating your stress management tools. Your therapist will guide you through skills like problem-solving and mindfulness. You can then put things into daily action, e.g.
- Making decisions
- Setting goals
- Creating a support system
- Sticking with a healthy lifestyle routine
- Staying active and engaging in hobbies, etc.
I have worked with many, many men with a wide range of issues. I get it. We need a specific type of approach to challenge how we were socialized. But there’s good news — great news, in fact. It is absolutely possible. You don’t have to struggle with and hide depression or do this all on your own. You can recover, you can heal, and you can thrive. I’d love to talk more with you about this.
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