Los Alamitos, CA (May 2011) conditions traditionally have been associated more with men and some with women. Heart disease, for example, is frequently linked with men, although studies have shown that American women are four to six times more likely to die of heart disease than breast cancer. Likewise, depression, which was once considered a “woman’s disease,” is experienced by more than six million men in the United States each year.
Depression can affect men who are from all walks of life, from police officer to executive, student to construction worker. The condition can disrupt relationships, interfere with work, cause financial problems, and even lead to thoughts of suicide. Men may become more vulnerable to depression if they have recently experienced the loss of a loved one, serious illness, marriage breakdown, or job loss. Unfortunately, men often go undiagnosed for a number of reasons.
Due to cultural expectations, men tend to be reluctant to discuss their feelings because they are supposed to “be strong.”
Men are more likely to talk about physical symptoms related to depression, such as fatigue, rather than their emotions.
Men often are unwilling to discuss problems with sexuality caused by depression.
Men may not show the textbook signs of depression, such as sadness or crying.
Men may worry about the stigma of depression damaging their careers or causing them to lose the respect of others.
Symptoms of depression in men may be more difficult to identify because men tend to keep their feelings hidden. Signs also may vary from person to person and change over time. However, men who are depressed may become more irritable and aggressive, express inappropriate anger, engage in risky behavior, seek out sexual liaisons, abuse alcohol or drugs, or become overly involved in work or sports. Physical symptoms of depression can include higher cholesterol levels, ulcers, elevated blood pressure, and pain.
Men who are depressed also have more frequent thoughts of suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men are four times more likely than women to commit suicide. While more women attempt suicide, men are more likely to end their lives because they tend to use more lethal methods (such as guns), act more quickly on suicidal thoughts, and display fewer warning signs. Approximately 80 percent of suicides committed in the United States are by men.
The health professionals at Los Alamitos Medical Center know that attempts at managing depression on their own can leave men chronically unhappy and miserable. The good news is depression can be successfully treated, but men must take the first step and stop trying to tough things out. Various treatment options are available, such as taking antidepressant medications or participating in counseling, psychotherapy or a support group. Working with a mental health provider can help men feel not so isolated and teach them healthy coping skills, which may include: learning how to set realistic goals; reaching out for emotional support; engaging in positive activities; and postponing important decision until symptoms of depression improve. For more information about depression in men, talk with your doctor or call 800-548-5559 for a free referral to a specialist near you.