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Men and Mental Health: Dealing with Depression

John Bankston John Bankston January 9, 2022
Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen

If you or someone you know is actively contemplating self-harm or suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It is a free, 24-hour hotline, at 1.800.273.TALK (8255)

 

We all feel a bit down in the dumps sometimes. Maybe you’ve had a break-up or current events have gotten you down. However, if you feel persistently unhappy or are thinking about suicide, you may be depressed. When it comes to dealing with depression, men are different from women. Here’s what you should know.

 

Signs to Watch for

 

While it’s completely normal to feel sad occasionally, persistently low energy, feelings of sadness or despair, and recurring thoughts of suicide are signs of depression. You may have little appetite or interest in things you once enjoyed. Other symptoms include changes in sleeping habits (either more or less) and being less optimistic than others. 

 

Men may notice that rather than feeling sad, they feel angry. They may feel constantly irritable, on-edge, and restless. You may also have physical concerns such as persistent pains and headaches. This may also be the result of ignoring your mental health issues for some time. It’s long been more acceptable for men to seek treatment for physical concerns rather than mental ones –– although that is slowly changing.

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Depression - Men and Therapy

Depression - Men and Therapy

There’s no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected people’s emotional health in a profound way. Millions of people who weren’t infected by the virus are dealing with novel bouts of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Pre-pandemic fewer than one out of ten U.S. adults experienced depression. According to a recent survey by researchers at Boston University, by May of 2021 nearly one-third of all respondents were dealing with bouts of depression. During the pandemic, drug overdoses have skyrocketed.  So have suicides and suicide attempts –– which were 50% higher for young girls than in 2019. This is a group at generally low risk from the virus itself. For men, the suicide rate has also been on the rise.

 

While there are few positives about being depressed, some studies have suggested that “depressed individuals are more realistic at assessing the relationship between two events than non-depressed individuals.” This “depressive-realism” theory has had mixed results in studies.

 

You’re Not Alone

 

Depression is incredibly isolating. The condition can make spending time with others nearly unbearable. It can also leave you feeling completely alone. You’re not. In fact as many as one-third of men experience depression at some point in their life. Around ten percent are experiencing it right now. Sadly, while women attempt suicide more often, the suicide rate among American men is four times higher. This is partly because men tend to choose more lethal methods like guns rather than pills. The highest suicide rate is among white men over 85, although here persistent health concerns rather than clinical depression may be a primary driver.

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Depression - Suicide

Depression - Suicide

There are things you can do. Being around others can elevate your mood. Generally women have stronger support systems, although both men and women have fewer friends as they get older. In the U.S., more adults are living alone even as fewer access traditional institutions like churches and synagogues. That’s too bad, because while men are often reluctant to speak to a therapist, they are often more comfortable speaking with a minister, rabbi, or other religious leader

 

Generally men are more likely to be bottled up and keep their emotions to themselves. Repressing your feelings can lead to insomnia, headaches, and other physical problems. Society has traditionally taught males it’s not masculine to express their feelings, and while it’s becoming less common to actually say things like “big boys don’t cry,” those messages are often delivered subconsciously on the football field or the soccer pitch. 

 

While it can be difficult to reach out, seeing a therapist can really help. The rise in telemedicine means that even if you live in a rural area or are unable to visit an office you can seek treatment online. Group therapy can also be beneficial. 

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Depression - Group Therapy

Depression - Group Therapy

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are often helpful. They work to block the reabsorption of serotonin into your neurons –– making this chemical messenger more available. Since serotonin is commonly called a mood elevator, it’s clear that this can be effective for men dealing with depression. Around three percent of men reporting symptoms of depression take medication for the condition. However, not everyone benefits from them, and they do have common side effects including weight gain and loss of libido. Bupropion, also known by the names Aplenzin, Wellbutrin, Wellbutrin SR, and Wellbutrin XL has been shown in studies to cause weight loss.

 

Whether or not you decide to take medication for your depression, it’s important to speak with a licensed therapist or health care professional. Doing so can not only improve your state of mind but other aspects of your life as well.

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