Men are Less Likely to get Treatment for Depression than Women
Depression is a serious but treatable medical condition – and men are not immune to it. More than 6 million men in the United States suffer from depression. What’s even more concerning is that men are more likely than women to put off seeking help. In fact, women are diagnosed with depression anywhere from two to four times more frequently than men.
Additionally, men experience depression in vastly different ways than women. You might know a man who is reluctant to talk about his feelings, and as a result, he may not recognize the signs that depression is taking hold. He may seem angry or aggressive, instead of sad, or he may report physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive problems, chest pains or a racing heart. Other red flags include loss of interest in work, family or sex; overeating or loss of appetite; inability to concentrate or remember details; and disturbances in sleep. If left untreated, the implications of depression in men can be substantial:
Men with Depression are More Likely to Commit Suicide
Depression contributes to suicidal ideation, and men are nearly four to five times more likely to complete suicide attempts than women, largely because males choose to use more lethal methods. In the last 15 years, the overall suicide rates increased by 24 percent among men, according to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control.
Substance Abuse is Higher
Depression and addiction frequently occur together. It’s a vicious cycle: individuals who feel hopeless may turn to alcohol or other substances as a way to escape their negative emotions. Forty percent of people with depression abuse alcohol, and many others smoke marijuana and/or turn to stimulants like cocaine, speed or prescription medications used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. These stimulants produce a pleasurable high that offsets symptoms and/or help users find the energy to get through the day. Used on a regular basis, your body builds a tolerance and needs larger amounts to achieve the same effects.
Men May not be Aware They Have a Problem
Most men don’t like going to the doctor, and feel they don’t have time or aren’t sick enough to need an exam or screening. The man in your life may not be aware of the symptoms of depression, and he may confuse his experiences with something else. Express your concern and show your love and support with encouragement.
Masculinity Gets in the Way
Society stereotypes men as needing to be strong, tough and immune to feeling pain. In turn, some men may feel that their emotions should be hidden or at least not shared out loud.
“Stress at school, academic pressures, divorce, starting a family, losing or changing a job and even retirement are just some of life’s pressures that may cause emotional conflict – and men often believe they can cope with these struggles on their own,” says Anoop K. Vermani, MD, a psychiatrist with Northwestern Medicine Regional Medical Group.
How Can You Help?
If you suspect someone you love has depression, you can help by offering support and understanding. Offer to help him find a physician or mental health professional and offer to go to the appointment with him. Be patient, listen carefully and never ignore comments about suicide. Invite him for walks or other social outings; if he says no, keep trying in a gentle, patient way.
Remember, symptoms of depression might be hard to notice, but when diagnosed, most people are able to manage and cope so they can maintain work performance, healthy relationships and good physical health.