Help for Depression in Men

June 11, 2019

"The belief that depression is a female condition has often kept men who are clinically depressed from recognizing the symptoms and seeking treatment."

Today's live with Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD is part two in her series on depression. Dr. Nancy looks at the unique challenges that men experience with depression, a topic that does not receive the attention it should. She also shares her top tips on helping to manage and prevent depression for both men and women.

Video Highlights.

  • 2:10: Difference between clinical depression and sadness
  • 5:35: Symptoms of depression
  • 8:08: Depression in Men
  • 10:19: Consequences of Depression in Men
  • 13:25: Tips for handling depression
  • 17:41: Exercise tips and advice to keep in mind
  • 21:04: Depression Tool Box
  • 39:09: Challenge your Negative Thinking
  • 44:22: Eating all natural organic anti-inflammatory depression fighting diet
  • 49:01: Wrap Up

Difference between clinical depression and sadness

There are many people struggling with depression who think they are just sad, and many people who are extremely sad who worry that they might have depression. Because we associate depression with its primary symptom, pervasive sadness — this all encompassing blanket of grief — many do not know how to tell the difference between the two common psychological states. The confusion can lead to neglecting a serious condition that requires treatment, or overreacting to a normative emotional state.

If you or a loved one is depressed, it has huge implications for their long-term mental and physical health and longevity. The difference between sadness and depression is that sadness is a normal human emotion. You have to have sadness, as you cannot always have joy. We’ve all experienced it. It is usually triggered by a difficult, hurtful, challenging, disappointing, or even tragic event, experience, or situation. We tend to feel sad about something and this also means that when that something changes, when our emotional hurt fades, when we have adjusted or gotten over the loss or the disappointment, our sadness goes into remission and goes away. In cases of tragedy, like a death of a loved one, the sadness doesn’t “go away”, but feelings of grief become less intense over time.

Depression, on the other hand is an abnormal emotional state. It’s a mental illness that affects our thinking, emotions, perceptions, and behaviors in pervasive and chronic ways. When we are depressed, we feel sad about everything. Depression does not necessarily require a difficult event or situation, a loss or a change of circumstance as a trigger. In fact, it often occurs in the absence of any such triggers. People’s lives on paper or social media may be totally fine and they may even admit this to be true, and yet they still feel horrible and shut down inside.

Symptoms of Depression

To be diagnosed with depression, you would have to have at least five of the following symptoms for a continual duration period of at least two weeks. However, be advised that the severity of these symptoms must be also considered, so please use this only as a general guideline/blueprint, and see your mental health professional for any conclusive diagnosis. Symptoms to pay attention to include:

  • A depressed or irritable mood most of the time
  • A loss or decrease of pleasure or interest in most activities, including ones that were interesting or pleasurable before
  • Significant changes in weight or appetite
  • Disturbances and falling asleep or sleeping too much
  • Feeling slowed down in your movements or restless most days
  • Feeling really tired, sluggish, having very low energy most days
  • Having feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt most days
  • Experiencing problems with thinking, with focusing, concentrating, creativity and the ability to make decisions most days
  • Having thoughts of dying or suicide

If you think you or a loved one might be depressed, it’s really important to see the counsel of a trained mental health professional for diagnosis and treatment.

Depression in Men

For many, clinical depression is considered a woman’s disease. But more than six million men in the United States have depression each and every year. Unfortunately, this belief that depression is a female condition has often kept men who are clinically depressed from recognizing the symptoms and seeking treatment.

The symptoms of depression are similar for men and women. However, men tend to express these depressive symptoms differently. Common symptoms of depression for both men and women include:

  • The loss of interest in usually pleasurable activities
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in appetite
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Apathy

However, in women depression may be more likely to cause feelings of sadness and worthlessness. Depression in men on the other hand is more likely to cause them to become withdrawn, to feel really irritable, agitated, aggressive, or hostile. There are several reasons that symptoms of clinical depression in men are not commonly recognized. Often men deny having problems because they think they’re supposed to be strong, and that demonstrating emotion is contrary to strength. The American culture still suggests that expressing emotion is largely a feminine trait. As a result, men who are depressed are more likely to talk about the physical symptoms of their depression, such as feeling tired, rather than symptoms related to emotions. So it’s often misdiagnosed as a physical condition. Depression in men often causes them to keep their feelings hidden. Instead of expressing a depressed mood, they may seem to be more irritable and aggressive.

Consequences of Depression in Men

Depression in men can have devastating consequences. The Center for Disease Control reports that men in the US are three to four times likelier than women to commit suicide. A staggering 75 to 80% of all people who commit suicide in the United States are men. Though more women attempt suicide, more men complete the act of actually ending their lives.

Depression in men is so hard to accept because it often has to do with how men are raised. Many times, it can be traced to cultural expectations. Men are supposed to be successful, and must be in control at all times. These cultural expectations can mask the true symptoms of depression. Instead, men may express aggression and anger. They show the more acceptable tough guy behavior. They generally have a hard time dealing with the stigma of depression and they’re more likely to deal with their symptoms by drinking alcohol, abusing drugs, or pursuing other risky behaviors. Many men avoid talking about depressed feelings to friends or family and a lot of times it’s because they’re ashamed or they just don’t feel like they’re accepted.

One of the fastest growing suicide rates is among white middle-aged rural Americans who are killing themselves at a staggering rate. The reasons for this are many but new studies looking into this are literally calling it a death of despair linked to depression. If you recognize the symptoms discussed today in someone that you love or in yourself, please seek medical attention or go down the proper paths to get it diagnosed.

Tips for Handling Depression

Seeking professional help is important. It is extremely important to understand that seeking out professional counseling does not mean that you are weak or that there is something wrong with you. But there are also some things you can do to improve your health, which can in turn alleviate some of the symptoms of depression naturally.

Exercise

It is important to understand that regardless of your age, whether you’re 30 or 130 years old, exercise is absolutely essential to preventing and treating depression. Moving your body, getting your breath elevated, and the blood in your body moving is absolutely imperative if you want to prevent and treat depression. This is not just once in a while but consistent, every single day moving your body, elevating your heart rate and breathing for at least 30 minutes. You do not need to go to extremes or hurt yourself, but just do a regular exercise. Just go and walk outside every day. The nature, the birds, the wind and the fresh air will help you get and feel better and get you to a space where you can actually start to feel like yourself again. It’s going to raise your heart rate and get your muscles moving, get your blood flowing, the oxygen pumping and these are all key to fending off depression, especially for women and men over the age of 40.

Get moving

If you don’t want to go outside, you can just hop up and down. Put on your favorite songs. When you are depressed just get out of bed. It may seem like a daunting task to do even one thing like get out of bed, let alone working out but, exercise is a powerful depression fighter. You can get a stationary bike and do that in your house. When you’re depressed, getting out of bed can be hard but just put on your shoes and you can go outside and discover all of these other wonderful things that will stimulate happiness from the inside out.

Studies show that regular exercise can be just as effective as antidepressant medication at increasing energy levels and decreasing feelings of fatigue. 30 minutes of yoga or gentle stretching, resistance band training, cycling or even walking each day is going to release the happy endorphins which will improve your energy and improve your mood. If you cannot find time for 30 minutes at once, or it’s too strenuous, do 10 minutes three times. Just move your body. Even just a couple of minutes and you’re going to see little by little that you start feeling better. It is very beneficial to your body and the key is to listen to your body. Start slow and work your way up.

Exercise tips and advice to keep in mind

  • Your fatigue will improve if you stick with it – Starting to exercise when you’re depressed and feeling exhausted can be a really tough task. However, research shows that your energy levels will improve if you keep with it.
  • Find exercises that are continuous and rhythmic. Any exercise is better than no exercise. However, the most beneficial types of exercise for depression seems to be rhythmic exercises such as walking where you can keep cadence, weight training, reps, swimming, and yoga . All of these have to do with taking big deep breaths. Tai chi, moving meditation, any exercise where you’re breathing and moving will be beneficial.
  • Exercise does not only prevent depression, it also reduces symptoms of depression. It is really, really important. There are a couple of go-to yoga poses that you can do. These include forward fold — Just literally stand, inhale, and exhale forward fold your torso cascading down to the ground. Try to bring your fingertips to the ground. This creates an inversion where your heart is higher than your hips, increasing the circulation in your body, brings deoxygenated blood all the way around, calms your central nervous system and it boosts your energy, releases the endorphins and also improves your mood. When you get out of the forward fold just stand back up and you’ll be good. You can also the down dog, which is an inverted V.
  • You should try to have some form of physical activity every day. If you are just starting out, you want to exercise three to five days a week for at least 30 to 40 minutes and you can try any type of exercise you like.

Depression Tool Box

Here are the top 10 tools you can have in your depression tool box:

  • Spend time in nature. Nature really does heal.
  • Write or create a journal. Write down your thoughts and you can do this in the morning or in the evening. This may include things that you are grateful for, things that are challenging, or creative writing. Creative writing improves self-confidence and self-esteem, while providing a creative outlet for you to process what you’re feeling.
  • Read a good book. Anything that helps you to return to a state of calm and opens up your brain to receive more information is good for you. It keeps us in a state of constant thinking and keeps your brain active.
  • Take 10 deep calm breaths. This involves deep belly breaths, in through the nose, and out through the mouth.
  • Watch a funny movie or a TV show. Laughter really is the best medicine, and laughter has a positive impact on your physical and mental health.
  • Take a long hot bath or shower with essential oils. This will calm you down, it will bring you back to the present, and allow you to still your thoughts. Plust it will help with your circulation and make you feel invigorated.
  • Listen to music or songs. Music is the one thing that can transport us instantaneously to another mood or another emotion. You can set up a “pick me up” playlist of your choice.
  • Cook a great meal. Delicious, yummy food is great medicine for the soul. If it’s good for you it’s also going to be good and nurturing for your entire body.
  • Exercise is a quick booster. You can do this over your favorite music for a double whammy mood booster. Just do a few squats or pushups to release the endorphins and start to feel better.
  • Do something spontaneous and fun that you did not plan. Be spontaneous!

Challenge your Negative Thinking

Depression is really a challenging disease. It’s so easy to get caught up in a cycle of negative thinking. When we are depressed, it is really common to look at things in black and white: good and bad. There is no middle ground, no gray area, or silver lining. It’s easy to generalize from a single negative experience, expecting it to hold truth forever. You tend to ignore positive events and focus on the negatives. It’s the “abundance vs. lack” mentality; are you focusing on what you’re lacking, or are you focusing on the abundance and everything that you have?

Once you are aware of the different destructive thought patterns in your brain that contribute to your depression, you can start to challenge them with some specific questions and movements towards eradicating those thoughts. It is not a quick fix, and it takes time to learn and to challenge thought patterns that contribute to depression. But you can at least start. When you find yourself confronted with negative thoughts, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What’s the evidence that this thought is true or not true?
  2. What would I tell a friend or your child if they were expressing these things?
  3. Is there another way of looking at the situation, or an alternative explanation?
  4. How may I have looked at this situation if I didn’t have depression?
  5. What would this look like if I wasn’t in this state of emotional low?

Depression puts a negative spin on everything, including the way that you see yourself, and expectations for the future. When these types of thoughts overwhelm you, it’s important to remember that these are symptoms of your depression. What you feel and what is true are not always the same thing.

Eating all natural organic anti-inflammatory depression fighting diet

What you eat not only affects your physical health, it also affects your mental and emotional health. When it comes to healing foods, depression is no different than most other health conditions. Eating too much of the wrong foods, and too little of the right foods, is going to have a profound impact on your emotional health, including increasing the symptoms associated with depression. For this reason it is recommended you eat a diet that’s rich in anti-inflammatory foods.

This diet is really beneficial, and can go a long way toward improving how you feel. It’s a great way to prevent and reduce symptoms of depression. Chronic inflammation affects the neurotransmitters responsible for contributing to depression. Inflammation-fighting foods are organic, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and they’re essential to supporting healthy anxiety levels. Curcumin has that added inflammation fighting support that you should be taking daily.

Take a look at Dr. Nancy’s inflammatory eating plan as a balanced, natural approach to treating inflammation. Some foods that are included in the anti-inflammatory diet are wild caught fatty fish like Mackerel, salmon and tuna, grass fed lean meats, organic dark leafy greens, like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard, organic fruits like watermelon, cherries, strawberries, and plenty of healthy fats including coconut oil, olive oil, and tons of avocados. Also beans, specifically black beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas, walnuts, almonds, cashews, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, and unrefined whole grains like quinoa.

Wrap Up

Depression is growing more and more common in both women and men over the age of 40. We talked about the differences between depression and sadness. There are many differences, though they may feel like the same thing on the surface. In men, depression often manifests less sadness and more anger, agitation, and irritability. It is important for both men and women to seek help for depression if they feel that they may have it.

Dr. Nancy shared her top tips for dealing with depression, which also help support your overall health and wellness.

Please incorporate all of these tips into your life as soon as possible, and as consistently as possible. It is really important to talk about mental and emotional health because we do not do that enough.

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