Depression in Men
By: Brian M Murray, MS, IMH
Depression is one of the most commonly overlooked and misunderstood conditions that occur in men. Men experience symptoms of depression differently than women. Characteristics often found in men may not seem like depression at all but some other kind of issue that they might be experiencing. An angry mood lasting two weeks or longer is often a common symptom so the strong pervasive sadness associated with depression may be absent. It may become apparent that something is “off” by having more frequent mood swings and negativity and yet it is difficult to try and pinpoint the problem.
What happens when men experience depression is they often fall into old belief patters that somehow they have to be strong and tough it out. Over time this depression begins to wear them out and they begin to look defeated and withdrawn. Sometimes the depression is anger turned inward and it becomes a catch 22 with anger leading to depression and vice versa. Over time the problem compounds itself. Men usually don’t cry when depressed and they tend to zone out and take on more of a downcast look.
Isolation and increased use of alcohol and drugs are common coping mechanisms that men reach out for. Men begin to take on avoidant behaviors such as working late, sleeping more and find ways to avoid family and friends. What is happening is they don’t want to anyone to take notice of their feelings that they may have to discuss with someone else. When approached the response is often expressed in a sarcastic, bitter or frustrated tone. Men often don’t complain so much about how they feel as how much they ache. What happens is the body betrays the mind, also known as psychosomatic, with symptoms such as backaches, joint pain, headaches, dizziness, stomach problems and digestive issues. Behavioral changes also arise falling away from hobbies and friends, sex issues, feeling more tired and lethargic than usual and having difficulty with concentration.
Reaching out for help, men often have a difficult time stepping forward to acknowledge they may be experiencing a problem and address it head on. Much of this has to do with a long time stigma that counseling therapy is for wimps or people who can’t handle their problems. This is a pride issue and the underlying message is “I can hack it.” This is the warrior mentality men have that when faced with difficulty the response is to hold ground and fight it out. While this is admirable on the battlefield, in the core of our being it can become destructive. The truth of the matter is depression is not to be taken lightly. Treatment for depression has extensive valid research with effective therapy techniques.
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