***TW: This post does have a few triggers in relation to suicide.***
What is depression?
Everyone feels sad or irritable and has trouble sleeping once in a while. But these feelings and troubles usually pass after a couple of days. Depression is a common but serious mood disorder that may cause severe symptoms. Depression affects the ability to feel, think, and handle daily activities.
Both men and women get depression but their willingness to talk about their feelings may be very different. This is one of the reasons that depression symptoms for men and women may be very different as well.
For example, some men with depression hide their emotions and may seem to be angry, irritable, or aggressive while many women seem sad or express sadness. Men with depression may feel very tired and lose interest in work, family, or hobbies. They may be more likely to have difficulty sleeping than women who have depression. Sometimes mental health symptoms appear to be physical issues. For example, a racing heart, tightening chest, ongoing headaches, or digestive issues can be signs of a mental health problem. Many men are more likely to see their doctor about physical symptoms than emotional symptoms.
Some men may turn to drugs or alcohol to try to cope with their emotional symptoms. Also, while women with depression are more likely to attempt suicide, men are more likely to die by suicide because they tend to use more lethal methods. Depression can affect any man at any age.
What are the signs and symptoms of depression in men?
Different men have different symptoms, but some common depression symptoms include:
- Anger, irritability, or aggressiveness
- Feeling anxious, restless, or “on the edge”
- Loss of interest in work, family, or once-pleasurable activities
- Problems with sexual desire and performance
- Feeling sad, “empty,” flat, or hopeless
- Not being able to concentrate or remember details
- Feeling very tired, not being able to sleep, or sleeping too much
- Overeating or not wanting to eat at all
- Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts
- Physical aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems
- Inability to meet the responsibilities of work, caring for family, or other important activities
- Engaging in high-risk activities
- A need for alcohol or drugs
- Withdrawing from family and friends or becoming isolated
Not every man who is depressed experiences every symptom. Some men experience only a few symptoms while others may experience many.
What are the different types of depression?
The most common types of depression are:
Major depression—depressive symptoms that interfere with a man’s ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy most aspects of life. An episode of major depression may occur only once in a person’s lifetime. But it is common for a person to have several episodes. Special forms (subtypes) of major depression include:
Psychotic depression—severe depression associated with delusions (false, fixed beliefs) or hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that are not really there). These psychotic symptoms are depression-themed. For example, a man may believe he is sick or poor when he is not, or he may hear voices that are not real that say that he is worthless.
Seasonal affective disorder—characterized by depression symptoms that appear every year during the winter months when there is less natural sunlight.
Persistent depressive disorder (also called dysthymia)—depressive symptoms that last a long time (2 years or longer) but are less severe than those of major depression.
Minor depression—similar to major depression and persistent depressive disorder, but symptoms are less severe and may not last as long.
Bipolar Disorder is different from depression. It is included in this list because a person with bipolar disorder experiences episodes of extreme low moods (depression). But a person with bipolar disorder also experiences extreme high moods (called “mania”).
What causes depression in men?
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S. Current research suggests that depression is caused by a combination of risk factors including:
Genetic factors—men with a family history of depression may be more likely to develop it than those whose family members do not have the illness.
Environmental Stress—financial problems, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, major life changes, work problems, or any stressful situation may trigger depression in some men.
Illness—depression can occur with other serious medical illnesses, such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, or Parkinson’s disease. Depression can make these conditions worse and vice versa. Sometimes, medications taken for these illnesses may cause side effects that trigger or worsen depression.
How is depression treated?
Men often avoid addressing their feelings and, in many cases, friends and family members are the first to recognize that their loved one is depressed. It is important that friends and family support their loved one and encourage him to visit a doctor or mental health professional for an evaluation. A health professional can do an exam or lab tests to rule out other conditions that may have symptoms that are like those of depression. He or she also can tell if certain medications are affecting the depression.
Medications called antidepressants can work well to treat depression, but they can take several weeks to be effective. Often with medication, symptoms such as sleep, appetite, and concentration problems improve before mood lifts, so it is important to give medication a chance before deciding whether it is effective or not.
Anti-depressants can have side effects including:
- Nausea or feeling sick to your stomach
- Difficulty sleeping and nervousness
- Agitation or restlessness
- Sexual problems
How can I help a loved one who is depressed?
It’s important to remember that a person with depression cannot simply “snap out of it.” It is also important to know that he may not recognize his symptoms and may not want to get professional treatment.
If you think someone has depression, you can support him by helping him find a doctor or mental health professional and then helping him make an appointment. Even men who have trouble recognizing that they are depressed may agree to seek help for physical symptoms, such as feeling tired or run down. They may be willing to talk with their regular health professional about a new difficulty they are having at work or losing interest in doing things they usually enjoy. Talking with a primary care provider may be a good first step toward learning about and treating possible depression.
Other ways to help include:
- Offering him support, understanding, patience, and encouragement
- Listening carefully and talking with him
- Never ignoring comments about suicide, and alerting his therapist or doctor
- Helping him increase his level of physical and social activity by inviting him out for hikes, games, and other events. If he says, “no,” keep trying, but don’t push him to take on too much too soon.
- Encouraging him to report any concerns about medications to his health care provider
- Ensuring that he gets to his doctor’s appointments
- Reminding him that with time and treatment, the depression will lift
How can I help myself if I am depressed?
Other things that may help include:
- Spending time with other people and talking with a friend or relative about your feelings
- Increasing your level of physical activity. Regular exercise can help people with mild to moderate depression and may be one part of a treatment plan for those with severe depression. Talk with your health care professional about what kind of exercise is right for you.
- Breaking up large tasks into small ones, and tackling what you can as you can. Don’t try to do too many things at once
- Delaying important decisions until you feel better. Discuss decisions with others who know you well.
- Keeping stable daily routines. For example, eating and going to bed at the same time every day.
- Avoiding alcohol
As you continue treatment, gradually you will start to feel better. Remember that if you are taking an antidepressant, it may take several weeks for it to start working. Try to do things that you used to enjoy before you had depression. Go easy on yourself.
What if I or someone I know is in crisis?
Men with depression are at risk for suicide. If you or someone you know is in crisis, get help quickly.
- Call your doctor.
- Call 911 for emergency services.
- Go to the nearest hospital emergency room.
- Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
- Veterans can call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 then press 1.
In many instances, a crisis can be avoided when friends or family members are involved in the treatment and can recognize crisis warning signs. Crisis warning signs are different for different people. One person may have more trouble sleeping and become more agitated. Another person may sleep more, stop eating, and focus on disturbing thoughts. Everyone experiences depression different