Not merely a bad mood or a case of the blues, depressive disorders can last for weeks and come complete with physical symptoms.
Worse, depression’s side effects are dire. The National Institute of Mental Health reports people with depression are four times more likely to experience a heart attack than those without a history of depression. The White House Conference on Mental Health in 1999 found that two-thirds of the suicides reported yearly in the United States are caused by depression.
So it’s a good thing depression is treatable. The National Institute of Health reports up to 80 percent of the people who begin receiving treatment show an improvement in their health within two months.
But receiving treatment is an issue of its own. Alarmingly, a recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found fewer than half of men in the U.S. who have depression get treatment.
Disparities in both race and gender
Researchers from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics polled over 21,000 men between 2010 and 2013. They found that 8.5 percent of men had daily feelings of depression or anxiety, but only 41 percent either took medication for – or spoke to a mental health professional about – those feelings.
The differences extended to racial and ethnic groups as well. Black men aged between 18 and 44 were much less likely to have used mental health treatments than non-Hispanic white men, according to the CDC’s results, a disparity the CDC attributes to gaps in health insurance coverage.
Different genders mean different experiences
According to the Mayo Clinic, depression affects men somewhat differently than it does women. The reasons aren’t clear; mental disorders are often shaped by environment, past experiences, hormones and brain chemistry. Men also have different coping skills, some of which may not even appear to be symptoms of depression. Behaviors related to undiagnosed depression in men can include:
Substance abuse such as excessive drinking
High-risk behaviors such as reckless driving
Angry, controlling or abusive behavior
Using activities like exercise or work as a means to escape
Men and also women share many of the common depression systems, such as feelings of tiredness, sadness or hopelessness, along with difficulty sleeping and a loss of interest in activities.
So why don’t men get help? In fairness, it’s a question that could be asked of most people with depression; the Depression and Bipolar Alliance reports nearly 2 out of 3 people with depression never receive or look for depression treatment. However, Mayo Clinic lists several reasons male depression often escapes treatment, including:
A resistance to seeking help: According to the American Psychological Association, men are 25 percent less likely to have visited a health care provider in the last year. Also, the strong stigma that still exists about mental illness can be a deterrent against seeking treatment.
A reluctance to talk: There are still social taboos about men being emotionally open with family and friends, let alone strangers like psychologists. Self-reliance and self-control are good qualities to possess and live up to, but not when they discourage treatment. Those qualities can also make someone reluctant to admit that they need help, leading them to downplay the symptoms which make them suffer.
An inability to recognize depression. Depression’s symptoms can be subtle. Feeling sad isn’t always depression’s main symptom.
Phrases like “mental illness” and “mental disorder” can conjure unpleasant imagery for many people, but they shouldn’t. They’re simply conditions that affect a person’s feelings or thinking, and they respond to treatment. Living a diminished life out of a misplaced sense of toughness is no way to live.
The Sovereign Health Group is a leading provider of effective and compassionate mental health care. Call our 24/7 helpline for more information.
About the author
Brian Moore is a staff writer and graphic designer for the Sovereign Health Group. A 20-year veteran of the newspaper industry, he writes articles and creates graphics across Sovereign’s portfolio of marketing and content products. Brian enjoys music, bicycling and playing the tuba, which’s he’s done with varying degrees of success for over 25 years. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author and designer at firstname.lastname@example.org.