Helping Men Beat The Baby Blues And Overcome Depression
Researchers are only beginning to understand men’s unique experience of depression. As for PPND, research is lagging even further behind. But there are a few things we’re learning.
In terms of depression – in general – if you’re a man, you’re more likely than a woman to try to hide your depression or to withdraw from others. This only worsens your symptoms. As for PPND (Paternal Postnatal Depression), some research suggests that it develops more gradually in men over the course of the child’s first year than postpartum depression develops in women.
Researchers are also beginning to discover that men often experience depression in ways that are different from women. Men sometimes cope with their symptoms in different ways too. These findings might help explain why even trained mental health professionals frequently overlook or misdiagnose men’s depression.
To better understand men’s depression, it’s useful to look at both the classic symptoms of depression and symptoms that may be specific to men.
Classic Symptoms of Depression
- Depressed, sad mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure
- Significant weight loss or gain
- Trouble sleeping or over-sleeping
- Restless feelings and inability to sit still or slow down
- Fatigue, loss of energy, or tired all the time
- Worthless or guilty feelings
- Impaired concentration and difficulty making decisions
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
To be diagnosed with depression, a person must be experiencing five or more of these symptoms, including either depressed mood or loss of interest, over a two-week period. These symptoms must also be causing significant distress and interfering with the person’s social, work or academic functioning.
One of the problems with this classic diagnosis of depression is that researchers are beginning to recognize that men often don’t acknowledge feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or guilt. Researchers – and clinicians specializing in helping men – are also beginning to recognize symptoms of depression that seem to be unique to men.
Symptoms of Men’s Depression
- Increased anger and conflict with others
- Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
- Frustration or irritability
- Violent behavior
- Losing weight without trying
- Isolation from family and friends
- Being easily stressed
- Impulsiveness and taking risks, like reckless driving and extramarital sex
- Feeling discouraged
- Increases in complaints about physical problems
- Ongoing physical symptoms, like headaches, digestion problems or pain
- Problems with concentration and motivation
- Loss of interest in work, hobbies and sex
- Working constantly
- Frustration or irritability
- Misuse of prescription medication
- Increased concerns about productivity and functioning at school or work
- Experiencing conflict between how you think you should be as a man and how you actually are
- Thoughts of suicide
A man who’s depressed won’t experience all these symptoms. Some men experience only a few of them, while others experience many. And how bad these symptoms get also varies among men – and over time.
The important thing to know about these symptoms, and about men’s depression, is that they’re treatable. You don’t have to continue suffering from them. And although it’s a very serious – and sometimes life-threatening – condition, you can recover from depression.
American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. 4th edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
Cochran, S. V., & Rabinowitz, F. E. (2003). Gender-sensitive recommendations for assessment and treatment of depression in men. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 34, 132–140.
Zierau, F. Bille, A. Rutz, W., & Bech, P. (2002). The Gotland Male Depression Scale: A validity study in patients with alcohol use disorder. Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, 56(4), 265-271.