what does male depression look like

What Does Male Depression Look Like?

August 1, 2017 90 5 No Comments

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Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard the phrase “Be a man.” Well, what does “be a man” really entail? A lot of the times, men are told to be strong and be in control of their emotions. Feelings should not play a role in being a man, basically.


 

 News flash: men can experience feelings too. And, especially, men can also feel hopelessness, anxiety, despair, sadness, etc. While depression may have once been considered a part of the women-only club, the truth is that depression is a common problem that affects everyone.

 In 2015, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health released data that showed alarming statistics. 16.1 million adults in America indicated that they had at least one major depressive episode within a period of a year. That’s nearly 7% of all U.S adults! And of those numbers, 4.7% are men.

These numbers make it clear that major depression is one of the most common and one of the most disabling mental disorders.

 

What is Depression?

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, 5th ed. (DSM-V), which is a guide used by healthcare professionals to systematically diagnose mental disorders, a total of 34 pages is dedicated to depressive disorders. Depressive disorders are characterized by the presence of feelings of sadness, emptiness or irritability as well as physical and cognitive changes that causes significant distress. Major Depressive Disorder is the classic representative of this section of the DSM-V.

 

If you show signs of at least five of the following symptoms, you may have major depressive disorder:

  • Depressed mood for a majority of your day, nearly every day.

  • Lack of interest in or pleasure while participating in any activities or hobbies, even ones you once liked.

  • Major weight fluctuations, either as weight loss or weight gain.

  • Insomnia or extreme hypersomnia nearly every day.

  • Inability to keep still such as pacing or hand-wringing, or a slowness of psychomotor abilities such as slowed speech, thinking and body movements.

  • Feeling lethargic or fatigue accompanied by a loss of energy nearly every day.

  • Low self-esteem indicated by feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt.

  • Extreme indecisiveness or an inability to concentrate or think.

  • Suicidal ideation either with or without the intent to commit suicide, and obsessive thoughts about death.

 

Recognizing Depression in Men depression in men

Symptoms of depression in men and women are generally pretty similar. However, what is different is the way each gender express these symptoms. Not sure what the difference between symptoms and the expression of symptoms is? Here’s an example. One of the symptoms of depression is depressed mood. Women usually report that they feel worthless or empty. Men, on the other hand, report that they become withdrawn or that they are often irritable and hostile.

 

You may be thinking, “But wait, depressed means sad doesn’t it? So then doesn’t ‘depressed mood’ basically just mean ‘sad mood’?” Yes and no.

 

“Depressed mood” is an encompassing term that can include feelings of sadness, anxiousness, emptiness, anger, irritability etc. So now that you understand how expression of depressive symptoms can differ between gender, the following is a list of said differences:

 

Men

Women

More likely to experience weight loss

More likely to experience weight gain

Symptoms are similar to those of OCD

Symptoms are similar to anxiety disorders

Feelings of agitation and frustration

Less energetic and more lethargic

More likely to develop a dependence on alcohol or other substances

Feelings of sadness or emptiness

Anger or irritability

Low self-esteem such as feeling worthless

More likely to experience sleep problems

 

Radical changes in behavior such as becoming abusive, controlling, violent

 

Taking on more risky behaviors such as unsafe sex

 

More likely to experience physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive problems, pain.

 

Because of cultural and gender norms, men are expected to mask their emotions so as to be seen as “in control.” Unfortunately, because of this, men often express aggression and anger rather than the more stereotypical symptoms of depression such as sadness. This causes many men to be misdiagnosed or even undiagnosed altogether because of their reluctance to seek help. Much like a slippery slope, because men are often unable to convey their emotions for fear of the cultural backlash that may be unleashed upon them, they tend to turn to alcohol or drugs as well as other risky behaviors as a coping mechanism.

 

Triggers and Risk Factors

It is suggested that depression is caused by a combination of genetics, biological, environmental and psychological factors such as :

  • A family history of depression

  • Trauma

  • Overwhelming stress

  • Money problems

  • Relationship problems

  • Major life changes such as sudden unemployment or a death of a loved one

  • Illnesses or physical diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease

  • Medication that may cause depressive side effects

 

Depression: A Deadly Disorder

An estimated 10-17% of men will develop depression over the course of their lifetimes. It is true that men are only half as likely to develop, or at least report to having, depression as compared to women, however, it is also true that depression is a much more deadly mental issue for men than for women.

 

75-80% of all people who commit suicide in the U.S are men.

 

Men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women worldwide, and the numbers are worse for the U.S where men are four times more likely to commit suicide because of depression than women.  Women are more likely to attempt to take their lives, men are more likely to complete the task and commit suicide.

 

Along with the risk of suicide, because depression is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes, men are even more prone to these diseases. In general, men are more likely to have heart attacks and more likely to die of cancer compared to women. If a man were to suffer from depression, the depression exacerbates the risk of developing such diseases at a higher rate and at an earlier age. Talk about a double whammy.

 

Treatment

Depression is treatable. As with most other mental disorders, depression can be treated with medication, psychotherapy and/or brain stimulation therapies such as:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – Serotonin is basically a chemical messenger in your brain that controls mood, and too little of it can lead to depression. SSRIs are a commonly prescribed antidepressant medication that increases the levels of serotonin in the brain.

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) – A therapy that focuses on the way a person thinks and behaves, reducing negative interpretations of reality and altering distorted thinking in order to reduce psychological distress.

  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) – A type of brain stimulation therapy that is often used when medication does not work. It may sound a bit scary, but unlike what its name suggests, the electrical impulses cannot be felt by the patient and the treatment itself only takes a few minutes.

 

Current problems may seem overwhelming, permanent, debilitating. But reaching out for help can lessen the burden from your shoulders, and maybe then those problems won’t seem so overwhelming and permanent.

 

If you have depression, seeking treatment may seem like a daunting task for many reasons. But each treatment should be tailored so that it works best for you. Every person experiences depression differently so while treatment may not work in the beginning, with some trial and error, the right treatment can be found that fits you.

 

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