Despite what you may have heard, depression affects men as profoundly as it does women.
Yes, we’ve all heard the jokes about the male mid-life crisis and the questions of self-identity that go with it.
But there’s a darker side to depression in men. Over a million people take their lives world-wide each year. American men are three to four times more likely to commit suicide than women. In fact, American men between 20 and 24 have a suicide rate seven times higher than women in the same age bracket.
While not all depressed men are going to commit suicide, symptoms of depression affect men’s lives and can have a profound impact on their careers, health and their loved ones. Symptoms of depression include feelings of hopelessness, guilt or helplessness, low mood and an inability to feel pleasure, lack of energy and insomnia.
Compounding the problem is the fact that men can find it difficult to reach out and ask for help with depression. Reaching out can make men feel unmanly and weak.
This article outlines how to reach out to men experiencing depression, either yourself or someone you know.
First of all, talk to people. While men often find it difficult to talk about depression, they’re more likely to talk about depression-related symptoms they might experience, like insomnia or lack of energy. Talking to a doctor is a good place to start, as it may help diagnose the root cause of the symptoms.
Don’t bottle up your feelings. If you’ve had a blow out with someone, tell someone about it. Alleviate the tension that can build up inside.
Stay active. Exercise benefits both the body and mind, and not only helps you sleep better, it’s a great stress relief and an effective way to shed excess pounds. Recent studies are now linking depression to obesity. At the very least, you’ll look better with regular exercise. Chances are, you’ll feel better too.
Maintain a healthy diet, with lots of fruits and vegetables. Some of the best depression-fighting foods include brown rice, whole grains, leafy vegetables and oily fish. Salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines are all high in the omega-3 fatty acid EPA. In a 2002 clinical study, researchers found that participants who took a gram of fish oil each day experienced a 50% reduction in depressive symptoms, including insomnia, feelings of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts.
Stay away from processed foods and foods that are high in fat and sugar. Also avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol, which can make depressive symptoms much worse.
Practice relaxation techniques and exercises like yoga. Have a massage, or practice aroma therapy. Lemon oil, for example, is a powerful anti-depressant and clinical studies have shown it can reduce stress.
Try to sleep between seven and eight hours a night. This can be difficult when experiencing depression, as insomnia is a common depressive symptom. Therefore, practice good sleep hygiene. Make your bedroom an inviting place to sleep. Keep it dark and cool and avoid coffee and stimulants before going to bed. Having said this, try not to get upset if you can’t sleep. Avoid sleeping pills, and with enough healthy lifestyle factors, you’ll eventually sleep better.
Don’t forget to do something you enjoy! Spend time on a hobby or something you enjoy. Maybe it’s golfing. Maybe you’re a stamp collector. Whatever you enjoy, spend some time to do it. And if it gets you outside when the sun is shining, even better.
Review your lifestyle. Many men who experience depressive symptoms are also perfectionists. In some cases it can be wise to reduce expectations or workload. Or even explore the options of a new career.
If nothing else, take a break from your regular routine. A vacation can do wonders for your life perspective, but even a few days, or a few hours can help.
Depression in men is a serious issue that can have far-reaching consequences. But it doesn’t have to. With the tips you’ve found in this article you’re equipped to manage depression and minimize the disruption it can create in either your life, or someone you know.