Depression in Men
In June, one of the important focuses is Men’s Health Month. We have got a few articles regarding depression, whether you are studying or a successful business man, stress is a part of our daily lives. These articles will help you identify signs and suggest coping skills on how to manage stressors and suggestions for physical and mental exercises to improve your well being. Please note that this is by no means an alternative to professional medical treatment, but rather enhancers to the treatment you are already on.
Feel free to contact M-Care Optima on 051 502 1800 for help or contact numbers for relevant therapists.
What it Looks Like and How to Get Help
As men, we like to think of ourselves as
strong and in control of our emotions. When we feel hopeless or overwhelmed by despair, we often deny it or try to cover it up. But depression is a common problem that affects many of us at some point in our lives. While depression can take a heavy toll on your home and work life, you don’t have to tough it out. There are plenty of things you can start doing today to feel better.
What is male depression?
Depression in men is a treatable health condition, not a sign of emotional weakness or a
failing of masculinity. It affects millions of men of all ages and backgrounds, as well as those who care about them—spouses, partners, friends, and family. Of course, it’s normal for anyone to feel down from time to time—dips in mood are an ordinary reaction to losses, setbacks, and disappointments in life. However, male depression changes how you think, feel, and function in your daily life. It can interfere with your productivity at work or school and impact your relationships, sleep, diet, and overall enjoyment of life. Severe depression can be intense and unrelenting.
Unfortunately, depression in men often gets overlooked as many of us find it difficult to talk about our feelings. Instead, we tend to focus on the physical symptoms that often
accompany male depression, such as back pain, headaches, difficulty sleeping, or sexual
problems. This can result in the underlying depression going untreated, which can have
serious consequences. Men suffering from depression are four times more likely to commit suicide than women, so it’s vital for any man to seek help with depression before feelings of despair become feelings of suicide. Talk honestly with a friend, loved one, or doctor about what’s going on in your mind as well as your body. Once correctly diagnosed, there is plenty you can do to successfully treat and manage male depression and prevent it from coming back.
Signs and symptoms of depression in men
Men tend to be less adept at recognizing symptoms of depression than women. A man is
more likely to deny his feelings, hide them from himself and others, or try to mask them
with other behaviors. And while men may experience classic symptoms of depression such as despondent mood, loss of interest in work or hobbies, weight and sleep disturbances, fatigue, and concentration problems, they are more likely than women to experience “stealth” depression symptoms such as anger, substance abuse, and agitation. The three most commonly overlooked signs of depression in men are:
- Physical pain. Sometimes depression in men shows up as physical symptoms—such as backache, frequent headaches, sleep problems, sexual dysfunction, or digestive disorders—that don’t respond to normal treatment.
- Anger. This could range from irritability, sensitivity to criticism, or a loss of your
sense of humor to road rage, a short temper, or even violence. Some men become
abusive or controlling.
- Reckless behavior. A man suffering from depression may exhibit escapist or risky behavior such as pursuing dangerous sports, driving recklessly, or engaging in unsafe sex. You might drink too much, abuse drugs, or gamble compulsively.
How to know if you’re depressed
If you identify with several of the following, you may be suffering from depression.
1. You feel hopeless and helpless
2. You’ve lost interest in friends, activities, and things you used to enjoy
3. You’re much more irritable, short-tempered, or aggressive than usual
4. You’re consuming more alcohol, engaging in reckless behavior, or self-medicating
5. You feel restless and agitated
6. Your sleep and appetite have changed
7. You can’t concentrate or your productivity at work has declined
8. You can’t control your negative thoughts
Triggers for depression in men
There’s no single cause of depression in men. Biological, psychological, and social factors all play a part, as do lifestyle choices, relationships, and coping skills.
While any man can suffer from depression, there are some risk factors that make a man
more vulnerable, such as:
- Loneliness and lack of social support
- Inability to effectively deal with stress
- A history of alcohol or drug abuse
- Early childhood trauma or abuse
- Aging in isolation, with few social outlets
Depression and erectile dysfunction
Impotence or erectile dysfunction is not only a trigger of depression in men, it can also be a side effect of many antidepressant medications. Men with sexual function problems are almost twice as likely to be depressed as those
without. Depression increases the risk of erectile dysfunction. Many men are reluctant to acknowledge sexual problems, thinking it’s a reflection on their manhood rather than a treatable problem caused by depression.
Getting help for male depression
Don’t try to tough out depression on your own. It takes courage to seek help—from a loved one or a professional. Most men with depression respond well to self-help steps such as reaching out for social support, exercising, switching to a healthy diet, and making other lifestyle changes. But don’t expect your mood to improve instantly. You’ll likely begin to feel a little better each day. Many men recovering from depression notice improvements in sleep patterns and appetite before improvements in their mood. But these self-help steps can have a powerful effect on how you think and feel, helping you to overcome the symptoms of depression and regain your enjoyment of life.
Tip 1: Seek social support
Work commitments can often make it difficult for men to find time to maintain friendships, but the first step to tackling male depression is to find people you can really connect with, face-to-face. That doesn’t mean simply trading jokes with a co-worker or chatting about sports with the guy sitting next to you in a bar. It means finding someone you feel comfortable sharing your feelings with, someone who’ll listen to you without judging you, or telling you how you should think or feel. You may think that discussing your feelings isn’t very macho, but whether you’re aware of it or not, you’re already communicating your feelings to those around you; you’re just not using words. If you’re short-tempered, drinking more than usual, or punching holes in the wall, those closest to you will know something’s wrong. Choosing to talk about what you’re going through, instead, can actually help you feel better.
Finding social support to beat male depression
For many men—especially when you’re suffering from depression—reaching out to others can seem overwhelming. But developing and maintaining close relationships are vital to helping you get through this tough time. If you don’t feel that you have anyone to turn to, it’s never too late to build new friendships and improve your support network.
How to reach out for depression support
- Look for support from people who make you feel safe and cared for.
- Make face-time a priority.
- Try to keep up with social activities even if you don’t feel like it.
- Find ways to support others.
- Care for a pet.
- Join a support group for depression.
- Invite someone to a ballgame, movie, or concert.
- Call or email an old buddy.
Tip 2: Support your health
Positive lifestyle changes can help lift depression and keep it from coming back.
- Aim for eight hours of sleep.
- Keep stress in check.
- Practice relaxation techniques.
- Spend time in sunlight.
Develop a “wellness toolbox” to deal with depression
Come up with a list of things that you can do for a quick mood boost. The more “tools” for coping with depression, the better. Try and implement a few of these ideas each day, even if you’re feeling good.
- Spend some time in nature
- List what you like about yourself
- Read a good book
- Watch a funny movie or TV show
- Take a long, hot shower
- Take care of a few small tasks
- Play with a pet
- Talk to friends or family face-to-face
- Listen to music
- Do something spontaneous
Tip 3: Exercise for greater mental and physical health
When you’re depressed, just getting out of bed can seem like a daunting task, let alone
working out! But exercise is a powerful depression fighter-and one of the most important tools in your recovery arsenal. Research shows that regular exercise can be as effective as medication for relieving depression symptoms. It also helps prevent relapse once you’re well. To get the most benefit, aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. This doesn’t have to be all at once-and it’s okay to start small. A 10-minute walk can improve your mood for two hours. Exercise is something you can do right now to boost your mood
- Your fatigue will improve if you stick with it.
- Find exercises that are continuous and rhythmic.
- Add a mindfulness element, especially if your depression is rooted in unresolved trauma or fed by obsessive, negative thoughts.
- Pair up with an exercise partner.
- Take a dog for a walk. If don’t own a dog, you can volunteer to walk homeless dogs for an animal shelter or rescue group.
Tip 4: Eat a healthy diet to improve how you feel
- Minimize sugar and refined carbs.
- Reduce your intake of foods that can adversely affect your mood, such as caffeine, alcohol, trans fats, and foods with high levels of chemical preservatives or hormones.
- Eat more Omega-3 fatty acids to give your mood a boost.
- Try foods rich in mood-enhancing nutrients, such as bananas and spinach
- Avoid deficiencies in B vitamins which can trigger depression.
Tip 5: Challenge negative thinking
Do you feel like you’re powerless or weak? That bad things happen and there’s not much you can do about it? That your situation is hopeless? Depression puts a negative spin on everything, including the way you see yourself and your expectations for the future.
When these types of thoughts overwhelm you, it’s important to remember that this is a
symptom of your depression and these irrational, pessimistic attitudes-known as cognitive distortions-aren’t realistic. When you really examine them, they don’t hold up.
But even so, they can be tough to give up. You can’t break out of this pessimistic mind frame by telling yourself to “just think positive.” Often, it’s part of a lifelong pattern of thinking that’s become so automatic you’re not even completely aware of it. Rather, the trick is to identify the type of negative thoughts that are fuelling your depression, and replace them with a more balanced way of thinking.
Professional treatment for depression in men
If support from family and friends and positive lifestyle changes aren’t enough, seek help from a mental health professional. Be open about how you’re feeling as well as your physical symptoms. Treatments for depression in men include:
- You may feel that talking to a stranger about your problems is ‘unmanly,’ or that therapy carries with it a victim status. However, if therapy is available to you, it can often bring a swift sense of relief, even to the most skeptical male.
- Antidepressant medication may help relieve some symptoms of depression, but doesn’t cure the underlying problem, and is rarely a long-term solution. Medication also comes with side effects, so always pursue self-help steps as well.
How to help a man with depression
It often takes a wife, partner, or other family member to recognize a man’s symptoms of
depression. Even if a man suspects he’s depressed, he may be ashamed that he’s unable to cope on his own and only seek help when pressured to do so by a loved one.
Talking to a man about depression
Many men don’t exhibit typical depressive symptoms—but rather anger and reckless behavior—so you may want to avoid using the word “depression” and try describing his behavior as “stressed” or “overly tired.” It could help him to open up.
- Point out how his behavior has changed, without being critical. For example, “You always seem get stomach pains before work,” or “You haven’t played racquetball for ”
- Suggest a general check-up with a physician. He may be less resistant to seeing a family doctor than a mental health specialist at first. The doctor can rule out medical causes of depression and then make a referral.
- Offer to accompany him on the first visit with a mental health specialist. Some men are resistant to talking about their feelings, so try to remove roadblocks to him seeking help.
- Encourage him to make a list of symptoms to discuss. Help him focus on his feelings as well as physical ailments, and to be honest about his use of alcohol and drugs.
How to support a man with depression
- Engage him in conversation and listen carefully. Do not disparage the feelings he expresses, but do point out realities and offer hope.
- Do not ignore remarks about suicide.
- Invite him for walks, outings, and other activities.
- Encourage participation in activities that once gave pleasure.
- Do not expect him ‘to snap out of it.
- You may need to monitor whether he is taking prescribed medication or attending therapy.
- Remember, you can’t “fix” someone else’s depression.
Source: National Institute of Mental Health