Men and depression

Published On: Oct 09 2012 02:32:15 PM EDT   Updated On: Oct 24 2012 12:33:14 PM EDT

By Barbara Floria, Pure Matters

Women who are depressed often feel sad, guilty, hopeless, and worthless -- and many find that their appetites and sleeping habits have changed.

Many men with depression may likely have different symptoms. These can include fighting with their spouses, losing interest in sports or sex, working six or seven days a week, and becoming even more uncommunicative than they usually are.

“And, instead of asking for help, some men who are depressed are likely to drink alcohol to excess, take drugs, or become frustrated, discouraged, irritable, and sometimes abusive or violent,” says Reed Schimmelfing, M.S.W., a therapist in Northampton, Mass., who specializes in men’s mental health. “Men also can become self-destructive when depressed, which is played out by engaging in dangerous behaviors, such as driving too fast or engaging in high-risk unprotected sex.”

These behaviors are often an attempt by men to hide their depression, which they see as a weakness.

Emotional pain

“To help men, it’s important for family members, employers, and men themselves to realize it’s dangerous to accept society’s expectations that men should ignore emotional pain,” he says.

It’s dangerous to family members who can be targets of domestic violence, dangerous to strangers who may bear the brunt of anger and reckless behavior, and dangerous to the men themselves, who suffer a high rate of depression-related suicide.

“Men are more prone to suicide because they’re less likely to recognize they’re in trouble,” Schimmelfing explains. “And, although more women attempt suicide than men, men are more likely to be successful.”

In addition, because of a cultural stigma that labels men who need help as weak and vulnerable, they often fear being diagnosed with a mental illness could cost them the respect of their family and friends, or their standing in the workplace.

“In a culture that expects males to be tough and independent, many men are reluctant to seek therapy,” Schimmelfing explains. “They feel ashamed that they can’t solve their problems by themselves, which can isolate them further.”

Help is available

One of the most important steps men can take to preserve their mental health is to establish a network of family and friends to rely on.

Here are other steps that may help: