With approximately six million American men dealing with depression every year, the topic raises many questions. Some of the more common questions people have about depression include:
- “Am I depressed?”
- “How can I recognize depression symptoms?”
- “What causes depression?”
- “What treatment options are available for depression?”
Our goal is to shed some light on this important issue and provide resources to help educate people so they can make better decisions about their health.
Answered: Your Most Burning Questions About Depression in Men
Male depression merits special attention because depression often goes unrecognized and untreated in men. While women with depression are more likely to seek treatment, men with depression often do not get the help they need. Women are also more likely to use social support when they have depression. Men often do not share or talk about their depression feelings for many reasons. Examples include "male alexithymia" (difficulty describing emotion) and social stigma.
Yet, according to Webmd.com, more than 6 million men in the U.S. have depression each year. To help battle the stigma attached to male depression many famous and successful men have gone public with their battles. The list includes presidents (John Adams), astronauts (Buzz Aldrin), authors (Isaac Asimov), rock and roll stars (Jon Bon Jovi), TV personalities (Alec Baldwin), and athletes(Terry Bradshaw).
And besides that, depression is less often diagnosed in men because depression symptoms can be different for men than they are for women. Women with depression are more likely to experience negative thoughts and sadness. Men with depression may have more physical symptoms like fatigue, irritability, and difficulty sleeping. Men may also be more likely to mask depression by self-treating with alcohol or overworking.
The Sooner You Know The Facts, The Better
Depression can be particularly dangerous for men if left untreated. This is particularly true if the depression includes suicidal thoughts. While women are more likely to attempt suicide, men are more likely to choose methods that are lethal. In fact, the leading cause of death in men under age 55 is suicide. Men older than 55 are at a high risk of depression due to medical problems and significant stressors, likes retirement or loss of a spouse or loved one. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a whopping 19-30% of people older than 65 experience signs of depression.
What else do you need to know?
Well, the good news is that depression is highly treatable. If you or someone you know has signs of depression, seek professional help.
We recommend that you:
1. Start by seeing your family physician or primary care doctor.
Many medical conditions and medications can cause depression symptoms. Experts have correlated heart conditions like high cholesterol with increased incidence of depression. Scientists aren’t sure if that’s due to chemical changes that alter the neurotransmitters that impact mood or if the correlation is due to lifestyle issues like diet, alcohol, or lack of exercise. Thyroid and adrenal problems also produce depression symptoms. Deficiency in levels of B-12 and other vitamins and minerals have been associated with depression. Low-testosterone levels can also produce depression symptoms. Medications can have side-effects that cause depression symptoms. Your doctor can help you figure out exactly what’s going on.
2. Next see a professional therapist for talk therapy.
We strongly recommend that you do not just see a doctor and get a prescription. Not everyone needs to take antidepressant medication. Medication alone is often not enough to solve the problem. A therapist will see you weekly, track your symptoms, and help you work through underlying issues that contribute to your depression. Research shows talk therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy are effective in treating depression. Research also shows that medication combined with talk therapy is particularly effective, especially if you take antidepressant medication. Talk therapy also paves the way for the opportunity to wean from medication down the road.
3. Take good care of yourself as you treat your depression.
Some factors that come into play when treating depression are within your control. Do everything you can to improve your condition. Avoid alcohol. Get adequate sleep. Relax. Eat healthy foods. Postpone major decisions. And, above all, don't blame yourself!