Men don’t like to talk about depression, even acknowledge it, and they’re less likely than women to seek treatment for it. Yet close to a third of men experience depression in their lifetime.
So how can men tell the difference between feeling down and clinical depression?
“Clinical depression, or major depressive disorder,” says Dr. Ila Sabino, a Tallwood Men’s Health clinical health psychologist, “is a mood disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest or pleasure in almost all things. It can affect how you think and act, and can even cause suicidal thoughts.”
Other signs of depression:
- Problems eating and sleeping.
- Difficulties with attention and concentration.
- Moving very slowly.
- Feeling physically agitated.
- Loss of energy.
- Feeling worthless or guilty.
- A sense of hopelessness.
“These symptoms tend to last at least two weeks and often cause distress or impairment at work or in relationships,” says Dr. Sabino.
Men suffering from extended-duration sadness commonly attributed to depression often appear aggressive or angered, not sad. Friends and family probably won’t associate this behavior with depression, so it’s critical that men identify their mood change and seek appropriate help.
“Most people experience feelings of sadness,” says Dr. Sabino. “Feeling ‘blue’ for a few days or having a hard time at work or at home doesn’t necessarily mean that you have clinical depression or that you need to seek professional help. But it’s important not to ignore troubling symptoms that are negatively impacting your life in important ways.”
The National Institute of Mental Health identifies these common types of depression:
Major Depression: Symptoms that interfere with virtually every area of your life, including work, sleep and diet. Most people have several episodes of major depression in a lifetime.
Subsets of major depression:
- Psychotic depression: Delusions or hallucinations as part of severe depression.
- Persistent depressive disorder (or dysthymia): Symptoms that last at least two years but are less severe than major depression.
- Seasonal affective disorder: Depression symptoms related to reduced natural sunlight in winter.
Bipolar Disorder: Not classified specifically as a type of depression, but someone with bipolar disorder experiences both extreme lows (depression) and extreme highs (mania).
Seeking a supportive voice from a partner, friend or family member about your depression might help, but it’s doubtful it’ll help you treat it adequately.
“They are critical sources of support and certainly want to help you feel better,” says Dr. Sabino, “but talking to them is not the same as seeking professional treatment. You wouldn’t ask your friends to treat your diabetes, right? Licensed professional clinicians like psychologists and social workers are trained to properly assess your symptoms and offer evidence-based approaches that have been proven effective in treating depression.”
How long it takes to treat depressions depends on each patient’s situation and needs.
“But setting up a treatment plan with concrete goals will be an important part of your first session or two,” says Dr. Sabino. “Some people report improvement in a few sessions, while others may find that it can take several weeks or months before they start to feel better.
“Finding a therapist you trust and with whom you have honest, open communication is critical for getting the most out of your treatment experience.”