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Dr Funke Baffour

Depression in men: suffering in silence

20 October 2017 | by Dr Funke Baffour

A recent conversation about the suicide of Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington, prompted me to write this piece on depression in men.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 300 million people suffer from depression - which is characterised by deep sadness, lethargy, feelings of worthlessness, and a loss of interest in social activities - and half of those do not receive treatment, either due to lack of awareness or due to stigma.

There is, after all, still a perception among many that men should be strong and always in control of their emotions.

But the fact is that both men and women get depressed, and the symtoms of depression are similar regardless of gender.

However, men tend to be less adept at recognising symptoms of depression than women.

The reasons why the symptoms of depression in men are not commonly recognised is that men are more likely to deny these types of feelings or try to mask or hide them with other behaviours.

They are more likely to experience “stealth” depression symptoms, which can be represented as:

  1. Mood fluctuations – feeling aggressive, hostile or irritable
  2. Reckless behaviour –pick a fight, drive dangerously, drink and drive or gambling
  3. Alcohol or drug abuse
  4. Isolation
  5. Decreased sex drive
  6. Physical complaints such as back ache, stomachache, gastric problems, fatigue or loss of appetite
  7. Escapist Behaviour, such as spending a lot of time at work
  8. Irritability or inappropriate anger

It is important to note that the above is not set in stone, as depression affects people in different ways, which means that particular symptoms can be unique to the individual.

It is also important to be aware that depression does not just come out of the blue! It can slowly creep up before the above symptoms are noticeable.

Some of the triggers to depression can be due to:

  1. Stress at work or home
  2. Relationship problems
  3. Health problems
  4. Family responsibilities
  5. Financial problems
  6. Retirement and loss of independence
  7. Death of a loved one

Depression in men may cause them to keep their feelings hidden, which is why it can go unrecognised in the early stages, and, left untreated, depression can be catastrophic.

For one thing, men show fewer warning signs, such as talking about suicide, and although women are more likely to attempt suicide, men suffering from depression are four times more likely to die from it, either because they tend to choose more lethal methods or because they are more likely to act more impulsively on these suicidal thoughts.

Depression is a serious and common condition, which unfortunately won't get better by itself, but which can be treated with antidepressant medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.

If you or someone close to you is going through depression, it is important that you seek help and support.

Talk with your doctor, mental health professional or someone you trust who can support you to seek appropriate help!

I know it can be hard to ask for help, but without the appropriate treatment depression is unlikely to go away, and possibly could get worse. Please do not suffer in silence!

No matter how dark your days may feel, there is a way out of it!

Being able to ask for help when you need it is a sign of strength, not weakness.


Some additional tips which might be helpful:

  1. Eat healthily; avoid sugar and refined foods, as well as caffeine. Eat fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens; these can boost your B Vitamins, as a deficiency in this vitamin can trigger depression.
  2. Engage in social activates as this will help to avoid further isolations.
  3. Engage in physical exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Take a walk, lift some weights or go for a run!

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