Men are always supposed to remain unaffected by emotional situations because it’s their job to be strong, isn’t it? Not really. But this stereotype all over the world could be the reason why the depression in men is really tough to diagnose.
Most men tend to think of themselves as strong and in control of their emotions. Even when they feel depressed, they like to cover it up or deny it. Over time, these feelings become so overwhelming that they end up affecting your mental as well as physical wellbeing and start interfering with your daily activities.
If their feelings of sadness, hopelessness and despair continue for over a couple of weeks, then it could be an indication of chronic or clinical depression.
Understanding the Causes of Depression in Men
There is no single cause of depression in men. A combination of psychological, biological, and social factors, along with poor lifestyle choices and coping skills, contribute to depressive symptoms in males.
Here is a detailed look at each of the factors triggering depression in men –
- Family history – Men, who have a family history of depression or related mental health disorder are likely to experience the condition at some point in life
- A chemical imbalance in the brain’s neurotransmitters – an imbalance in the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin may cause depressive symptoms in men
- A traumatic event – For example, an accident
- Lack of support from family and friends
- Loss of a job or unemployment
- The sudden demise of a loved one
- A failed marriage or relationship
- Alcohol abuse
- Smoking cessation – studies show that nicotine withdrawal is a temporary but leading cause of depression in men
In addition to these, consumption of certain drugs and medications, as well as underlying chronic medical conditions – diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and others – may also prompt signs of male depression.
Read More: 7 Possible Causes of Depression
How to Identify the Symptoms of Depression in Men?
Different people encounter symptoms of depression differently. The signs of depression in men may vary from those experienced by women. Men are more likely to lose interest in work, hobbies or family, feel irritable and tired and have trouble sleeping.
Moreover, the symptoms of depression are often hard to recognize since the condition usually creeps in unnoticed. This is truer in the case of male depression.
Men typically try to hide their feelings and suppress their emotions, and hence, refuse to identify the warning signs of depression. Nevertheless, it is imperative that you keep an eye out for the following symptoms of depression in men –
- The constant feeling of despair, sadness or emptiness
- Loss of interest in everyday activities that once used to seem enjoyable
- Significant weight gain/loss, changes in appetite
- Sleep problems – excessive sleeplessness or insomnia
- Lethargy, physical agitation
- Excessive exhaustion and fatigue
- A strong feeling of guilt
- Seeing oneself as less worthy
- Inability to concentrate, think, remember details, or even make decisions
- Recurring suicidal thoughts
- Loss of interest in hobbies and daily tasks
- Physical problems, like digestive disorders, headaches, chronic pain
- Substance or alcohol abuse to self-medicate for depression
- Behavioural changes – becoming violent, controlling, or abusive
- Taking physical risks – unprotected sex, aggressive driving
Men usually find it challenging to deal with the stigma of depression and most often, they cope with the above symptoms by using drugs, alcohol, or engaging in other risky behaviours. It is essential that the condition is detected and treated at the right time because untreated depression can lead to various complications, the most devastating one being suicide.
Read More: How to Diagnose Depression?
What are the Consequences of Untreated Depression in Men?
Male depression is linked with a higher risk of suicide. According to the reports published by The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention1 (CDC), men are 3-4 times more likely to commit suicide than women are.
A staggering 75-80% of the population committing suicide are men. Even though more women attempt the act of suicide, more men actually succeed in committing suicide. This may be because men tend to use more violent and lethal methods to end their lives.
But why do men find it hard to accept depression? Understanding how men in society are brought up to behave is particularly important in recognizing and treating depression. Male depression can be traced to cultural expectations – men should be strong and have control over their emotions; they are supposed to be successful.
These expectations often hide the signs of depression. Instead, men are expected to express anger and aggression, which is seen as a more acceptable behavioural trait of a ‘tough guy.’
When to Visit the Doctor
If you encounter physical, behavioural or emotional changes as discussed above, do not hesitate to see a doctor. These signs could indicate that you are suffering from depression. Before the condition worsens, get it diagnosed and treated.
How is Depression in Men Treated?
There are many treatment approaches to address depression. Each individual may respond to the treatment differently. However, your healthcare provider can devise a treatment plan to suit his needs based on the person’s condition and symptoms.
Your doctor may recommend psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of both to address your mood swings and depressive symptoms.
Psychotherapy is also referred to as ‘talk therapy’ – it is a psychological procedure, which involves interacting with a mental health professional or therapist and discussing the triggers to understand the cause of depression.
The following techniques are usually used to treat the condition effectively –
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
This goal-oriented, short-term procedure takes a practical, hands-on approach to problem-solving. It aims to change the behavioural and thinking pattern that might be at the root of the problem and thus change the way people feel.
This attachment-focused, brief psychotherapy aims to treat depression by improving your relationships with others. It is based on the idea that personal relationships are at the core of psychological problems.
This particular technique helps individuals to interact with the therapist and find solutions or learn how to manage the negative effects of stressful life events. To sum it up, psychotherapy helps men with depression –
- Overcome a crisis
- Recognize and replace negative beliefs
- Explore experiences and relationships and build positive connections
- Find ways to solve problems
- Pinpoint issues contributing to depression
- Set realistic, achievable goals
- Develop coping abilities to deal with stress
SSRIs2 (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) and SNRIs3 (Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor) medications can effectively treat depression in men. Other possible drugs may include NDRIs (Norepiphrine dopamine reuptake inhibitor), MAOIs (Monoamine oxidase inhibitor), and antidepressants. These medications work by balancing the neurotransmitters or brain chemicals that affect your emotions and moods.
These medications may have different effects on different people. It is important that you work closely with your healthcare provider and report any side effects. Be sure to take your medications only as per the prescribed dosage, and do not skip or stop taking them abruptly unless told by the doctor. Stopping treatment abruptly can lead to withdrawal symptoms, and even worsen the condition.
Must Read: 9 Side Effects of Antidepressants
Apart from these, positive lifestyle changes, such as improved eating habits, daily exercise, and following a specific sleep pattern can help to alleviate mild depression symptoms in men.
Clinical or major depression is a serious condition, but it can be managed. With appropriate treatment, an individual living with depression can manage to stay well by coping with the symptoms and even go on to recover completely.
Read More: Understanding Depression in Women