Depression is a mental health condition that majorly affects your everyday life. Everything from how you feel or think, to how you handle any daily activities, whether they be at work or at home, can change drastically if you are depressed.
Classic signs you might be depressed include feeling sad, easily irritable, empty or you might find you’ve lost all interest in something you once loved. Depression is separated from simply feeling ‘down’, as to be diagnosed with depression you need to experience your symptoms on a constant basis for at least two weeks.
Depression isn’t linked to either gender specifically (although it’s been found that women are more likely to experience it) but depression is closely linked to the high rate of male suicide in Australia, with 1 in 3 male suicides being linked to signs of depression.
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It’s a very real and very serious issue for Australian men, so noticing the signs early and seeking help are vital. We’re well aware, of course, that the notion of men opening up and talking about their feelings is something that doesn’t come easy.
In this guide to depression in men…
What are the signs of depression in men?
Depression in men can show up in many forms, but will most commonly affect how you either feel, think or behave. There can also be physical symptoms of male depression, and they could well be ones you overlook, thinking them to be short-term health problems.
Signs of depression in men can include the following:
- Sad or empty
- Negative thoughts
- Thinking you’re not good enough
- Life isn’t enjoyable
- People will be better off without you
- Life isn’t worth living
- Not wanting to socialise with anyone
- Not wanting to participate in activities that you would normally enjoy
- Turning to drugs or alcohol on a regular basis
- Reckless behaviour
- Lacking concentration
- Lack of appetite
- Loss of sex drive or performance
- Regular headaches
- Feeling unwell
- Difficulty sleeping
- Muscle pain
It’s not uncommon for men to experience these signs and symptoms of depression throughout their life, but if they go away, then you might not be depressed and just simply feeling down. However, if any of these signs don’t go away, then you may be experiencing depression.
Causes of depression in men
Depression in men can be due to a wide range of factors and causes, but there are some common causes that have been identified, and which could help you to determine if you’re at risk of experiencing depression. Causes of male depression usually stem from challenging life events, such as losing a job, getting divorced or experiencing a death in your family.
You may also experience heightened stress at work or receive physical or emotional abuse from someone, either in your past or your present, both of which can be leading causes of depression. Regular use of drugs or alcohol have also been linked to an increased risk in depression in men, especially if you rely on them too much to function throughout the day.
Depression has also been found to be hereditary, with men being found to have around a 29 percent chance of inheriting depression via genetics.
Hollywood actor Jim Carrey has previously spoken about his experiences of depression, and he explains it in a way that makes it incredibly easy to digest.
“People talk about depression all the time. The difference between depression and sadness is sadness is just from happenstance — whatever happened or didn’t happen for you, or grief, or whatever it”
“depression is your body saying f*ck you, I don’t want to be this character anymore, I don’t want to hold up this avatar that you’ve created in the world. It’s too much for me.”
“You should think of the word ‘depressed’ as ‘deep rest.’ Your body needs to be depressed. It needs deep rest from the character that you’ve been trying to play.”
How common is depression in men?
Depression has been found to affect 1 in 8 men during their lifetime, which can put these men at greater risk of suicide. 7 Australian men die by suicide every day.
When to seek help
If you experience any of the symptoms listed above for two weeks or more, on a daily basis, then you should seek help and speak to your doctor. Your doctor will be trained to assess you to determine if you are experiencing depression and can prescribe either medication or a treatment plan to help you cure your symptoms.
This treatment plan may suggest speaking to a psychologist, psychiatrist or another trained therapist to help you overcome any negative thoughts you may be having.
It’s incredibly important for men to speak with close friends and family the moment they start to feel down or “not good enough.” On the flip side, if you notice symptoms of depression in your friends, it’s important that you approach them to try and get them talking. This is a message the mental health charity R U OK? wants to get across, encouraging everyone to ask their friends and family “are you ok?” on a regular basis.
How to help a man with depression
The best to help any men you know if your life that might be experiencing depression is to simply talk to them. It’s no secret that men in particular struggle to open up to others, and to do so won’t be seen as ‘masculine behaviour.’
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A great way of explaining how talking to someone can help them, is to compare it with physical trauma. When we’re physically hurt, we seek help from a doctor, surgeon or some other health professional. So why should emotional trauma be any different? If we experience emotional trauma, we need to seek emotional help.
How to treat male depression
Depression in men can be treated in a number of ways, but the most common are through medication, psychological help or brain stimulation therapy. Only your doctor can prescribe medication, but they may suggest you seek psychological help depending on your symptoms and how serious your depression is.
Of course, if you notice yourself that you’re experiencing depression or at risk of experiencing depression, you can seek psychological help yourself.
Medication for depression is called antidepressants. As Medical News Today says, “they work by correcting chemical imbalances of neurotransmitters in the brain.”
There is just one single antidepressant medication, but there are in fact various types. Antidepressants aren’t just prescribed to treat depression, but can also be prescribed to treat anxiety, chronic pain, ADHD and OCD.
Your doctor will determine which type of antidepressant is best for you based on your symptoms and their severity. The different types of antidepressant used to treat depression include:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – SSRIs are the most common antidepressant prescribed to help treat depression.
- Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) – MAOIs only tend to be prescribed if SSRIs don’t have any effect.
- Noradrenaline and specific serotoninergic antidepressants (NaSSAs)
As with any drug, the antidepressants listed above can come with side effects. Your doctor will explain all of these to you when prescribing you medication, and indicate the chances of you experiencing them.
Psychological treatment for depression can come in various forms, but will most commonly be one of the following:
- Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) – this works on the basis that your thoughts affect how you feel or behave. You talk with a therapist to come up solutions to change your way of thinking to turn negative thoughts, into positive ones.
- Counselling – more of a short-term method to help with depression and other mental health issues. A counsellor provides an open space for you to talk about anything and everything. A counsellor is different to a psychologist in that the latter will work to get to the root cause of any problems to properly treat them.
Resources for Australian men
If you think, or you know you are currently suffering from depression, or if you think you might be at risk, there are plenty of resources Australian men can turn to to seek further help. These include:
- Beyond Blue: An Australian mental health charity that has been helping Australians with depression, anxiety and suicide for over 20 years. Beyond Blue provides anyone and everyone with all the information and support they need, regardless of whether they’re mentally ok and want to keep things that way, if they’re in urgent need of help, or if they want to help provide support to others.
- QLife: QLife provides support to anyone who identifies as LGBTIQA+. Support isn’t reserved solely for anyone experiencing depression, but wanting to talk to someone about anything related to sexuality, identity, gender, body or relationships. Support is free and delivered by trained professionals.
- MoodGym: MoodGym offers a free online CBT program. You can use the online tool to first determine if you require any further help, and if you do, you will be given a structured program to follow to help overcome any issues.