A recent conversation with my husband sparked me to write this piece on depression in men. We had talked about the recent suicide of Linkin Park lead singer, Chester Bennington. I recall telling him that there were specific symptoms that were prevalent in men with depression, which often go unrecognized! So this short piece is to give a very brief overview about depression in men.
Depression is a multifaceted condition characterized by deep sadness, lethargy, feelings of worthlessness, and a loss of interest in social activities. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 300 million people suffer from depression. Half of those do not receive treatment, due to stigma and lack of awareness.
There is a perception that men should be strong and in control of their emotions. The fact is men and women get depressed! Symptoms used to diagnose depression are similar regardless of gender. However, men tend to be less adept at recognising symptoms of depression than women.
The reasons why the symptoms of depression in men are not commonly recognised is that men are more likely to deny these types of feelings or try to mask or hide them with other behaviours. They are more likely to experience “stealth” depression symptoms, which can be represented as:
1. Mood fluctuations – feeling aggressive, hostile or irritable
2. Reckless behaviour –pick a fight, drive dangerously, drink and drive or gambling
3. Alcohol or drug abuse
5. Decreased sex drive
6. Physical complaints such as back ache, stomachache, gastric problems, fatigue or loss of appetite
7. Escapist Behaviour, such as spending a lot of time at work
8. Irritability or inappropriate anger
It is important to note that the above is not set in stone, as depression affects people in different ways, which means that particular symptoms are unique to the individual.
Depression does not come out of the blue! It can slowly creep up before the above symptoms are noticeable. Some of the triggers to depression can be due to:
1. Stress at work or home
2. Relationship problems
3. Health problems
4. Family responsibilities
5. Financial problems
6. Retirement and loss of independence
7. Death of a loved one
Depression in men may cause them to keep their feelings hidden, which is why it can go unrecognised in the early stages. Men tend to put off getting any kind of help because they may think they need to be tough!
Depression untreated can be catastrophic. Men show fewer warning signs, such as talking about suicide. Although women are more likely to attempt suicide, men suffering from depression are four times more likely to die if they attempt suicide. This is because they tend to choose more lethal methods and may act more impulsively on suicidal thoughts.
Depression in both men and women can be treated successfully with antidepressant medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.
Depression is a serious and common condition, which unfortunately won’t get better by itself. If you or someone close to you is going through depression, it is important that you seek help and support. Talk with your doctor, mental health professional or someone you trust who can support you to seek appropriate help!
Some additional tips:
1. Eat healthily; avoid sugar and refined foods, as well as caffeine. Eat fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens; these can boost your B Vitamins, as a deficiency in this vitamin can trigger depression.
2. Engage in social activates as this will help to avoid further isolations.
3. Engage in physical exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Take a walk, lift some weights or go for a run!
I know it can be hard to ask for help, but without the appropriate treatment, depression is unlikely to go away, and possibly could get worse. Please do not suffer in silence! No matter how dark your days may feel, there is a way out of it!
A sign of strength is when you ask for help when you need it.
Dr Funke Baffour is a Clinical Psychologist and Nutritionist. Her recent book, Improving your Thinking: A 10 Step Guide helps individuals to adopt healthier ways to deal with unhelpful thoughts and behaviours. Available on Amazon