Depression In Men: What to Know

man sitting on the floor looking out of window

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Depression is a common mental health condition, that causes changes in mood, persistent feelings of sadness, lack of interest or pleasure and can affect the way you think and act. The World Health Organization estimates that 264 million people of all ages are living with depression across the globe. Depression can interfere with your day to day life and negatively affect your physical health, relationships with other people, and your work. 

More women are affected by depression than men, however, male depression should not be overlooked. It’s a serious condition that affects 9% of men in the United States today. Depression might also look a little different in men than in women. Which can make diagnosing depression in men more difficult. Here are some symptoms you should look out for, and tips on how to cope with the condition. 

Symptoms 

Symptoms of depression in men often look a little different than it does in women. Which makes it harder to diagnose, especially during the early stages of the condition. This is because men are less likely to acknowledge or share feelings of sadness or hopelessness that are commonly associated with depression. The usual emotional signs of depression in both women and men include: 

  • Feelings of sadness
  • Irritability 
  • Anger 
  • Aggression
  • Feelings of worthlessness 
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Loss of focus on everyday activities
  • Suicidal thoughts

Men are more likely to also exhibit behavioral symptoms of depression. Signs of this include:  

  • Consuming alcohol excessively 
  • Suicide attempts 
  • Working excessively 
  • Behaving recklessly 
  • Frequent temper outbursts

Depression may also manifest in physical symptoms. Some of these include: 

  • Headaches 
  • Physical pain in other parts of the body
  • Weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Sleeping excessively  
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Decreased libido

Symptoms of depression vary from person to person and will affect not just your mental health, but your physical health too. While one person might only experience feelings of sadness and hopelessness, another person may also experience weight loss, insomnia, or fatigue. If the condition progresses without adequate treatment, these symptoms might also intensify. Symptoms of depression can last for weeks, months, or years without adequate treatment. 

Diagnosis 

Depression in men is underdiagnosed and often misdiagnosed. This is first because depression is thought to be a condition that is more prevalent in women. This makes depression in men often go overlooked. Men also have a harder time coming to terms with the reality of being depressed or recognizing symptoms of depression. When a man is depressed he may mask his emotions, allowing his depression to present in anger and irritability. 

A 2013 study on the differences between how men and women experience depression, found that men are more likely to experience anger and aggression than women. They are also more likely to turn to alcohol and substance abuse as an escape from depressive thoughts.

Societal and cultural pressures for men to act in a certain way plays a huge factor in why men are less likely to report symptoms of depression, and why they might be misdiagnosed.

Men are often reluctant to admit to having depression because they believe that friends, family, and peers might perceive them as not being masculine enough. 

Delayed diagnosis of depression in men can have fatal results. One of the most severe symptoms of depression is suicidal thoughts. Evidence suggests that even though women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression and attempt suicide, men are more likely to complete suicide than women. 

Causes

There is no single cause of depression, and in certain cases, no obvious cause can be found. However, research shows that there are multiple risk factors and triggers that could be responsible for a person developing the condition. They include: 

  • Environmental stressors: Certain life experiences may trigger depression in men. For instance, losing a job or a loved one might trigger feelings of sadness and bleakness that can give way to depression.
  • Genetics: Men who already have a family history of depression are more likely to develop the condition than men who don’t. 
  • Other medical conditions: Serious health conditions that are often difficult to live with or treat like cancer might cause depression in men. Having a history of other mental health conditions might also increase your likelihood of developing the condition.
  • Medication: The side effect of certain medications like corticosteroids, anticholinergics, and benzodiazepines could also be a contribution for triggering depression. 

Types 

Apart from the fact that men and women experience depression differently, there are also different forms of depression. Some common types include: 

  • Seasonal affective disorder: Formally known as major depressive disorder with seasonal pattern, this depression is dependent on the season of the year. People with this type of depression typically experience depressive symptoms during the colder months of the year, when there is less sunlight. The symptoms tend to dissipate as the weather gets warmer and the days get longer.
  • Persistent depressive disorder: This is also called dysthymia. A person with this type of depression experiences symptoms for two years or longer. However, the severity of their symptoms may be milder than other forms. 
  • Psychotic depression: Major depression with psychotic features is a severe form of depression, which is often characterized by delusions and hallucinations. 

Depression in Men and Other Conditions 

Depression in men may lead to other medical conditions, including sexual dysfunction. Not only do men who are depressed experience reduced libidos, but many also report erectile and orgasmic difficulties. This could be a result of many reasons. One is that medication used to treat depression such as antidepressant have been shown to impact sexual functioning.

Depression has also proven to be a risk factor for heart diseases and strokes in men. Men who are depressed are more likely to develop a heart condition at a higher rate and earlier age than women who are depressed.

Depression has been associated with the condition called fibromyalgia, which is characterized by chronic pain and tenderness at multiple points of the body. Fibromyalgia is sometimes seen as the body’s way of expressing psychological distress.

Treatment 

There are different types of treatments available to help with depression. However, the first step to getting better is often being willing to seek help. Consulting with a mental health expert will often result in the recommendation of either medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both as a treatment plan for your depression. 

Other medical tests might also be conducted to ensure that the symptoms you are experiencing are not a result of some other condition. People with mild depressive symptoms often start with only psychotherapy as a treatment plan. For severe cases, both medication and therapy are typically recommended by medical experts. 

Medication

Antidepressants are a class of drugs, used to treat depression. They come in different forms and strengths but all serve the same purpose. Your doctor might put you on different types of antidepressants until you find one that works for you. 

Antidepressants are thought to help improve symptoms of depression by increasing the levels of serotonin and noradrenaline in the brain. These chemical messengers have been linked to mood and emotion regulation. There are different types of antidepressants used to treat depression. The most common include: 

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI): Examples include Prozac(fluoxetine) and Celexa (citalopram)
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI): Examples include Effexor (venlafaxine) and Cymbalta (duloxetine).
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs): Examples include Pamelor (nortriptyline), Tofranil (imipramine), and Elavil (amitriptyline)
  • Noradrenaline and specific serotonergic antidepressants (NASSAs): Examples include Remeron (mirtazapine)
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): Examples include Marplan (isocarboxazid) and Nardil (phenelzine). 

It might take some time to feel better while on medication. While some people might notice improvements in the first or second week, it can take up to four to eight weeks to witness significant improvement in your symptoms. If you are feeling better, and think you don’t need your medication anymore, speak to your doctor before you stop. Stopping your medication too soon might lead to withdrawal symptoms or a relapse. 

Psychotherapy 

This is also referred to as ‘talk therapy’. Psychotherapy aims to help you talk through the emotional symptoms you are experiencing as a result of depression. Different types of psychotherapy have proven to be effective in treating depression in men. They include: 

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): With CBT, a person with depression learns ways to understand and challenge unhelpful and destructive thought patterns, believe, and behaviors.
  • Problem-solving therapy: The focus of this form of psychotherapy is learning how to effectively manage the negative effects of stressful and negative events.
  • Interpersonal therapy: This form of therapy, focuses on relieving depressive symptoms, by improving your interpersonal relationships. 

Coping 

Coming to terms with the fact that you have depression can be hard, the good news however is that it’s treatable. Asides from using medication, therapy, or a combination of both to relieve your depressive symptoms, there are a couple of coping mechanisms that may also help.

  • Keeping a regular daily routine. Going to bed at the same time every day for instance can help with depression by providing your life with some structure
  • Eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly is not only great for your physical health but goes a long way in helping your mental health too. 
  • Surround yourself with loved ones and spend more time with them. Depression can be a very isolating condition, especially when you feel like you are going through it alone. Being with loved ones reminds you that you are not alone.
  • Getting work done when you are depressed is hard. If you are feeling overwhelmed by a task it’s ok to take a break. When you come back to it, split the task into smaller tasks, and tackle them one at a time. 
  • Follow the treatment plan recommended by your doctor religiously. Whether it’s medication, therapy, or a combination of both, it’s important to stick to your treatment plan.
  • Get adequate sleep, sometimes depression can affect your sleep keeping you up for hours at a time. Force your body to shut down at night for a minimum of eight hours. On the other hand, some people might find themselves sleeping excessively as a way to escape their symptoms. This might only worsen your depressive symptoms. Create a sleep schedule of no more than 8 to 9 hours of sleep a day and stick to it to avoid this.

Helping a Loved One With Depression

Depression is not just hard on the people living with the condition, it also affects the people who are closest to them. If a person you love is struggling with depression, here are some ways you could help: 

  • Start by just talking to them. Make sure to do more listening than talking. Hear them talk about how they feel and how they are doing before you take any other steps. 
  • Be patient with them. They might lash out at you as an expression of their depression. Try to remember that the condition is responsible for these behaviors. 
  • Assist them in seeking help. If they are unwilling or reluctant to seek professional help, help them understand that starting treatment is the only way to get better. However, don’t be forceful let them come to a decision at their own pace. 
  • Encourage them to join a support group. While talking with you will help them feel better you might not be able to understand some of the feelings they are experiencing. Encourage them to talk to other people dealing with the condition, who can relate to the feelings they are experiencing.

A Word From Verywell 

Depression can be a life-altering condition, but it’s a treatable one. Recognizing the symptoms of depression, and seeking help is the first step to preventing the condition from taking control of your life. It’s important to know that depression is never a sign of weakness. It’s also not a condition you can overcome through the sheer force of will. It’s a very real mental condition that needs to be adequately treated for you to feel better. 

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Article Sources
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