June is National Men’s Health Month. We thought this would be a great opportunity to talk about an important men’s health issue: depression.
Depression is a common and potentially debilitating mental health disorder. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 6.7% of U.S. adults suffer from depression each year. Depression affects a person’s emotions, their thoughts, and their ability to handle everyday activities.
Yet, despite how common it is and how much it can affect a person’s daily life, men are far less likely than women to seek help for depression. There are several reasons for this, but one of the most significant factors is social stigma. So today we want to explain how depression affects men and address some of the most common myths about depression in men.
What are the signs and symptoms of depression in men?
It’s simple to think the hallmark of depression is feeling down or sad. Yet this is only one of its facets. Like all mental illnesses, depression has a wide range of symptoms, with differences occurring between men and women. Symptoms of depression in men include:
- Sadness or hopelessness
- Loss of interest in hobbies
- Irritability or angry outbursts
- Difficulty sleeping or over sleeping
- Inability to concentrate or remember details
While men experience a range of depression symptoms, they are more likely to identify and express physical or behavioral symptoms, including:
- Physical pain, like frequent back aches or headaches
- Reckless behaviors, including alcohol and drug abuse
- Anger, irritability, and even violent outbursts
It’s unclear why men and women may experience different symptoms of depression. It likely involves a number of factors: brain chemistry, hormones, and life experiences.
In addition, some studies suggest men may attempt to hide emotional symptoms of depression as a result of social pressures to appear “more masculine.” It’s thought that by downplaying emotions like sadness, men instead engage in more overt and destructive behaviors.
What causes depression in men?
Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders, and a large body of research has been conducted to identify its possible causes. While researchers have made a lot of progress, one thing is clear: the cause of depression is complex.
A number of different factors influence someone’s likelihood of developing depression – from brain chemistry and family history to your environment and life experiences. All of these facets come together to create a number of potential pathways for depression. Possible causes of depression in men include:
- Genetics – Men with a family history of depression or other mental health disorders are more likely to develop depression themselves.
- Brain Chemistry and Structure – Our brain structure and chemistry can profoundly affect our mood and behavior. In fact, recent research suggests differences in our prefrontal cortex can affect depression.
- Hormones – Throughout our bodies, hormones play a vital role as communicators. In men, hormonal changes or imbalances can trigger a range of responses, including depression.
- Life Experiences – For both men and women, life experiences can play a role in mood disorders. For example, men who experienced childhood trauma or who recently lost a loved one are more likely to develop depression.
- Stressful Environment – Both current and past stressful environments have been shown to affect depression in a number of ways. Studies suggest prolonged stress can be a major contributing factor to developing depression.
- Lifestyle – A number of lifestyle factors can influence our mental health. Everything from your diet to how much sunlight you get can cause changes in mood, including depression.
Social pressures and “masculine norms” have ingrained a belief that men are better able to handle stress, emotional duress, and even trauma. However, an abundance of scientific evidence shows that this is untrue. Men are as affected by stress, loss, trauma, and other factors as women.
Myths About Male Depression
A large number of social stigma-fueled myths have played a significant role in creating an unrealistic, and unhealthy, image of men’s mental health. Let’s address some of the more common myths about depression in men.
Myth: Men Don’t Get Depressed
This myth is clearly false. Men do suffer from depression. According to the American Psychological Association, around 1 in 3 men will suffer from depression in their lifetime. Unfortunately, the AMA also reports that only 1 in 4 of those men will seek professional help for their mental health.
Myth: Depression Is a Sign of Weakness
Suffering from depression does not make you weak. Depression is a medical condition, just like any other. And it is a serious condition that impacts the lives of millions of men each year. Depression is only viewed as a weakness as a result of stigmas.
Myth: Men Shouldn’t Ask for Help
There is nothing wrong with asking for help. In fact, seeking help from your friends, family, or a professional is a sign of strength. When you seek help, you are taking steps to actively improve yourself and confront your depression. Trying to beat depression on your own is not only challenging, it’s less effective than having a team to support you.
Myth: You Can Beat Depression Through Willpower Alone
Anyone who has suffered from a mental illness can tell you this is untrue. You can’t simply “snap out” of a mental health disorder. Yet it can be easy for men to think they can will away depression. However, the causes of depression are deeply rooted in everything from our brain chemicals to our bodies’ genetic code. The only true way to beat depression is to seek help and face it directly.
Unfortunately, there are many more myths surrounding depression and mental health. One of the best ways that you can help yourself and help others is through education. Learn the facts about mental health, and if you or a loved one is suffering from a mental disorder, take the steps to get help.
How You Can Help a Depressed Friend or Loved One
If a friend or family member is suffering from depression, there are a number of ways that you can help him.
1. Educate Yourself
The first step in helping a loved one through their depression is to understand it. Learn about the types, causes, signs, and treatment options for depression. It can also be helpful to learn how to talk with your loved one about his mental health. Knowing as much as you can about depression gives you a foundation for offering informed, and truly helpful support to your friend.
2. Be There When He Needs You
One of the most effective things you can do to help a friend is listen. Be there when he needs someone to talk to. Sometimes having someone who cares and who you can talk to about how you’re feeling can make a big difference. Listening to a friend in need of support shows him that you care, and, most important of all, that he isn’t alone.
3. Help Them Find Professional Support
Chances are, you’re not a mental health professional. If your friend comes to you looking for help in finding someone who is a professional, this is a great time to show them that you are there for them. Take time to help them look for treatment options that are best for them, and don’t be afraid to offer suggestions.
4. Continue to Support Them Throughout Their Recovery
While there is no “miracle cure,” treatment can often make depression manageable. However, effective treatment takes time. Sometimes a patient might need to try several different medications, or they may take time to develop healthy coping skills with their therapist. Throughout this time, your loved one will need your support. It’s important to be there for him, and encourage him to continue forward on his journey to recovery.
Pyramid Family Behavioral Healthcare Is Here To Help
At Pyramid Family Behavioral Healthcare, our skilled staff of clinicians and therapists understand how much of an impact depression can have on someone’s life. We’re ready to help you or your loved one in their fight against depression. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment options for depression.