Depression is an illness that affects both men and women. But people working in mental health services see far fewer men with depression than women with depression. It seems likely that men suffer from depression just as often as women, but that they are less likely to ask for help. Depression is easily treatable and best treated as early as possible. Men need to know what it is and how to get effective help.
The way that men think about themselves can be quite unhelpful. Compared with women, they tend to be far more concerned with being competitive, powerful and successful. Most men don't like to admit that they feel fragile or vulnerable, and so are less likely to talk about their feelings with their friends, loved ones or their doctors. This may be the reason that they often don't ask for help when they become depressed. Men tend to feel that they should rely only on themselves and that it is somehow weak to have to depend on someone else, even for a short time.
This traditional view of how men should be - always tough and self-reliant - is also held by some women. Some men find that owning up to their depression actually results in their partner rejecting them because of this. Even professionals sometimes share this view, and may not diagnose depression in men when they should.
- Feeling sad or unhappy
- High levels of anxiety
- Low energy
- Difficulties concentrating
- Feeling worthless or hopeless
- Losing interest in activities or people
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of sex drive
- Lapses in personal hygiene, such as not bathing or shaving as regularly
- Thoughts of suicide
The symptoms for some types of depression may also include extreme opposites of those listed above for example, unusually high or prolonged levels of energy, significant weight gain and so on.
Other people may notice that:
- You are performing less well at work
- You seem unusually quiet, unable to talk about things
- You're worrying about things more than usual
- You're more irritable than usual
- You're complaining more about vague physical problems
How Do Men Cope
Instead of talking about how they feel, men may try to make themselves feel better by using alcohol or drugs. This will usually make things worse in the long run. Their work will suffer and alcohol often leads to irresponsible, unpleasant or dangerous behavior. Men also tend to give their work a higher priority than their home life, which produces conflicts with their wives or partners. All of these things have been shown to make depression more likely.
For married men, research has shown that trouble in a marriage is the most common single problem connected with depression. Men can't cope with disagreements as well as women. Arguments actually make men feel very physically uncomfortable. So, they try to avoid arguments or difficult discussions. This often leads to the situation where a man's partner will want to talk about a problem, but he will not and will do his best to avoid talking about it. The partner feels that they are being ignored and tries to talk about it more, which makes him feel he is being nagged. So, he withdraws even more, which makes his partner feel even more that they are being ignored . . . and so on. This vicious circle can quite easily destroy a relationship.