Everyone experiences feelings of sadness from time to time. Depression, however, is markedly different. Far more intense and often prolonged, depression can affect a person’s ability to engage in, enjoy, or even complete everyday activities. Although both men and women can develop depression, men are less likely to talk about how they feel, and less likely to seek assistance.
When men are depressed, their depression can also manifest in ways that aren’t easily associated with depression. They may become easily frustrated or aggressive, or react to small changes or unexpected stressors with outright anger.
Unfortunately, men are often discouraged from talking about their feelings and showing emotional vulnerability, and they may not have safe, comfortable spaces where they can open up. When depression is prolonged and untreated, many men turn to alcohol or drugs to alleviate their symptoms, elevate their moods, and even increase their confidence. For men, depression is a common co-occurring disorder.
Although using alcohol or drugs might temporarily alleviate depression, doing so is not an effective long-term treatment strategy. This manner of self-treatment can actually heighten the symptoms of depression over time, thereby setting the stage for increased reliance upon drugs or alcohol, and for full-blown addiction.
What is Depression?
Sometimes referred to as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, depression is both common and serious. Unlike normal feelings of sadness, depression affects a person’s ability to function and enjoy life on a long-term basis. In fact, in order for a person to be professionally diagnosed with depression, symptoms such as loss of interest, low energy, malaise, and sadness must be experienced for at least two weeks.
When a person lacks the tools for alleviating their depression, depressive episodes can span for months at a time. The longer that a person suffers from untreated depression; the more likely this individual is to experience despair, feelings of hopelessness, and suicidal thoughts or tendencies.
When most people feel sad, there is usually an identifiable reason why. The causes of sadness can be clear and easy to identify such as the death of a loved one or the end of a relationship or marriage. They can also be vague and somewhat more difficult to define such as confronting one’s own mortality, dealing with the stress of growing older, or simply short-term, general discontent with the way things are.
With sadness and a relatively good understanding of what’s causing it, people can take steps to comfort themselves or seek comfort, and to improve the conditions or circumstances that have caused their emotional distress.
Conversely, depression can rear its head for no known reason whatsoever. People often do not know why they are depressed. Even when their circumstances improve, their moods may not change at all. For both men and women, the signs of depression can be surprising.
Rather than feeling incredibly sad, some people simply lose interest in friendships and favorite activities, their work duties, and other important roles and responsibilities. They may not feel like bathing, dressing, or engaging in any other grooming or self-care activities. Many people with depression experience noticeable changes in their appetites, body weight, and sleep schedules. Depression is often paired with intense feelings of fatigue and low energy.
Recognizing the Signs of Depression in Men
Although certain symptoms of depression are common among both men and women, women are more prone to searching for outlets for their emotions. They may talk about their feelings with friends or family members, or they may make self-care a higher priority, even when they aren’t motivated to. Socially, men have been conditioned against showing weakness, expressing sadness, and sharing their pain. This makes them less likely to reach out for help, and less likely to find ways to mitigate their sadness on their own.
Feeling hopeless while remaining in the important role of having to care for others can make men lash out in frustration. Given that reactions like anger, aggressiveness, and frustration, aren’t commonly attributed to depression, men can be severely depressed for long stretches of time, without anyone in their lives being aware of their depression. An unfortunate consequence of this is a greatly increased risk of suicide. According to research, men with untreated depression are three to four times more likely than women to attempt suicide or commit suicide.
Types of Depression Men Suffer From
There are nine distinct types of depression, of which three:
- Prenatal depression
- Post-natal depression
- Pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder
are entirely exclusive to women. Of the remaining six, men are nearly two times as likely to experience most of them. This is due in large part to having fewer outlets for stress and sadness, and a lower likelihood of seeking or receiving help for any mental health concerns. These six forms of depression include:
- Atypical depression
- Situational depression
- Bipolar disorder or manic depressive disorder
- Seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
- Persistent depression
- Depressive psychosis
All forms of depression are treatable, however, not all depression types can be treated in the exact same way. Recognizing that you feel depressed is merely the first step in obtaining relief.
With a professional diagnosis of their depression, men can receive needs-specific interventions and therapies that are ideally suited to the exact mental health issues they’re experiencing. For some men, depression may indicate hormonal changes or nutritional deficiencies. Some forms of depression respond well to targeted lifestyle changes, others are the result of chemical imbalances within the brain that require long-term medication management.
Causes of Depression in Men
Just as women experience menopause during their late thirties, early forties, or beyond, men are believed to undergo a dramatic, hormonal, age-related change called andropause at approximately the same time. Dramatic decreases in natural testosterone production are a common cause of depression at this stage of life. In addition to nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, and imbalances within the brain’s chemistry, depression can also be the result of:
- Past trauma
- Unresolved guilt or grief
- Excessive and unmanaged stress
- Current or past physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
Men may feel lonely, overwhelmed, or frequently misunderstood. No matter what the underlying causes of depression are, talk therapy and targeted treatment can help.
Treating Depression and Addiction in Men
The tendency of men to suffer quietly with depression places them at an incredibly high risk of both substance use disorder and alcohol use disorder. When men become addicted to alcohol or drugs after having used these substances to self-medicate their depression, getting treatment for both addiction and depression at once is essential.
This type of combined treatment is called dual diagnosis treatment or treatment for co-occurring disorders. Without learning healthy, manageable, and sustainable ways of alleviating their depression, men in addiction recovery will always be at high risk of relapsing.
At Recovery Bay Center, we offer a comprehensive men’s rehab program. Our services include mental health support for all forms of depression, and for many other mental health issues. We also provide managed, in-house detox, and medically assisted treatment.
If you’re tired of being depressed, and tired of relying on alcohol or illicit substances to alter or elevate your mood, we can help. Call us today to learn more about our programs or to complete a phone interview.