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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

 

Depression and Men: key factsmen and depression

 

What is depression?

We all have times when we feel depressed. Sometimes depression goes on for a long time and can become severe. You may be unable to lift yourself out of it. This is what doctors call a 'depressive illness' or clinical depression.

 

What does it feel like to be depressed?

The feeling of depression is deeper, longer and more unpleasant that the short episodes of unhappiness that everyone experiences occasionally. You will notice:

  • persistent sadness or low mood
  • not being able to enjoy things
  • losing interest in life
  • finding it harder to make decisions
  • not coping with things that used to be easy
  • feeling exhausted
  • feeling restless and agitated
  • loss of appetite and weight
  • difficulties in getting to sleep
  • loss of sex drive
  • thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

Is depression different for men?

In general, men are more competitive than women. We don’t like to admit that we need help. We are less likely to talk about our feelings with others. This may be why men don’t get the help they need. Some symptoms of depression are more common in men. These include irritability, anger, loss of control, greater risk-taking and aggression. Men are also more likely to take their own lives.

 

How do men deal with depression?

We are more likely to use drugs and alcohol than asking for help. This usually makes things worse. Our work suffers and alcohol can lead us to behave irresponsibly or dangerously. We may also focus more on our work than our relationships or home life. This can cause conflicts with partners. All of these things make depression more likely.

 

What factors are linked to depression in men?

 

  • Relationships: trouble in a marriage or long-term relationship is the most common problem associated with depression. Men tend not to cope with disagreements as well as women. Arguments can make men feel uncomfortable so they try to avoid  disagreements and difficult discussions. For example: their partner will want to talk about a problem, but the man will try to avoid disagreements. The partner then feels ignored and tries to talk about it more, which makes the man feel he is being "nagged". So, he withdraws further, which makes his partner feel even more ignored and so on. This can destroy a relationship.
  • Sex: when men are depressed, they may go off sex completely. A few depressed men report an increase in sex drive and intercourse, possibly as a way of trying to feel better. Some antidepressant drugs reduce sex-drive in men and women. However, the good news is that, as the depression improves, so will sexual desire.
  • Impotence: difficulty in getting an erection can cause depression.
  • Unemployment and retirement: leaving work, for any reason, can be stressful. One in seven men who become unemployed will get depressed within six months. And then depression can make it harder to get another job.
  • Suicide: men are three times more likely than women to kill themselves. You are more likely to have these feelings if you are on your own or a heavy drinker.

Getting help

What help is available?

  • Self-help: there are now a number of self-help books and computer programmes based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for depression.
  • Talking treatments: there are several different types of talking treatments. Counselling enables you to talk about your feelings to a professional. Your GP may have a counsellor at the surgery who you can talk to.
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy helps people overcome the negative thoughts that can sometimes be the cause of depression.
  • Medication: antidepressants can help if your depression is severe or goes on for a long time. They can help you feel less anxious and cope better, so that you can start to enjoy life and deal with problems effectively again.
  • As well as tablets, there is an alternative remedy called St John's Wort available from chemist. This can help in mild to moderate depression. If you are taking other medication, it is important to tell your GP before taking St John's Wort.

Helping yourself

  • If you’ve had a major upset in your life, try to tell someone how you feel about it.
  • Keep active. This will help to keep you fit and you will sleep better.
  • Eat a balanced diet, with lots of fruit and vegetables.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs. They will make you more depressed in the long run.
  • Try relaxation methods. For example yoga, massage or aromatherapy.
  • Do something you enjoy at least once a week.
  • If you are a perfectionist, you may be driving yourself too hard. Try setting yourself more realistic targets.
  • Read about depression. Books and websites can give you ideas on how to cope.

Think about depression differently

It can help to see depression as a result of chemical changes in the brain and/or as the cost of living in stressful times. It can affect the strongest person, but it can be treated. Both talking and medication can be important ways to help you get better.

 

Professional help

The place to start is your GP who can go over your treatment options, and discuss any worries you have about confidentiality. You may be concerned that being depressed could damage your chances in work. Remember, in the UK, it is illegal for an employer to fire you - or not hire you - just because you have depression.

 

Depression may be due to physical illness, so you should get a physical check-up from your GP.

 

How can I help someone who is depressed?

  • Listen to them, but try not to judge them.
  • Don't offer advice unless they ask for it, but if you see the problem that is behind the depression, you could work with the person to find a solution.
  • Spending time with them, listening over and over to their problems, and encouraging them to keep going with activities in their routine, is all helpful.

If they are getting worse, encourage them to visit their GP and to accept treatment.

 

For more in-depth information see our main leaflet: Depression and Men.

This leaflet reflects the most up-to-date evidence at the time of writing.

Produced by the RCPsych Public Education Editorial Board.

Series Editor: Dr Philip Timms

Reviewed by Sally Dean

© February 2014. Due for review: February 2016. Royal College of Psychiatrists. You can link to, download, print, photocopy and distribute this leaflet free of charge. But you must not change it or repost it on a website.

For a catalogue of public education materials or copies of our leaflets contact: Leaflets Department, The Royal College of Psychiatrists, 21 Prescot Street, London E1 8BB. Telephone: 020 7235 2351 x 2552

Charity registration number (England and Wales) 228636 and in Scotland SC038369.

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