Dying in Silence: Depression in Men
Dying in silence: Depression in Men
Depression isn’t a sign of weakness and you don’t have to tough it out
As men, we like to think of ourselves as strong and in control of our emotions. When we feel hopeless or overwhelmed by despair, we often deny it or try to cover it up.
But depression is a common problem that affects many of us at some point in our lives, not a sign of emotional weakness or a failing of masculinity. It affects millions of men of all ages and backgrounds, as well as those who care about them – spouses, partners, friends, and family.
Of course, it’s normal for anyone to feel down from time to time dips in mood are an ordinary reaction to losses, setbacks, and disappointments in life.
However, male depression changes how you think, feel, and function in your daily life. It can interfere with your productivity at work or school and impact your relationships, sleep, diet, and overall enjoyment of life. Severe depression can be intense and unrelenting.
Unfortunately, depression in men often gets overlooked as many of us find it difficult to talk about our feelings. Instead, we tend to focus on the physical symptoms that often accompany male depression, such as back pain, headaches, difficulty sleeping, or sexual problems.
This can result in the underlying depression going untreated, which can have serious consequences. Men suffering from depression are four times more likely to commit suicide than women, so it’s vital for any man to seek help with depression before feelings of despair become feelings of suicide.
Talk honestly with a friend, loved one, or doctor about what’s going on in your mind as well as your body. Once correctly diagnosed, there is plenty you can do to successfully treat and manage male depression and prevent it from coming back.
Signs & Symptoms of Depression in Men
Men tend to be less adept at recognising symptoms of depression than women. A man is more likely to deny his feelings, hide them from himself and others, or try to mask them with other behaviours.
The three most commonly overlooked signs of depression in men are:
- Physical pain – such as backache, frequent headaches, sleep problems, sexual dysfunction, or digestive disorders
- Anger – such as irritability, sensitivity to criticism, or a loss of your sense of humour, road rage, a short temper, or even violence. Some men become abusive or controlling.
- Reckless behaviour – This includes exhibiting escapist or risky behaviour such as pursuing dangerous sports, driving recklessly, or engaging in unsafe sex. You might drink too much, abuse drugs or gamble compulsively.
Getting help for Male Depression
Don’t try to tough out depression on your own. It takes courage to seek help—from a loved one or a professional. Most men with depression respond well to self-help steps such as reaching out for social support, exercising, switching to a healthy diet, and making other lifestyle changes.
But don’t expect your mood to improve instantly. You’ll likely begin to feel a little better each day. Many men recovering from depression notice improvements in sleep patterns and appetite before improvements in their mood.
Tip 1: Seek Social Support
You may think that discussing your feelings isn’t very macho, but whether you’re aware of it or not, you’re already communicating your feelings to those around you; you’re just not using words. Choosing to talk about what you’re going through, instead, can actually help you feel better.
Tip 2: Support Your Health
Try aiming for eight hours of sleep, whilst keeping your stress levels in check. Figure out all the things in your life that stress you out, such as work overload, money problems, or unsupportive relationships, and find ways to relieve the pressure and regain control.
Meanwhile, practise some daily relaxation techniques such as yoga or deep breathing meditation techniques. Also spend sufficient time in sunlight.
Tip 3: Exercise
Research shows that regular exercise can be as effective as medication for relieving depression symptoms. It also helps prevent relapse once you’re well.
To get the most benefit, aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. A 10-minute walk can improve your mood for two hours.
Tip 4: Eat a healthy diet to improve how you feel
Reduce your intake of foods that can adversely affect your mood, such as, sugar, refined carbs, caffeine, alcohol, trans fats, and foods with high levels of chemical preservatives or hormones. Eat more citrus fruit, bananas, leafy greens, beans, chicken, and eggs.
Tip 5: Challenging negative thinking
Do you feel like you’re powerless or weak? That bad things happen and there’s not much you can do about it? That your situation is hopeless?
Depression puts a negative spin on everything, including the way you see yourself and your expectations for the future. Try your best to identify the type of negative thoughts that are fuelling your depression, and replace them with a more balanced way of thinking.