Do you have a brother, father, husband or son who has become increasingly irritable, withdrawn, or isolated? Does your husband retreat into working to many hours or drinking too much? Has he suddenly become angry and explosive?
Chances are he may be struggling with clinical depression.
According to the Mayo Clinic, more than six million men a year struggle with clinical depression. Depression has often been considered a women’s health issue. More than twice as many women as men struggle with depression each year. The numbers may not be accurate as many men fail to recognize or report symptoms of depression to their doctors.
Researchers are beginning to understand that depression may not affect men in the same ways as it does women. As studies are done to pinpoint these differences, more effective methods of diagnosing and treating depression in men will be available.
Women often describe depression in terms of emotions. They report feeling sad, tired, exhausted, anxious, restless, or weepy. Men have been taught to hide their feelings. From an early age they are taught to believe admitting feelings of weakness are less than masculine. A majority of men are afraid to admit a loss of control over situations or emotions. These beliefs may be part of the reason depression affects men differently from women.
Symptoms of Depression in Men
Symptoms of depression in men may include a wide range of behaviors including:
• Unexplained violent behavior or verbal abusiveness
• Inappropriate rage
• Excessive escaping into longer work hours of TV or sports
• Loss of interest in hobbies or usual activities
• Shutting out family interactions
• Sexual affairs
• Abuse of alcohol or drugs
• Thoughts of suicide
These types of behaviors can also be a sign of other medical problems making a diagnosis of depression even harder to obtain.
Consequences of Male Depression
The Centers for Disease Control reports 75-80% of all suicides are men. Men are more likely to die from a suicide attempt than women because they seldom talk about suicidal thoughts. When they follow through on these thoughts it is often in a much more lethal manner such as using a gun rather than pills.
Suicide leaves entire families devastated as they wonder in hindsight if they missed the signs of depression in their loved one. Even when family members do notice a problem, men are often reluctant to see treatment or follow through with recommended treatment options.
There are many effective treatments available for both men and women suffering from depression. The first step is to speak with your doctor about any changes in coping mechanisms or behaviors that have been getting worst. Since other medical conditions can also lead to unexplained irritability or rage it is important to have a thorough evaluation by a medical professional.
Treatment for Depression
Treatment for depression may include medication and therapy to learn new coping skills.
There are many support group options available as well including some exclusively targeted towards men suffering from depression.
If you or a loved one is struggling with depression, don’t try to wait it out and hope it gets better. The sooner treatment is started the easier it is to regain a balance and perspective to handle the stressors this life hands us in a healthy manner.
National Institute of Mental Health: “Men and Depression.”
Mayo Clinic: “Male Depression: Understanding the Issues”.