Mental health disorders, such as depression, are often considered to be a female problem. Women are significantly over-represented in the general mental health population, which makes it easy to believe that men simply do not suffer from mental health problems. However, the numbers tell a different story. Men are many times more likely to commit suicide than are women but where do the thoughts of suicide come from, and why are the early signs of depression in men often ignored
Societal Pressure on Men
A significant factor is societal pressure.
Men are expected to be tough, strong, and capable. It is often seen as a sign of weakness for a man to seek help. Therefore, men tend to repress feelings of depression as well as signs of other disorders, believing that they need to tough it out, and deal with their feelings on their own.
Male Depression Signs and Symptoms
Dealing with depression on their own can lead men to increasingly risky behaviours.
Drinking and driving, womanizing, and physical altercations are all signs of depression in men that can stem from untreated mental health issues. This often exacerbates the problem, as the man must then face the consequences of the behaviour.
As his life deteriorates due to these behaviours, the depression worsens. It becomes a self-replicating cycle, which may go unnoticed by both the sufferer and his doctor.
Signs and symptoms of male depression may include one or more of the following –
- Feeling of sadness and low mood
- Teary eyed or crying for no reason
- Feeling hopeless, helpless or empty
- Guilty conscience or feeling guilt ridden
- Irritability, short tempered or aggressive
- Feeling anxious, nervous, restless or worried
- Loss of self-confidence and self-esteem
- Overeating or loss of appetite
- Avoiding social contact with friends and/or family
- Loss of interest in family, home life and work
- Lack of concentration
- Unable to get to sleep, insomnia, disturbed sleep or feeling constantly tired
- Loss of libido, sexual desire and performance
- Physical aches or pains, cramps, or stomach problems
- Over indulging in alcohol or drugs
- Engaging in risky activities
- Suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self harm
Friends and family members often become enablers with women tending to confront each other over negative behaviour patterns.
Men, on the other hand, who may also buy into the societal pressure for men to handle their own problems, may be more reluctant to do anything that they see as interfering or nagging. Often the man’s significant other may make attempts to intervene, but their success may be limited.
How is Depression in Men Treated
Fortunately, things are changing. Men are being diagnosed with disorders from depression to schizophrenia in record numbers. The stigma is being lifted. It is important for doctors to work toward increasing awareness, and to screen their male patients for mental health issues.
It is equally important for men to arm themselves with information. Mental health disorders do not solely affect women, and men need to be aware of the symptoms.
It takes a strong man to handle his problems on his own, but an even stronger one admits when he needs help.
Annual physical exams are recommended for everyone, and it is a simple matter to review any psychological factors with your doctor at that time. Additionally, the services of a mental health professional can and should be sought at any time that a disorder seems to manifest itself.
Modern psychiatric drugs have far fewer side effects than did those of the past and in some cases a simple pill may be all that is required. At other times, more extensive therapy may be indicated.
While it can be difficult for men who have been raised to keep their issues private to suddenly open up to a stranger, many describe the process as liberating.
Learning to communicate with a therapist can have numerous real world benefits, including better communication with one’s partner and co-workers.
A therapist is impartial, fair, and non-judgmental. Seeking the advice of a therapist can help to bring many issues into focus, and help one to develop the best life he can possibly have. Entering treatment can be intimidating, but it is important to remember that psychological illness is no different from physical illness.
Psychological treatment, like physical treatment, can prevent a minor illness from becoming, quite literally, life-threatening. The advantages far outweigh the initial fear and embarrassment.