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David Mittleman
David Mittleman
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Moving Beyond the Macho Man: Depression in Men Often Goes Unnoticed

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Once considered a "woman’s disease", clinical depression is a serious problem that affects many people, regardless of their gender. In fact, more than 6 million men experience depression each year. But, unfortunately, many men still operate under a false assumption that they need to "be strong" and bear the crushing impact of depression silently. Additionally, the chief symptoms of depression can manifest themselves in different ways for men and for women. With the proper knowledge, doctors can better identify clinical depression based on the most common signs for each gender. However, doctors’ ability to gain that knowledge is also dependent on your ability to spot your own symptoms and report them.

American culture emphasizes that emotion is a "feminine trait", so men will commonly describe their physical symptoms of depression, rather than the emotional aspects. Indeed, physical pain is a common sign of depression in men, as the list below explains. However, there are other signs to look for that involve more emotional responses:

  1. Fatigue, psychomotor retardation, and the slowing down of physical movements are common symptoms of depression. In comparison to women, men are more likely to experience these physical symptoms of depression as their chief complaints.
  2. Sleep troubles are a common sign of depression in men. Again, men are more likely to share this symptom with their doctor without realizing the link to depression.
  3. Chronic back pain and digestive disorders are common in people who are depressed.
  4. Some men may manifest their depression with irritability, anger, or hostility. Although, irritability is different from anger and hostility. Irritability is characterized by crankiness, whereas anger or hostility tend to be stronger emotions. Men may become angry and hostile when they feel pressure from their friends or family to "rejoin society" after isolating because of their depression.
  5. Substance abuse often becomes a way of dealing with depression for some men. More socially acceptable than going to a doctor to "talk about feelings", men may take the situation into their own hands and think they can fix it with chemicals.
  6. Sexual dysfunction is a common sign of depression in men, but one that they are reluctant to report.
  7. Finally, suicidial thoughts are an extreme sign of depression in men. While women are more likely to attempt suicide compared to men, men are more likely to die from their attempts because of the lethal methods they use to kill themselves.

Identifying and dealing with depression in men is important. In this day and age, we should move beyond the "macho man" cultural expectations in our society to deal with this potentially deadly illness.