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Young men deal with many myths when it comes to mental health. After all, the conventional “wisdom” goes, what would a young man have to be depressed about? Just wait until you’re older, they’re told, and you’ll see how tough life really gets. Even when such “advice” is presented with the best of intentions, it is insensitive, uninformed, and dangerous.

Depression is much more than temporarily feeling sad or down. It can strike people of any age. A young man is at particular risk because he may be less likely to talk about it. It’s time to break the stigma.

What is a Depressive Disorder?

Depression is a mood disorder. It can negatively impact every aspect of your life. Your thoughts, emotions, and decisions are colored by this condition. Depression isn’t something a young man (or anyone) can just “snap out of.” It requires professional help.

Depression comes in several forms. Any of the following, for example, could be of concern for young men:
  • Major depression is basically what I described above — within symptoms lasting for at least two weeks.
  • Persistent depressive disorder is less severe than Major depression but last longer, e.g. at least two years. Since the symptoms aren’t as extreme, persistent depressive disorder is harder to recognize
  • Seasonal affective disorder is described by the name. Individuals slide into depressive episodes at certain times of year — usually winter.

What Causes Depression?

It can be difficult to pinpoint a precise cause. Many factors can be at play, e.g. genetics. For young men, possible risk factors include:

  • Going through a crisis in your life or your family’s life
  • Having endured childhood trauma
  • Low self-esteem, inactive social life, and being bullied
  • Not having supportive friends or family members
  • Academic challenges
  • Moving to a new neighborhood
  • Switching schools or going away to college
  • Starting a new job
  • Loneliness

That last item could relate to any of the other items on the list. It could also connect with not being popular. But it’s usually more than that. Young people often have trouble fitting in. This can build on itself and very slowly transform into a depressive disorder. Educate yourself about the signs that could be worth talking about.

What are the Symptoms of Depression in Young Men?

Generally speaking, these are the red flags to watch for:

  • A persistent sense of sadness or feeling “empty”
  • Not feeling good about yourself
  • Your inner critic is all over you for what you do (or don’t) do
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed (including sex)
  • Vague, pervasive feelings of irritation, fatigue, restlessness, and guilt
  • Noticeable changes in your eating and sleeping habits (either more or less in either category)
  • Inability to concentrate or make decisions
  • Self-medication (drugs, alcohol, etc.)
  • Engaging in risky behaviors

Left unaddressed, the above symptoms can escalate into something more serious. Unchecked depression can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair. Thoughts dwell on death and dying. The person may start thinking about self-harm or suicide.

What Should You Do?

First and foremost, you must accept the possibility that anyone can struggle with depression. If you feel any of the symptoms listed here, talk to someone about it. Among others, this could be a parent, sibling, teacher, doctor, or therapist. If you are diagnosed with depression, it is essential to follow the prescribed treatment plan. Simultaneously, you can take self-help steps like:

  • Practice self-care (healthy sleep, eating, and exercise routines)
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Do not isolate yourself
  • Set short-term goals
  • Get creative
  • Do something fun each day

The first step is to connect with an experienced therapist. If you need some guidance right now, I urge you to reach out.

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Therapy for Men is a practice led by Dr. Rick Pomfret which offers counseling and psychotherapy services tailored to the needs of men. Their services encompass anxiety therapy, depression therapy, relationship therapy, men’s issues and support for those navigating life transitions or divorce. With offices in San Francisco and Corte Madera, Therapy4Men provides convenient access to mental health care for men in the Bay Area and online across California.