According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than six million men are diagnosed with depression every year. This staggering number becomes even more disturbing when one learns that a large majority of these men go undiagnosed. Considering that May is Mental Health Awareness Month, it seems fitting to explore topics that receive little, if any attention. As a male who has lived with depression for over 25 years, I know how difficult it can be to identify and cope with the paralyzing symptoms of depression. These symptoms include;
- Feeling Sad, Hopeless or Empty
- Becoming Irritable, Angry or Anxious
- Changes in appetite; eating too much/eating too little
- Changes in sleep; sleeping too much/or not sleeping well
- Loss of pleasure in things or activities that were once important
- Trouble Concentrating
- Loss of motivation
- Having Thoughts of Suicide
For men, the irritability or anger can be more pronounced than outward displays of tearfulness or sadness. Some would argue this is the result of the perpetuation of male stereotypes where men are not supposed to cry or show their true feelings. As a result, it is not uncommon for depressed men to perceive themselves as weak for having depressed thoughts or feelings.
Because of the likelihood of increased anger and irritability, spouses or significant others may misinterpret their loved one’s behavior change as unexplained hostility, leading to distance within the relationship and further isolation of the depressed individual.
It is therefore crucial that a more open dialogue about depression begin to occur. Depression is real, but the stigma does not have to be.