When it comes to mental health, men and women often differ in many ways from their perception of emotional concerns, how they express emotions, and how they choose to act when experiencing life’s challenges. Because of the ever-present mental stigma, some men do respond much differently to their emotional needs and often express depression, for instance, in unique ways. In this article, I hope to shed light on men’s emotional health, specifically depression, and provide helpful tips for men to seek effective treatment to meet their individual needs.
It is quite clear from the research that men are suffering from depression in significant numbers, six million in the United States alone.ᶦ These numbers, of course, only reflect the men that have reached out for support and do not include those who suffer in silence due to the mental health stigma that continues to plague our society. Fortunately, brave men have come forth to acknowledge their personal struggles with depression and to dispel the traditional masculinity stereotype that often keeps men closed off from their emotions- the “don’t ask, don’t tell” belief. ᶦ
What is Depression and What are the Symptoms that Men often Show?
Depression is a common but serious mood disorder represented by symptoms that last for at least two weeks.² These symptoms may include low mood (sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, worthlessness), diminished interest or pleasure in life, weight loss or gain, insomnia or sleeping too much, restlessness or the slowing down of physical movement, fatigue, poor concentration, and recurrent thoughts of death. ² Men may experience and express some of these symptoms; however, according to mental health professionals, the common symptoms that men show may look different, more like “acting out” through unpleasant behaviors. ᶟ
Men who suffer from depression may experience increasing impatience, irritability, anger, negativity about life, isolation, unexplained physical pain, mood swings, increased use of substances, sexual dysfunction, and engaging in high-risk behavior. ², ³ While this list is not inclusive of how all men express depression, it does give us an idea of what to look for.
How Can We Help Men Get Treatment?
It is important to understand that people who struggle with depression can’t “snap out of it.” ² Some men may not even realize, or be willing to acknowledge, their symptoms as problematic. ² Seeking treatment is another challenge that men may not be interested in exploring, again due to the mental health stigma. ᶦ If someone is struggling with depression, it may be beneficial to seek medical care first to rule out any medical conditions. Men who are depressed are more likely to visit with their primary care doctor to discuss problematic symptoms than they would a mental health professional. ᶦ This is a start.
Treatment options vary once care is established. The best approach is usually a collaborative one where depression is treated by addressing the physical and emotional needs of the person. ² Medication and traditional psychotherapy when used in conjunction with each other work well and have the best effect when it comes to depression. ² Men can also be encouraged to reach out to their pastor, close friends, and attend social gatherings (local coffee club), etc. as a way to discuss their concerns.
It is not an easy road to travel when it comes to depression, especially for some men. It is vital to understand that men often express depression in ways that are unique and much different from how women express it. ², ³ If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above or if you know someone who is, it is important to seek treatment as symptoms will not dissipate on their own and will often increase the longer they are ignored. If someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact emergency services (911) or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273- TALK.
- Huggins, R. (2018, July 23). 4 things to know about depression in men. Retrieved from https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/external/2018/07/depression-in-men
- NIMH (n.d.) Men and depression. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/men-and-depression/index.shtml
- Weiss, R. (2018, Oct 25). 14 major indicators of depression in men. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/love-and-sex-in-the-digital-age/201810/14-majorindicators-depression-in-men