Dealing with Depression
“Big boys don’t cry.” For a number of men, this classic phrase summarizes the messages that have been ingrained in them since childhood: don’t get emotional, be strong, don’t show your feelings. That may be why, until recently, men were diagnosed with depression far less often than women.
However, as depression has become more widely recognized as a common and highly treatable condition, so has its prevalence among men. Each year, some six million men in the United States experience depression — and undiagnosed cases most likely bump that number even higher.
There is more to depression than feeling sad; everybody has “down” days now and then. But if these feelings persist or interfere with your everyday life, it may be something more. At its worst, depression can lead to thoughts of suicide — and in the United States, 80 percent of suicides are men.
No one knows exactly what causes depression, but brain-imaging studies have found that the areas of the brain that control mood, thoughts, sleep and behavior don’t function normally in people in depression. Also, chemicals that enable brain cells to communicate, called neurotransmitters, seem to be out of balance.
Fortunately, depression is not something you have to live with. There are a number of effective treatments available, including therapy, medication, dietary supplements and lifestyle changes, to help you get back to feeling like your “usual” self again.
Are you at risk?
Depression affects men of all ages, races and income levels. Most people who experience depression have no risk factors, but your risk may be higher if you have had depression in the past or have family members with depression.
You may also have a higher risk of depression if you have other illnesses, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease or HIV.
Warning signs and symptoms
Symptoms of depression vary in each individual, but may include:
- Lack of energy
- Feeling sad or hopeless
- Feeling irritable or antagonistic
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Drinking too much
- Acting recklessly
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
- Having thoughts about death or suicide
If you experience these symptoms for two weeks or more, make an appointment with a physician or therapist.
If you believe you may be depressed, the first step is to make an appointment with your physician. He or she can rule out other causes and recommend treatment.
For a referral, call 1-800-SCRIPPS (800-727-4777) or see our doctor finder.