When men first become depressed they may not recognize the symptoms for what they are. Anxiety may be one of the first real sensations men are aware of. There may be a sense of feeling edgy and finding difficulty in meeting people or going places are all signs. Physically the man might feel panicky and have symptoms of sweating, shaking, diarrhea, palpitations and sweating.
Although depression in men does share many of the same symptoms experienced by women, men tend to be prone to sudden outbursts of anger and irritation. Risk taking behavior may increase and there may be a increased loss of control and aggression.
The way men cope with depression may largely relate to the way they were socialized. Men occupying traditionally male roles are more attuned to attitudes of power relationships, competitiveness and independence. It isn’t uncommon for men to bury their feelings in alcohol or to use other forms of self-medication. Rather than confront depression by acknowledging their feelings they will often seek distractions.
All men are susceptible to depression. There is some evidence to suggest that more introvert males are more likely to become depressed, but this has to be tempered by the fact that other male personalities may be able to mask depression more effectively.
Men often seem to come off worse after relationship breakdowns. Depression is far more common in men who are divorced. This may relate in part to the breakdown of the relationship but there are often spin-offs to a divorce, such as lack of access to children, less money, loss of a house, that affect men and may contribute to their depression.
Men are three times more likely to commit suicide, particularly if they are separated, divorced or widowed. Men who drink alcohol are more likely to commit suicide.
Major events in people’s lives can have a negative effect on mood. The same is true for men. One of the most significant changes in a relationship is the arrival of a baby. Depression in mothers is well documented but we now know that as many as 1 in 10 fathers experience depression too. Changes in the structure of relationships, possible income reduction and fatigue may all contribute.
Unemployment is a well known contributor to depression in men. Around 1 in 7 unemployed men will develop a depressive illness within 6 months of losing their job or being made redundant. The saying ‘you are what you do’ is very true for many men. Take away the work role and a domino effect takes place which may affect their role of breadwinner, head of house, independence, choice, self-esteem and self-worth.
Retirement can affect men in a roughly similar way to job loss. The possible lack of authority, socialization will colleagues, a structure and purpose to the day, can all have a negative effect on mood. Preparing for retirement can be extremely beneficial. Some men find they are able to reduce their working hours and set up other hobbies or activities to help the transition.
Sexual relations frequently suffer during depression or may contribute to depression. The scenarios are many and varied and sexual difficulties can arise for a number of reasons. For example, the relationship may have soured and loss of sexual contact is a consequence and constant reminder. Then again, some men continue to have sex during depression but describe it as functional and less satisfying. Yet other depressed men seek out sex as a form of solace and distraction. In others, depression may lead to reduced sexual activity or impotence. A side effect of medication for depression can be reduced sex-drive. Erectile dysfunction may be due to a physical cause but one of the effects may be depression.
Royal College of Psychiatrists. http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/mentalhealthinformation/
Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.