Understanding The Early Signs Of Depression In Men And Ways To Deal With It
Depression is a serious mental health condition that does not discriminate between gender. However, societal norms have kept men away from openly discussing suffering from depression and consequently discouraged them from seeking treatment. To understand depression, we need to acknowledge that it is common but not discussed enough. According to DSM 5, (1) Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) has the following symptoms:
DSM V MDD Criteria
For a person to be diagnosed with depression, they must display the following symptoms. Feelings of sadness, low mood, and loss of interest in their usual activities must mark a change from a person's previous level of functioning and have persisted for at least two weeks.
These feelings must also be accompanied by at least five other common symptoms of depression, including:
- Change in appetite, losing or gaining weight
- Sleeping too much or not sleeping well (insomnia)
- Fatigue and low energy most days
- Feeling worthless, guilty, and hopeless
- An inability to focus and concentrate that may interfere with daily tasks at home, work, or school
- Movements that are unusually slow or agitated (a change which is often noticeable to others)
- Thinking about death and dying; suicidal ideation or suicide attempts
These symptoms must cause the individual clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
Another condition is that a medical professional must assess the individual for any other disorder that could resemble depression such as a medical condition, a medicine side effect, or effects of drug use or any other illicit substances that can have a depression component but are not strictly a major depressive disorder (e.g., bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder).
Having said that, sometimes we overlook the subtle signs that affect men that could indicate depression.
Early Signs Of Depression In Men And Its Physical Effects
Men are not likely to show obvious signs of depression such as sadness. The patriarchal setup pushes them to keep these feelings hidden so as to not look weak. They may come off as aggressive, irritable, and cold. This is probably why many healthcare professionals misdiagnose men for personality disorders. Let’s go over a few more not-so-tell-a-tale signs of depression. (2)
- Indulging in escapist behavior, such as spending a lot of time alone, at work, or gaming.
- Experiencing physical symptoms, such as headaches, digestive problems, and pain
- Face problems with getaway drugs like alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco.
- Exhibiting controlling, violent or abusive behavior
- Projecting irritability or inappropriate anger at colleagues or family members.
- Frequently participating in risky behaviors such as reckless driving
It’s crucial to pay attention to such signs as they often go undiagnosed. You can take the help of a counselor at first, but only if the victim is ready to take help. Sometimes individuals may experience episodes of depression for a while and nothing after that. At this stage, there are a few precautions that could likely help men get a sense of their situation.
Precautions For Overcoming Depression In Men
You can definitely try out coping skills set by your therapist. These could look include:
- Setting realistic goals and prioritizing tasks to form a structure. Actively seeking help or support from a loved one such as a partner, a family member, or friends.
- Try to manage stress by practicing mindful meditation, and developing problem-solving skills.
- If you’re in a depressive episode, avoid making any major life decisions till you start to feel better.
- Try to engage yourself in activities you once enjoyed. Don’t push yourself too much to the point of exhaustion. Being consistent is the key.
- Make a point to take care of your health by sticking to a regular exercise plan and eating healthy food rich in dopamine and serotonin.
Do not try to toughen up as it could seriously backfire.
How To Help A Man Who Is Dealing With Depression?
To help your loved one, you need to exercise patience and remember that they cannot just ‘get over it.’ It is certainly not a phase and can last for years, a couple of months, or become recurrent.
If you feel that someone you know could be suffering from it, you can offer support by recommending mental health specialists and making an appointment for them with their consent. It’s possible that men would be more willing to talk about their physical symptoms with their regular doctor. This could be a great first step towards the treatment of depression.
There are a few other ways you can support men in your life who are likely going through something.
- Listening to them more and paying attention to their choice of words
- Offering support instead of judgment or conclusions
- Paying close attention to suicidal ideations or comments related to suicide and seeking immediate help
- Actively inviting them for social activities but not pushing them to agree
- Ensuring that they don’t skip their appointments
Men with depression are at a higher risk of suicide. If you know somebody displaying the same symptoms do not wait to contact an authority.
How To Spread Awareness About Male Depression?
Men with a family history of depression are more prone to develop it. Let’s do our part in raising awareness for men’s health by spreading accurate information and encouraging open discussions.
Why Is Depression In Men Not Recognized Easily?
Typical signs of clinical depression don’t show up in men because they are forced to act strong and “man up”. We as a society have enforced unrealistic views of people and categorized them into set genders with diverse emotions.
Does Male Depression Affect their Sexual desire and Performance?
Yes. If they are on medication then some antidepressants and other medications are likely to reduce their sexual desire. When this happens they become even more closed off. Men hardly like to discuss concerns related to their sex life. They could think something is wrong with their manhood instead of relating it to a mood disorder. .
Is Depression Common In Elderly Men?
Depression isn’t a part of aging, however, men suffering from heart diseases, stress-related disorders, or other health issues can experience episodes of depression. Even retirement can be one cause of depression as it takes away or shifts their daily routine. Loss of a spouse, friend, money, etc contribute to stress and propel depression.
Treating depression is not your responsibility unless you are a licensed mental health doctor. However, you can take multiple steps to openly discuss male depression and throw some light on their experiences. Pass the mic and be the person to help. Men’s health is as important and should never become a topic of taboo.