Is the Man in Your Life Depressed?
Real men get real depression.
If you’ve been with your hombre for a while, chances are you know him well: his favorite sports team; how he likes his steak; and what makes him smile. But can you tell if he’s depressed?
Although both men and women suffer from depression, men are less likely to talk about their depression or ask for help. From early on, men are socialized to be competitive, successful and strong (physically and emotionally). Talking about their feelings can make them feel weak and vulnerable. They fear the risk of being ridiculed or rejected if they become emotional.
If your guy is depressed, you might notice following situations:
- Reduced level of performance at work
- Unusually quiet, unable to talk about things
- Appears worried about things and emotionally distant
- Increased irritability and moodiness, and/or angry outbursts
- Less confidence in himself, his body or sex appeal
- Increased complains about vague physical problems
- Decreased interest and motivation in activities previously enjoyed (including sex)
Regardless of occupation, socioeconomic status, ethnicity or race, more than 6 million men become depressed every year.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
Below is a list of signs and symptoms (from the National Institute of Mental Health). People who are depressed do not experience every symptom, but rather a few of them. The severity of the symptoms is also different for different people. Click through the list to read about each symptom and to read what real men say about their experience with depression.
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Appetite and/or weight changes
- Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
- Restlessness, irritability
- Persistent physical symptoms
Different Types of Depression
There are different types of depression. Below is a description of the 3 most common types of depressive disorders, as described by the NIMH:
Major depression (or major depressive disorder) is manifested by a combination of symptoms (see symptoms list above) that interferes with the ability to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy once pleasurable activities. A major depressive episode may occur only once; but more commonly, several episodes may occur in a lifetime. Chronic major depression may require a person to continue treatment indefinitely.
A less severe type of depression, dysthymia (or dysthymic disorder), involves long lasting, chronic symptoms that do not seriously disable, but keep one from functioning well or feeling good. Many people with dysthymia also experience major depressive episodes at some time in their lives.
Another type of depressive illness is bipolar disorder(or manic depressive illness). Bipolar disorder is characterized by cycling mood changes: severe highs (mania) and lows (depression), often with periods of normal mood in between. Sometimes the mood switches are dramatic and rapid, but usually they are gradual.
Real Life Risk Factors for Developing Depression
- Marital conflict (the most common single problem connected to depression)
- Separation or divorced (of all men, divorced men are most likely to commit suicide)
- After the birth of a child (recent research shows 1 in 10 new fathers also show post-partum depression)
- Unemployment or retirement
How Do Men Cope with Depression?
Instead of talking about how they feel, men commonly:
- Try to feel better by using alcohol or drugs
- Give work a higher priority than their home life
- Isolate themselves – not spending as much time with friends, loved ones or in hobbies/activities
- Become easily irritable, argumentative or very quiet (or shut down)
- Focus on the physical symptoms of depression (as opposed to the emotional or psychological ones)
How You Can Help?
There is much we can do. Here are a few tips:
- Observe your partner’s behaviors, mood and feelings. Notice any sudden or unusual changes.
- Assess if your partner is drinking more, spending more time at work, isolating himself, or is exhibiting a change in his mood or personality.
- Depending on how you both communicate, attempt to have a friendly and supportive conversation about the changes you have noticed (without using the word depression right away). Ask him if he has noticed those changes himself.
- If he admits to noticing these changes, ask him how you can help. Suggest he goes visit his primary care provider, or a doctor he likes and trust. This could be a great first step towards seeking help.
- Don’t make his depression about you or the relationship. What’s most important is for you to support your partner and for him to seek help and treatment, if needed.
- Avoid stressful situations or discussions, as this will only add to his emotional state.
- Be understanding, patient, supportive and non-judgmental. Don’t get frustrated because he is not coping with his depression the way you would.
- If your children notice your their father’s depression, consider having a private conversation with your your children (depending on their ages, of course) and let them know that dad is going through a difficult time right now, but that soon he will feel better.
- Be loving. Love and affection never hurts.