Ride the Road to Recovery: Men and Depression

Article by Emily Bosman (Intern) and Dean Harrison (Principal Counselling Psychologist)


"It affects the way you think. It affects the way you feel. It affects the way you love... It's just a blanket that covers everything... and it's one that's just so asphyxiating. And at times you just say it's enough already. It just feels like enough."​

—Steve, Writer

You might be familiar with some of the more well known symptoms of depression, such as feeling sad or empty, being tired or sleeping more than usual, not being able to fall asleep at night, losing interest in things you previously found enjoyable, withdrawing from friends and family, and significant weight loss or gain. Did you know, however, depression can affect men and women differently? Men often experience symptoms of depression that can make the condition harder to recognise.


While we’ve come a long way in terms of gender equality, men still tend to be more reluctant than women to seek help and talk about their feelings. This could partly explain why men suffering from depression often complain of physical symptoms, such as aches and pains, digestive issues, and headaches, instead of a low mood. Rather than feeling sad or tearful, men experiencing depression are often irritable, angry, and hostile. Men are also more likely than women to exhibit:

  • Risky behaviours, such as reckless driving, unsafe sex, or gambling,

  • Escapist behaviour, such as spending more time than usual at work, watching television, or playing video games,

  • Problems with alcohol or drug use, and

  • Controlling, violent and abusive behaviour.

There is no single cause of depression, though there are some risk factors for men. These include:

  • Social isolation and lack of social support,

  • Relationship problems, including separation and divorce,

  • Issues at work, or dissatisfaction with career progression,

  • Becoming a new father, parenting or parental alienation,

  • Sexual health issues, including transgressions or being gay, bisexual or trans,

  • Legal issues,

  • Physical health problems, and

  • Substance use including drugs, alcohol and tobacco.

Depression can have a negative impact on relationships. People experiencing depression often experience a lack of energy and motivation. This can make it difficult to function, interact with others and meet expectations. Depression can result in a lack of desire for sex, which can put further strain on a romantic relationship. Additionally, depressed men might become withdrawn, closed off, apathetic or short-tempered. This can be difficult and sometimes hurtful to other people in their lives. If depression is not identified, or understood, this behaviour can often be incredibly confusing and worrying - for both the depressed person and their loved ones. Unfortunately, men often tend to avoid seeking help until their depression has become severe. By this time, it may have already negatively impacted on their career, relationships and lifestyle. For instance, they might experience other problems, like substance use.


Understanding changes in your mood and behaviour, or your loved one, is the first step in learning how to process and address these feelings and mood state. Thankfully, depression is a treatable condition, and in most cases, psychological therapy is sufficient to regain improved mood and quality of life. If you or your loved one might be suffering from depression, talk to your local doctor or psychologist. The sooner you reach out for help, the sooner you begin on the road to recovery.

References

Mayo Clinic. (21 May, 2019). Male Depression: Understanding the Issues. Retrieved from:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/male-depression/art-20046216


Beyond Blue. (2020). Signs and Symptoms. Retrieved from:

https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/depression/signs-and-symptoms


The National Institute of Mental Health Information Resource Center. (January, 2017). Men & Depression. Retrieved from:

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/men-and-depression/index.shtml


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