What You Should Know about Depression in Men: Identifying and Understanding the Physical Symptoms of Depression in Men
Depression affects more than six million men in the United States each year. The fact that depression is so closely linked to women often prevents men from recognizing the symptoms and seeking treatment for the condition. In addition, long-held ideas about masculinity often make men shrug off or completely deny that they might have a problem, because they feel that they should be strong and perceive any emotional problem as a weakness. Because of this, men are much more likely to talk about the physical symptoms of depression in men, which is in stark contrast to women, who tend to discuss the emotional effects.
1) Changing Sleep Patterns
One of the most common and pronounced physical symptoms of depression in men is overwhelming fatigue. This is usually accompanied by psychomotor retardation, in which speech, thought processes, and physical movements slow down noticeably. These symptoms of depression in men usually result in a change in sleep patterns, which could be expressed as severe insomnia or excessive sleeping. It is not uncommon to see men sleep twelve hours each day and still feel exhausted. Sleeping issues are among the most common symptoms that men are willing to discuss with their physicians.
2) Anger and Irritability
Men who suffer from depression are much more likely to show anger and irritability than women. They lash out at those around them, making it difficult to succeed in their jobs or carry on successful social and familial relationships. In severe cases, the irritability can turn to anger and hostility and can result in violent episodes. Negative thoughts tend to go hand in hand with irritability as one of the most common physical symptoms of depression in men. This can result in suicide, which is seen more in men than in women. Medical professionals have noticed an increasing trend in suicide when dealing with depression in men. This risk reaches its peak among men in their twenties, sixties, and seventies who suffer from depression. The Centers for Disease Control reports that overall, men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women.
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3) Addiction and Abuse
Depression in men often results in the abuse of or addiction to alcohol or drugs. Men, more than women, tend to self-medicate and use drugs and alcohol to minimize the pain that they feel as a result of their depression. In addition, studies have shown that alcoholics are roughly twice as likely to suffer from depression as those without any type of addiction. Men have a tendency to want to fix things themselves rather than seek out medical care. If they believe that drugs or alcohol will minimize the uncomfortable feelings they have and help them get through the depression, they are more likely to exploit them. Substance abuse is one of the most common physical symptoms of depression in men, and it is also the trickiest to work with, as medical professionals must try to determine whether the substance abuse problem is primarily driven by the depression or is a separate issue.
4) Digestive Disorders and Chronic Pain
Depression tends to go hand in hand with a host of generalized symptoms that many men don’t associate with the disease. These men usually suffer from headaches, back and joint pain, chest pain, dizziness, and digestive problems, including nausea and diarrhea. In many cases, their doctors do not associate these symptoms with depression, mainly because men are unwilling or unable to discuss their emotional feelings. When a doctor can’t find a physical cause for the symptoms, men tend to become frustrated, which then exacerbates the physical symptoms of depression in men. Even worse, a doctor may unwittingly prescribe drugs or other treatment for the symptoms that provide little to no relief.
5) Sexual Dysfunction
Depression in men usually has a much more severe impact on a man’s sex life than a woman’s. In some cases, it decreases a man’s desire or interest in sex. In more severe cases, the man is completely unable to perform. Because of the impact this can have on a man’s psyche, it can exacerbate the depression. In a few cases, men will actually seek out sexual liaisons with many different women as a coping mechanism. This type of thrill-seeking behavior makes them feel a quick high, which temporarily relieves them of the pain that they feel as a result of the depression. Other risky and thrill-seeking behaviors may manifest as well, including criminal behavior, dangerous sports, gambling, or even reckless driving.
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6) Indecision and Lack of Focus
Because of the psychomotor retardation that many men experience when they are depressed, they may suffer from a severe lack of focus and find themselves unable to make appropriate and timely decisions. This often causes a variety of other problems, including job loss or financial issues. In fact, some men report that even though they didn’t suffer any financial issues and had money in the bank, they found themselves unable to pay their bills. Either they simply couldn’t bring themselves to do it or they couldn’t mentally process what to do and when.
7) Anxiety and Stress
While men aren’t necessarily more prone to stress than women, they are more likely to describe their symptoms as stress because they consider the term to be more socially acceptable. This doesn’t mean that men who suffer from depression don’t also feel stressed; stress can be both an indicator and a cause of depression. This is also true for anxiety. In fact, women are two times more likely to suffer from anxiety disorders than men who suffer from depression, but many men find it easier to talk about anxiety than depression. Depression in men can wreak havoc on their personal and professional lives, and men often confuse concerns about their jobs, financial situations, and ability to support their loved ones with anxiety.