Approximately 6 million American men have depression each year, but fewer than half recognize, acknowledge, or seek treatment. Unfortunately, many men feel like they need to be “strong and silent” about their mental illness or society will look down on them, leading them to not find the correct treatment.
According to the Movember Foundation, society as a whole does not stigmatize men with depression, it’s the men that tend to think of themselves as being burdensome or disappointing. From childhood men are taught to be in control of their feelings and not be “emotional.” This lesson can be detrimental to men if they are experiencing symptoms of depression.
Anyone can get depression. Depression in men is caused by several contributing factors, and most of the time it’s a combination of these components:
• Genes – men with a family history of depression may be more likely to develop it themselves.
• Brain chemistry and hormones – the brains of people with depression look different on scans than those of people without the illness. Also, the hormones that control emotions and mood can affect brain chemistry.
• Stress – loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship or any stressful situation may trigger depression in some men.
Even though men and women both get depression, they experience it differently. However, the treatments are the same. There are many effective treatments for men and often a combination of treatments is the best choice. According to WebMD.com, more than 80 percent of men respond to treatment for depression.
Begin by visiting a mental health professional to get properly diagnosed and have a treatment plan developed that is specific to your needs. This plan may include:
• Antidepressant medication – Antidepressant drugs can be effective in relieving symptoms of depression, but can have many side effects such as headaches, nausea, restlessness, and weight gain. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are two types of antidepressants used today. Medications on both groups increase the levels of specific chemicals in the brain and can reduce the symptoms of depression. Be sure to take any medication exactly as prescribed for it to be effective.
• TMS Therapy – Unfortunately, medication doesn’t work for everyone. Fortunately, there is a revolutionary treatment for people who suffer from depression – Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy. Of the patients who have undergone the therapy, 1 in 2 improve significantly, and 1 in 3 become completely free of depression symptoms.
The FDA-approved TMS therapy is a drug-free, non-invasive treatment done in a physician’s office and lasts about 45 minutes. By using a MRI-strength magnetic field to stimulate the front part of the brain, the core symptoms of major depression can be painlessly alleviated with no side effects. Some people notice temporary improvement as early as the first or second week as existing neural circuits are stimulated. Repeated treatment over several weeks gradually encourages new circuits to form, making depression relief self-sustaining for many patients.
• Counseling – Counseling provides emotional support and problem solving solutions that are critical to feeling better and being more confident.
• Getting plenty of rest – Try to rest as much as possible. Lack of sleep can enhance feelings of depression.
• Eating right – Good nutrition is important for you to keep up your energy. Keep healthy foods readily available at work and home, and make good choices. Also, remember to drink plenty of water.
• Exercise – Try to get a little exercise every day.
• Avoid alcohol and drug use – these things can worsen depression and lessen the effect of any medications.
It takes a lot of effort and control to practice healthy coping skills and live a healthy lifestyle, rather than hiding your depression. It might be helpful to seek out support from friends and family to help support you through this process.
When you are living with depression, it can feel like everything is overwhelming and distressing. Don’t feel bad and remember that you are not alone. With the right diagnosis and treatment, you will be on your way to feeling better soon.