MEN like to think of themselves as strong and in control of their emotions.
When they feel hopeless or overwhelmed by despair, they often deny it or try to cover it up. But depression is a common problem that affects many of them at some point in their lives as well as those who care about them.
It’s normal for anyone to feel down from time to time since dips in mood are an ordinary reaction to losses, setbacks, and disappointments in life. However, male depression changes how they think and feel and function in their daily life.
Depression can interfere with one’s productivity at work or school and impact on relationships, sleep, diet, and overall enjoyment of life. Severe depression can be intense and unrelenting.
Unfortunately, depression in men often gets overlooked as most men find it difficult to talk about their feelings and instead, they tend to focus on the physical symptoms that often accompany the depression, such as back pain, headaches, difficulty sleeping, or sexual problems.
This can result in the underlying depression going untreated, which can have serious consequences. Men suffering from depression are four times more likely to commit suicide than women, so it’s vital for any man to seek help before feelings of despair become feelings of suicide.
Men tend to be less skillful at recognising symptoms of depression than women. They are more likely to deny the feelings, or try to mask them with other behaviours.
While men may experience classical symptoms of depression such as despondent mood, loss of interest in work or hobbies, weight and sleep disturbances, fatigue, and concentration problems, they are more likely than women to experience “stealth” depression symptoms such as anger, substance abuse, and agitation.
The most commonly overlooked signs of depression in men are: Physical pains such as backache, frequent headaches, sleep problems, sexual dysfunction, or digestive disorders that don’t respond to normal treatment; Anger that ranges from irritability, sensitivity to criticism, or a loss of their sense of humor to road rage, a short temper, or even violence and Reckless behaviour such as pursuing dangerous sports, drink too much, abuse drugs, driving recklessly, or engaging in unsafe sex.
There’s no single cause of depression in men since biological, psychological, and social factors all play a part, as do lifestyle choices, relationships, and coping skills.
While any man can suffer from depression, there are some risk factors that make a man more vulnerable, such as: Loneliness and lack of social support, Inability to effectively deal with stress, a history of alcohol or drug abuse, early childhood trauma or abuse and Aging in isolation, with few social outlets.
Remember, it takes courage to seek help from a loved one or a professional. Most men with depression respond well to self-help steps such as reaching out for social support, exercising, switching to a healthy diet, and making other lifestyle changes.
Many men recovering from depression notice improvements in sleep patterns and appetite before improvements in their mood. But these self-help steps can have a powerful effect on how one thinks and feel, in helping to overcome the symptoms of depression and regain ones enjoyment of life.
Understand that work commitments can often make it difficult for men to find time to maintain friendships, the first step to tackling male depression is to find people you can really connect with, face-to-face. That doesn’t mean simply trading jokes with a coworker or chatting about sports with the guy sitting next to you in a bar.
It means finding someone you feel comfortable sharing your feelings with, someone who’ll listen to you without judging you, or telling you how you should think or feel. For many men especially those suffering from depression reaching out to others can seem overwhelming.
But developing and maintaining close relationships are vital to helping one get through this tough time. If you don’t feel that you have anyone to turn to, it’s never too late to build new friendships and improve your support network.
Support your health through Positive lifestyle changes so as to help lift depression and keep it from coming back like having enough hours of sleep, keeping your stress in check and practicing relaxation techniques. It’s also important to note that when you’re depressed, just getting out of bed can seem like an overwhelming task, let alone working out!
But exercise is a powerful depression fighter and one of the most important tools in your recovery path. Research shows that regular exercise can be as effective as medication for relieving depression symptoms. It also helps prevent relapse once you’re well.
To get the most benefit, aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. This doesn’t have to be all at once and it’s okay to start small. A 10-minute walk can improve your mood for two hours.
Note that eating a healthy diet can also improve how you feel so minimize sugars and refined carbs, reduce your intake of foods that can adversely affect your mood, Eat more Omega-3 fatty acids to give your mood a boost, try foods rich in mood-enhancing nutrients such as bananas and spinach and avoid deficiencies in B vitamins which can trigger depression.
Finally, seek professional treatment if support from family and friends and positive lifestyle changes isn’t enough; be open about how you’re feeling as well as your physical symptoms. Remember, talking honestly with a friend, loved one, or doctor about what’s going on in your mind as well as your body.
Once correctly diagnosed, there is plenty you can do to successfully treat and manage male depression and prevent it from coming back. Understand that depression isn’t a sign of weakness and you don’t have to tough it out.
The writer, Racheal Masibo, is an Assistant Lecturer at St John’s University of Tanzania (SJUT)-School of Nursing, Dodoma reachable via Email: rackelmasibo@ yahoo.com Mobile: 0717513598.