Depression is an issue that is not discriminatory. It affects people of all ages, races, ethnicities, and even genders. The signs and symptoms of depression are similar across the board; however, depending each individual those signs and symptoms can be displayed differently. Women tend to be more expressive in their symptoms and typically will focus on how they feel. They might talk more about the physical symptoms they are experiencing. Culturally, men might not feel as comfortable expressing how they feel in similar ways. In some cultures, it is less socially acceptable for men to express issues for fear of being seen as weak. Stereotypes can put people, including men, in a box, sometimes making it more difficult, more shameful, and even more fearful of dealing with issues regarding mental health. For these reasons, it can even be difficult for men to recognize in themselves that what they are dealing with might be depression. In general, it is important to understand the signs and symptoms of depression. While most signs and symptoms are similar for most people, it can be helpful to understand more specifically how men express signs and symptoms.
Common symptoms of depression men might illustrate can include:
- Loss of enjoyment in normally pleasurable activities
- Aggression, irritability, and anger
- Disrupted sleep patterns (sleeping more or less than normal)
- Change in appetite (eating too much or eating too little)
- Fatigue (feeling tired or worn down all the time)
- Feeling apathetic
- Issues with sexual desire and performance
- Self-medicating (using things like drugs, alcohol, or sex to cope or numb)
- Engaging in risk-taking behaviors
- Thoughts of suicide
Men might be experiencing feels of hopelessness and worthlessness. They might be experiencing self-doubt or feeling like a failure. They might even be experiencing thoughts of suicide. However, they are typically less likely to express those feelings. For men, it can be helpful to pay attention to their behavior. Their behavior is more likely where those symptoms will reveal themselves. This is why it is important to have a relationship with someone who is suspected of being depressed. In order to recognize behavior changes, “normal” behaviors must already be known which involves having a relationship. That relationship will help when encouraging a person to receive help. If left untreated, depression can lead to suicide. While women attempt suicide more than men, men are more likely to succeed because they tend to use a more lethal means. If a person suspects a man in their life is depressed, it is important that they encourage them to get help. There might be a fear that it will upset them or it is being too intrusive. However, by trusting in the relationship and stepping in, it is possible a life could be saved
Therapy is not something everyone enjoys doing. However, therapy can provide tools and skills to help people work through issues like depression. It can be tempting to hope that medication will provide the “fix” needed. However, developing skills and acquiring tools can provide long-term care, especially if medication only works so well. For men, it can help to encourage, be supportive, and normalize their experiences to help combat potential shame. Through providing love and support, it can help them, like most everyone, develop the courage to get the help they need.
Michelle Overman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist working as a counselor for students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. She also has a special interest in working with athletes and has been bridging the gap between athletics and mental health at ACU. She is in the process of becoming a Certified Mental Performance Consultant to further her expertise in sports psychology. Prior to her move to Abilene, Michelle ran her own private practice in Austin, Texas where she worked with a diverse population, including couples and families. Michelle earned a Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy and has been working in the field for 6 years.