Remember that popular number of Tom Douglas and Steve Seskin – “I don’t know why, they say grown men don’t cry?” Whatever prompted the two to write the song, but it certainly questions the reasoning behind this belief that has been passed to us for generations. Effectively, it translates into the perception that men can’t feel depressed or are shielded from emotional breakdowns. As per this belief, men are so strong physically and mentally that they remain unaffected by problems like depression. However, the notion has been proved wrong time and again. Men also become sad and they too suffer from depression.
Every year, June is marked as Men’s Health Month to focus on male health and well-being. Launched in 1994, Men’s Health Month is celebrated with activities such as outreach programs, health fairs, media drives and screenings by various organizations and government agencies. During this time, health care providers, lawmakers, media and individuals urge boys and men to seek timely treatment for diseases or injuries and undergo regular medical checkups, including mental health diagnosis.
Why is it important for men to pay attention to mental health issues, especially depression? Although both men and women are diagnosed with depression, it is researched and treated more often in the case of women. Many people consider depression to be a woman’s disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that in the United States, more than 6 million men suffer from depression every year and compared to women they are less likely to be identified, accepted and treated for the condition.
Signs of depression are often disregarded in the case of men since they tend to exhibit symptoms that are different from those typically associated with depression (such as sadness or low mood). Depression inhibits the ability to live a normal life by disrupting personal and professional relationships, and affecting work performance thereby, increasing chances of developing harmful habits such as substance abuse. Men’s Health Month is a chance to watch out for some key indicators of depression in men so that they can be recognized timely and treated adequately.
Unique symptoms of male depression that are not sadness
Although it is likely that many men will experience symptoms such as sadness, low spirit and disinterest in normal activities, some of the following symptoms of depression are typically observed in men:
- Unexplained anger: Many men view depression as a sign of weakness, which may cause them to lose temper, hurl objects, shout uncontrollably or subject others to physical and emotional abuse. For them, all these behaviors are nothing but coping mechanisms. Anger in a depressed state usually takes the form of unexplained outbursts which do not have any underlying cause.
- Mood swings: Sudden changes in mood without a justifiable cause are indicative of a depressive disorder. Individuals in a depressed state feel low for longer periods of time, that too with higher severity levels because of co-occurring conditions such as exhaustion, physical pain or loss of appetite. It is common for men to feel overburdened due to the negative frame of mind for days, weeks or even months at a time.
- Recklessness: This attribute occurs more commonly in depressed men than women. It is a manifestation of the vulnerability men feel when they are in a depressed state due to their inability to freely express their emotions. If a man, who is usually risk-averse, suddenly starts behaving in a risky manner without thinking of the consequences, it may be indicative of depression. Men are also more likely to pick fights and face legal consequences.
- Substance abuse: A typical response for men experiencing prolonged periods of depression is heavy alcohol consumption. People with depression are also likely to feel more pain, and opioid painkillers may be prescribed for pain management. Both alcohol and opioids carry a significant risk of addiction, and it is difficult to give them up after consistent use.
- Exhaustion: Depression is characterized by rumination, which may keep many men awake at night. Insomnia or sleep disturbances are common features of depression. Lack of proper sleep leads to acute exhaustion during the day. This may give birth to other symptoms such as irritability and lack of appetite.
- Decreased libido: One of the earliest signs of depression is a decrease in sexual desire. This may be caused by diminished dopamine sensitivity, or result from a decrease in testosterone levels which consequently reduce the production of dopamine (the chemical responsible for libido).
- Workaholic behavior: This is a type of distraction or escape mechanism. Some men try to cope with depression by working extra hours. Although focusing on work may be a healthy response to depressive conditions, it can impair personal relationships, family life and social interactions.
Medical interventions and self-help options
Depression in men can be treated through a combination of medical interventions, such as antidepressant medicines and individual or group psychotherapy sessions. If depression is acute, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be beneficial in easing symptoms. Medical interventions can be supplemented with self-help options, such as eating a healthy diet, reducing or eliminating junk food, and engaging in physical activities or following an exercise regimen. Symptoms of depression can also be eased by following mindful practices, such as meditation or yoga which induce relaxation and calmness.
Sovereign Health of San Clemente, California specializes in treating depression using holistic and evidence-based interventions. For more information on how to overcome mental depression or Sovereign Health’s mental illness treatment centers at a place closer home, call at our 24/7 helpline or chat online with a trained representative.