Depression in Men: It's Not About Feeling Sad
An estimated six million men in America are depressed -- and most don’t feel sad (or won’t admit to it).
When women are depressed, they’re more likely to cry and complain of confusion and unrelenting sadness, says Robin Jarrett, a psychologist and professor at the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center in Dallas.
But depression in men is more likely to result in:
- substance abuse
- risk taking (e.g., gambling, reckless driving)
- withdrawal (e.g., “I don’t want to talk about it.”)
Other symptoms of depression that both men and women commonly experience by include:
- appetite changes (overeating or loss of appetite)
- sleep problems (insomnia or sleeping too much)
- reduced libido
- loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities
- thoughts of suicide
Depression in Men Is Deadly
Because depression in men often doesn’t “look” like depression with stereotypical sadness and tears, family and friends may not realize that a man is seriously depressed. Men are also socialized to be “the strong, silent type,” notes Ellen Frank, a psychologist and professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. As a result, depression in men may go unrecognized because compared with women, men are less likely to admit to emotional problems and seek help.
The most devastating consequence of depression is suicide. More women attempt it than men, but men succeed much more frequently. Women who try to kill themselves typically slit their wrists or overdose on medication, then call for help and can usually be saved. Men who attempt suicide are more likely to employ more lethal methods, like firearms or jumping out of buildings. As a result, among the nation’s 32,000 suicides each year, about 80 percent are carried out by men, according to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics.
Depression Is Treatable
Fortunately, when men seek professional help for emotional problems, physicians and mental health professionals are very likely to recognize depression, even if the symptoms are unusual. More good news: Depression can be successfully treated with psychotherapy, medication, a combination of the two, or in severe cases, electroconvulsive therapy.
So “if you suspect that a man you know suffers depression, urge him to seek treatment,” says Frank. “It just might save his life.”
Michael Castleman has been called one of the nation's leading health writers (Library Journal). He is the author of 11 consumer health books and more than 1,500 health articles for magazines and the Web.
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