Depression in Men: How to Recognize Depression and Get Help

depression in men
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“I just don’t feel like myself anymore. It’s like a dark cloud is hanging over me and I can’t escape.”

“I watch my kids play and don’t have the energy to join in the fun. Nothing sounds like fun lately.” 

“My family can tell something’s wrong because I’m always snapping at them. I try to keep to myself but I just feel lonely and angry.”

We all have moments of feeling sad or irritable, even losing pleasure in things we typically enjoy.  Usually these feelings start during stressful times in our lives and pass after a couple of days.  But when these feelings persist and start to interfere with everyday life, they may indicate a more serious issue with depression.

Both men and women get depressed.  But men tend to experience and express it differently than women.  Men are more likely to describe feeling angry, irritable, or stressed when depressed.  They tend to have greater problems with sleep and fatigue than women who are depressed.  They are more likely to engage in high risk behavior and use substances to cope with their feelings.  Men are also at greater risk of becoming depressed after a medical crisis, such as a heart attack or new diagnosis of diabetes.

Many men do not recognize or seek help for their depression.  The reasons for this vary by person.  They may feel reluctant to acknowledge their struggle or talk about their feelings.  They may view depression as a weakness.  But depression is a real and treatable condition.  It can affect men of any age.  With the right treatment, men with depression can feel much better and return to enjoying their families, hobbies, and work.

Signs & Symptoms of Depression in Men

  • Feeling irritable or angry
  • Feeling sad or empty
  • Aggression or other risky behaviors
  • Loss of interest in work, family, or once-pleasurable activities, including sex
  • Fatigue with low motivation
  • Difficulty concentrating or remember details
  • Problems falling asleep or sleeping too much
  • Overeating or loss of appetite
  • Thoughts of suicide or life not being worth living
  • Body aches or pains, headaches, or digestive problems
  • Inability to meet responsibilities of work, family, or other important roles
  • Using alcohol or other substances to numb feelings

Depression Treatment: What to Expect

The first step to finding the right treatment for depression is to visit a doctor or mental health professional.  Depression can be treated with both medication and/or psychotherapy.  Both have shown effective outcomes in managing the symptoms of depression and are often used in combination.

Antidepressant medications typically take a few weeks to show symptom improvement and require monitoring by your prescribing provider, especially during the first few months.  Antidepressants may have side effects including headache, stomach upset, jitteriness, and sexual problems.  However, the benefits of these medications often far outweigh the side effects.

Psychotherapy has been proven effective in the treatment depression, often just as effective as medications with no side effects.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is one well established approach to treating depression by focusing on changing the way you think and behave in a situation in order to change the unhelpful habits associated with depression.  Therapy can also help you work through difficult relationships or stressful situations that contribute to depression.  You will typically develop a better understanding of yourself and learn new skills to manage your feelings more effectively.  The more you put into your therapy, the more you’ll get out of it.

How to Help Someone who is Depressed:

  • Offer support and understanding
  • Talk to him and listen patiently
  • Invite him out for walks or other activities you typically enjoy together
  • Help him to find a doctor or mental health professional for an appointment
  • Check in to ensure he followed through with his appointments
  • Remind him that with time and treatment, depression will lift

How to Help Myself if I’m Depressed:

  • See a professional as soon as possible. Research shows that getting treatment sooner rather than later can reduce the amount of time treatment is needed
  • Spend time with people you enjoy being around
  • Try talking about your feelings with someone you trust
  • Break up large tasks into smaller, more manageable steps to avoid becoming overwhelmed
  • Avoid making important decisions until you feel better
  • Remember that treatment for depression will take a while to work and have realistic expectations of yourself

Finding a mental health professional who is best for you may take some effort up front but is well worth it.  Ask your doctor, friends, and family nearby for providers they trust.   Professional search sites like PsychologyToday.com or NetworkTherapy.com allow you to search for mental health providers nearby.  Check out the professional websites of each provider you find to get a good sense of who they are and how they work.  Your insurance company may have a list of in-network providers as well.  In the end, a phone call that allows you to speak directly with a mental health provider can be a great way to ensure a good fit and ease your worries about starting treatment.

What to Do if Someone is in Crisis

Men with depression may be at risk for suicide.  Men are more likely to choose more lethal methods of suicide than women.  If you or someone you know is in crisis with thoughts of suicide, get help quickly.

  • Contact your physician or mental health provider if possible
  • Call 911 for emergency services
  • Go to the nearest hospital emergency room
  • Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)

It’s important to remember that depression is a treatable condition.  Getting started in treatment is the first step to finding hope and getting your life back.

Written by Suzanne Smith, Ph.D. for Linden BP based on National Institute of Mental Health report on Men & Depression. If you are interested in receiving Linden Blog updates with original articles about parenting, families, mental health, and wellness, subscribe using the field below. If you are interested in scheduling an appointment with Dr. Smith, contact Linden BP at 440-250-9880.

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