There is a big emphasis in our society on men being strong and tough. They should be able to handle anything and shouldn’t struggle with emotions and feelings. They just tough it out and power through. The only problem with that is, it isn’t true. Men can’t just power through anything and the belief that you should be able to is putting you in a bad situation. When it comes to depression women are more likely to be diagnosed, but does that mean that men don’t struggle with it too?
It’s true that depression is more prevalent in women, however, that doesn’t mean that men don’t struggle with depression as well. According to the World Health Organization, there are 300 million people around the world that experience depression. That means even if women are more likely to suffer from symptoms of depression there are still millions of men that are impacted. But, you aren’t as likely to talk about it, and your symptoms can look different than what most people expect, which makes it more difficult to diagnose and treat.
What depression in men looks like
When you think of depression you may think of symptoms like sadness, excessive sleeping, withdrawing from family, and overeating. While you might experience these same symptoms, men also tend to experience atypical symptoms along with them. Some common symptoms of depression in men include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of interest in work
- Participating in risk-taking activities
- Escaping from “life” by spending excessive time playing sports, video games, or another activity
- Abuse of alcohol or drugs
Depression in men also shows itself through physical symptoms. These include things like chest pains, racing heart, headaches, sexual dysfunction, and change in levels of hunger (either eating too much or not enough). These are the symptoms that many men will seek out treatment for instead of the more emotional-based symptoms.
Anger and depression in men
One of the biggest differences in depression in men is the presence of anger, aggression, and irritability. For many of you, this is how depression shows itself in your life. These symptoms are often overlooked or brushed aside which means that men aren’t properly diagnosed and treated.
This anger could show as mild irritability such as losing your sense of humor and being overly sensitive to criticism. Or, it can show as an unwarranted violent outburst. For some men, it can lead to abusive and controlling behavior. You may even realize that you are experiencing higher levels of anger and irritability, but don’t connect it with depression. You may feel that your anger is caused by the actions of others and blame them for your irritability. Because many men are not aware of the connection between anger and depression, they don’t realize it’s a problem that could be treated.
Why is it difficult for men to get help?
One reason that men don’t reach out for help with depression is that they don’t realize they are struggling with it. You may think that you are just “tired”, “beat”, or “overwhelmed”. There are many different names that are given to it, but in the end, it all boils down to the same thing—depression.
Another reason that men often don’t seek treatment is due to the stigma that surrounds mental health. Many men feel that they are supposed to be strong and able to conquer anything. They don’t like to ask for help. The stigma around mental health says that people with mental health challenges, like depression, are weak. If you are concerned about being defined by the stigma, you are less likely to reach out for the help you need from a professional.
This is a problem that needs to be addressed. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), men are more likely to die by suicide then women. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, between 50% and75% of those that die by suicide suffered from depression (the higher number takes into account alcoholics that are depressed). Depression is one of the most treatable mental health challenges. It is not something to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. It is something that many people will experience at one point or another during their lifetime on some level.
How to get help as a man with depression
If you can identify with the symptoms that are listed above, then it’s important that you seek treatment and help. Remember, you don’t need to experience all of the symptoms on the list. Some people with depression will only have one or two of the symptoms. And, it’s important that you seek help from a professional that will treat you for more than just the physical symptoms such as insomnia or an upset stomach. You need something that will consider your mental health as well. They need to be willing to get to the root of the symptom instead of just treating the symptom.
Talk to a professional
You want to speak with a professional like a local therapist. Therapy can help men with depression in many ways. Through your sessions you can learn how to:
- Identify ways to cope with a crisis
- Deal with stress and anxiety in a healthy way
- Build positive relationships
- Replace negative beliefs
- Identify situations and events that trigger depression
- Identify self-care habits such as exercise and mindfulness that help improve mental health
- Explore medicines that can help get your symptoms under control
Learn and practice self-care
Practicing good self-care habits can make a big difference when dealing with depression. Common recommendations for self-care include:
- Getting proper exercise
- Eating a balanced diet
- Getting enough sleep at night
- Practicing mindfulness or meditation
- Setting boundaries in your relationships and with your schedule
Rethink the way you think about depression
If you were having symptoms of a heart attack, would you reach out for help? Absolutely! You know what your body should feel like and what it usually feels like, which means you can feel when something is wrong. If you think you are having a heart attack you would call an ambulance or head into the nearest ER. It should be no different when it comes to your mental health. If something feels a little”off” or you can identify with the symptoms listed in this article call a therapist in your area. You can talk with them about any symptoms that you are having. There is no shame in getting the help you need to be healthy for yourself and your family. That’s what strong is.