How to spot the signs of depression in men

Getting the right help for early stage depression is vital.  (Getty Images)

Getting the right help for early stage depression is vital. (Getty Images)

From a global pandemic to a cost-of-living crisis, it’s been incredibly difficult years, so the rise in depression rates is perhaps unsurprising.

Even those who, on the surface, have seemingly “perfect” lives aren’t immune, but of course there’s a difference between temporarily feeling a little flat and suffering from clinical depression.

This week (May 15-21) is Mental Health Awareness Week, which aims to shine a light on the importance of wellbeing, help address stigma, prevent people from suffering and improve the care out there .

Naturally, the more people talk about mental health the better, particularly men who tend to be more reluctant to seek help. Three times more men than women die by suicide, according to the Mental Health Foundation.

Celebrities who have spoken out about their experiences with depression

Paddy McGuinness, Mike Tindall, James Middleton.  (Getty Images)

Paddy McGuinness, Mike Tindall and James Middleton have opened up about their mental health. (Getty Images)

Recently, Paddy McGuinness discussed how the symptoms of his clinical depression were pinpointed by his ex-wife Christine.

The presenter, 49, said he was “unaware” that what he was experiencing, including losing his temper, were signs of the condition.

Mike Tindal he also recently discussed his mental health battles and experiences of losing the baby, urging men to talk about their feelings to “normalize” them, while his royal kinsman James Middleton shared how his dog helped him get over the Depression.

Anton Ferdinand described the depression and insomnia he experienced while grieving the loss of his mother while he was world snooker champion Mark Selby he used social media to explain it was seeking professional help for depression. Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios has admitted he was feeling so down that not only did he self-harm, but he had also considered taking his own life.

Unfortunately, men are even less likely than women to talk about how they feel, perhaps out of fear of appearing “weak.”

While women are nearly twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression, men’s depression often goes undiagnosed due to a lack of recognition or unwillingness to acknowledge symptoms, Simon Brittz, consultant psychologist at Roodlane Medical, part of HCA Healthcare UK, he explains.

Young man at home with depression.  (Getty Images)

Men shouldn’t feel like they need to keep any signs of depression to themselves, support is out there. (Getty Images)

Depressive symptoms

Psychological symptoms of clinical depression include, as per the NHS:

  • continuously low mood or sadness

  • feeling hopeless and helpless

  • have low self-esteem

  • feel tearful

  • feeling guilty

  • feeling irritable and intolerant of others

  • without motivation or interest in things

  • find it difficult to make decisions

  • get no enjoyment out of life

  • feeling anxious or worried

  • having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself

Physical symptoms of clinical depression include, as per the NHS:

  • moving or talking more slowly than usual

  • changes in appetite or weight

  • constipation

  • unexplained aches and pains

  • lack of energy

  • low sex drive (loss of libido)

  • menstrual cycle changes

  • disturbed sleep

If you fear that you have depression, it is helpful to ask yourself how long you have been feeling this way. If it’s just a day or two, it’s probably just a temporary change in your mood, but if it lasts for weeks or months, then it’s important to explore your symptoms so you can get the right support.

Causes of depression

From grief or redundancy, to a breakup in a relationship, depression can be triggered by life events or it can even run in the family.

It affects men of all ages, and while its prevalence is high in their 20s and 30s, it is increasingly common among men in their 40s and 50s.

Men are also far more likely than women to become addicted to alcohol and take drugs on a regular basis, according to the Mental Health Foundation, which can often be forms of “self-medication” for those struggling with mental health issues.

Men also report lower levels of life satisfaction than women, according to the government’s National Wellbeing Survey.

Doctor prescribes antidepressants to man with depression.  (Getty Images)

There’s no shame in taking depression medication if it’s right for you. (Getty Images)

Treatments for depression

General practitioners often prescribe antidepressants to treat clinical depression, and while there is no one-size-fits-all treatment, these can be helpful in helping those with moderate to severe depression.

The most common are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Fluoxetine (brand name Prozac), Citalopram and Sertraline and they work by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain, which helps improve mood.

But they are not an immediate solution. Typically, it may take two weeks to a month for the benefits of SSRIs to really show, and you may be taking them for six to nine months before being carefully weaned off them with the help of a doctor.

This can also be combined with talk therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), both of which have been shown to help improve the way you feel.

Men are less likely to access psychological therapies than women, according to the Mental Health Foundation only 36% of referrals to NHS talking therapies are for men.

From my experience working with men experiencing depression, I recommend finding a therapist who is direct and goal-oriented, says Brittz. Setting clear, realistic goals can help people manage their negative feelings and work to change those behavior patterns associated with depression.

Remember that many therapists will offer free initial consultations, which can be a great opportunity to figure out if their approach might work for you. Or there are free organizations like the Samaritans.

Man talking to therapist.  (Getty Images)

Talk therapy is a great option to help with depression and mental illness. (Getty Images)

Exercise can also be one of the most effective ways to manage depression. Indeed, Brittz insists.

Regular exercise is a wonderful tool for boosting your mood and relieving symptoms of depression,” she says. it will help you stay motivated to exercise regularly.

Whichever treatment you pursue, there’s no denying that battling depression is a challenge even with the help of a professional, but tackling it alone is far more difficult.

I would really encourage men who feel they are depressed to contact their GP or contact the NHS, advises Brittz. The worse depression gets, the harder it can be to overcome.

Two friends run on forest trails to get fit.

Exercise can be helpful in managing depression and improving mental health. (Getty Images)

Help and support for depression

For support, you can contact the Mind infoline on 0300 123 3393 (open 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday excluding public holidays) or the Samaritan helpline on 116 123 (anytime, day it’s night).

You can also look for the free psychological therapy service (IAPT) on the NHS website.

CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) offers a helpline on 0800 585858 and livechat is open daily from 5pm to midnight. 365 days a year

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