Men have always been notoriously silent about their emotions, leaving announcements about feelings to women. But depression is a disease that knows no gender, affecting both men and women. The emotions will be the same, but you’ll probably notice outward signs of depression before you’ll ever know what’s going on inside.
Men are four times more likely to die by suicide than women, with suicide being the seventh leading cause of death for men, but only the fifteenth leading cause for women. Since depression is a proven causal factor for suicide, especially in adolescence, seeing the signs can be crucial.
Another dangerous risk for men is heart disease. Studies have shown men who suffer from depression are as much as three times more likely to suffer ischemic heart disease than non-depressed male patients. This risk doesn’t appear to carry over to women.
Some of the theories about this increased risk include men’s tendency to self-medicate using alcohol, cigarettes, and lack of exercise. Another theory is that the mental stress associated with bottling up all that depression may cause plaque to build up in the arteries. A more medical theory, however, is that depression causes the formation of fatty acids and free radicals, which then damage the lining of the person’s blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart disease.
Because of these increased risks, it’s important to detect the symptoms as soon as possible so that treatment can be sought.
An estimated six million men in the U.S. currently suffer from depression but how many seek treatment? Pride and a lack of understanding may block some men from getting the treatment that could help alleviate symptoms. Men are often told they must appear strong at all times, but depression is a disease that can’t be pushed aside.
While women may express signs of sadness, even staying in bed for days at a time when symptoms are at their worst, men will more likely exhibit depression in a more aggressive manner—anger and irritability, for instance. The biggest sign, however, is a loss of interest in life in general. When this continues for weeks, even months, it’s time to seek treatment.
Occasionally in life, events will bring us down for a few days. Sometimes even weeks or months, in severe cases like a death of a loved one. But debilitating sadness that causes ongoing loss of interest in work, hobbies, friends, and family, is a sign you might be suffering from depression.
Insomnia is a more common symptom of depression in men than in women. If your sleep patterns have been off for a while, in addition to feeling tired, irritable, and disinterested, treatment can help. You may be suffering from a mild form of depression, called dysthymia, and not even realize it. Treatment can restore your spark.
Other, less publicized, symptoms of depression include digestive problems, headaches, and body aches. Additionally, a depressed patient may actually sleep far too much, mistaking his constant tired feeling as simply needing more sleep.
If you suffer from depression, it’s important to know depression is a clinical disease. Often caused by genetics, the brain makeup of a depressed patient shows up as different on scans. Since depression can often be triggered by a life event, like a death or divorce, it can often be mistaken as a reaction to that event.
It’s natural for non-depressed people to urge you to simply “snap out of it,” but depression cannot be willed away. Psychotherapy and medications have been great help to those suffering from depression, helping regulate brain chemistry to once again make the patient feel in balance.
If you or someone you love is having feelings of depression, you may see commercials and messages everywhere telling you that you aren’t alone. That there is help available. This may sound clichéd, but it is true. Recognizing that depression is a disease caused by genetics and not something you can control or “snap out of” is the first key to getting the help you need to feel healthy again.