Depression in Men

 

Depression touches every race, income level, and age. Each year, at least 7% of men in the U.S. suffer from depression ― that's 6 million of us. The actual number might be much higher because identifying depression in men is difficult.

Here are some basic facts about depression you should know. You are at risk for depression if you

have had a prior episode of depression
have family members with depression
are at a low-income level
Depression is also more common if you have other illnesses, such as

cancer
diabetes
heart disease
HIV
stroke
Treating depression can sometimes improve these conditions.

The most serious consequence of depression in men is suicide. Men account for a staggering 80% of suicides in the U.S. And although women are more likely to attempt suicide, men are 4 times more likely than women to commit suicide successfully.

 

What is depression?

Depression is much more than just feeling down. Depression is a serious disruption of a person’s regular way of thinking, feeling, and acting.

In general, symptoms of depression include

loss of energy
problems sleeping and concentrating
sadness and loss of interest in pleasurable activities
thoughts about death or suicide


These symptoms of depression can last for weeks or months at a time.

Because women are diagnosed with depression 10 times more often than men, these symptoms of depression are really "their" common symptoms. It is common for men to have them also, but the signs of depression in men may be different. Instead of appearing sad, men often can become irritable or aggressive, drink too much, or act recklessly.

Men often don't recognize or admit they're depressed, and they are less likely than women to seek help for depression. Also, because the signs of depression in men can look different than they do in women, doctors may not diagnosis it as often. For these reasons, depression in men may often go unidentified and untreated.

 

There are three recognized forms of depression:

Major depression. With major depression, depressive symptoms interfere with the ability to work, eat, sleep, and enjoy life. Symptoms are serious and last for weeks or months.
Dysthymia. Dysthymia is a less severe but more persistent kind of depression.
Bipolar disorder. With bipolar disorder, episodes of depression alternate with mania, an excessively "high" mood, with the potential for serious problems.


After years of research, no one yet understands what really causes depression. Chemicals that nerves use to "talk" to each other in the brain are thrown out of balance. Also, certain areas of the brain can be less active during periods of depression. Research in these areas is ongoing.

 

How can I prevent depression?
There is no known medicine, supplement, or herb that prevents a first episode of depression.

After one episode of depression, most people will experience recurrences. But you can prevent or reduce these relapses by:

Taking antidepressant medicines consistently as prescribed. Taking medicine for six months to a year after an initial bout of depression prevents depression from coming back.
Learning and practicing cognitive therapy techniques. Done properly, these techniques work as well as antidepressant medicines in preventing recurrences.
Getting regular exercise and sleep.
Avoiding alcohol and drug use.


How is depression treated?

Effective treatments are available to relieve depression. In fact, more than 80% of men respond to treatment for depression. Your primary care doctor or a psychiatrist can create a treatment plan for you. That plan for treating depression may include:

Antidepressants . The medicines most often used for depression treatment today are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). These antidepressants increase the levels of specific chemicals in the brain.


Talk therapy . Many kinds of psychotherapy or talk therapy are effective in treating depression. Cognitive therapy, also called cognitive-behavioral therapy, and "insight-oriented psychotherapy" are frequently used.
What else do I need to know about depression in men?

It's hard for us to shake the old ideas: Real men don't cry, and we're sure as hell always in control of our feelings. But it's time to put this new idea into the list: A lot of real men do get depressed.

If you think you're one of them, be a real man and take care of yourself. Ask for help, and get treated for depression. You deserve to feel better ― and with treatment, there is every reason to believe you soon will.