Behavioral Health

Men's Suicide Prevention Project

Are you tired and irritable all the time? Have you lost interest in your work, family or hobbies? Are you having trouble sleeping? Are you feeling angry or aggressive, sad, or worthless? Have you been feeling like this for weeks or months?

If so, you may have depression. Every year, an estimated six million men in the United States have a depressive disorder such as depression, dysthymia (chronic, less severe depression), or bipolar disorder. Although these illnesses are highly treatable, many guys don’t recognize, acknowledge, or seek help for their depression.

The feelings and behaviors that are part of depression can hinder a person’s ability to seek help. Both men and women get depression but they often experience depression differently. Men tend to have different coping skills, both healthy and unhealthy, than women. In addition, men in particular may find it difficult to admit depressive symptoms and ask for help. Tragically, four times as many men as women die by suicide, even though women make more suicide attempts during their lives

 

Why aren’t more men diagnosed?

Often, men with depression aren’t diagnosed for a variety of reasons, including:

Failure to recognize depression

Thinking that being or feeling sad or being emotional is always the main symptom of depression may result in failing to recognize depression in men. For many men, this is not the primary depression symptom. Physical aches and pains such as headaches, digestive problems and chronic pain as well as fatigue and irritability can sometimes indicate depression. Feeling isolated and seeking distraction to avoid dealing with feelings and relationships are other ways men can demonstrate they are depressed. Men may be more willing to report fatigue, irritability, loss of interest in work or hobbies, and sleep disturbances rather than feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and excessive guilt, which are commonly associated with depression in women.

Downplaying signs and symptoms

Men sometimes have difficulty admitted to themselves or others that they are depressed or how much the symptoms of depression may affect them or others.

Reluctance to discuss depression

Men may be reluctant to talk about how they are feeling. Men may have the perspective that it is not manly to express emotions or feelings, especially those associated with depression. As a result, some men work hard to suppress those feelings, and may not be open to talking about their feelings with family and friends or a health care professionals.

Resisting Mental Health Treatment

Guys may avoid diagnosis and refuse treatment even if they suspect they have depression. Men may avoid getting help for a variety of reasons including being worried about the stigma associated with depression, the effect depression and treatment could have on their career, and the possible loss of respect by family and friends.

 

It’s important to remember, however, that depression is a real, treatable illness and is nothing to be ashamed about. It can affect any man at any age, from childhood into late life. Depression is a serious medical condition that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. It affects how you eat and sleep. It alters your self-perception. It changes the way you think and feel. Men with a depressive illness can’t just “snap out of it” or “pull themselves together,” because depression isn’t the same as a passing mood. Left untreated, depression may last for weeks, months, or years at a time. Click here for more information on the signs and symptoms of depression.

A variety of effective treatments including medications and short-term psychotherapies are available for depressive disorders. Treatment choice will depend on the patient’s diagnosis, severity of symptoms, and preference. In general, severe depressive illnesses, particularly those that are recurrent, will require a combination of treatments for the best outcome.

If you are feeling depressed, tell someone about your symptoms. Speak with a doctor, nurse, psychologist, social worker, or employee assistance professional.

Asking for help takes courage, but it can make all the difference.