Depression is a mood disorder where the sufferers feel sad, anxious, or hopeless for an extended period of time. The helpless and worthless feelings last from a few days to several weeks. It disrupts relationships and interferes with work and daily activities.

Although depression is popularly thought of as a woman’s disease, it actually affects both sexes. More than 6 million American men have at least one episode of depression each year. Because of  this misconception, many men do not recognize the symptoms of depression in themselves and seek treatment.

The symptoms of depression are similar in both sexes. What is different is the way they react to those symptoms and how the symptoms affect their behavior. The American concept of how a man should conduct himself may influence both. American culture expects males to be strong and in control. They are portrayed as men of action not emotion. They are expected to be successful in life and work. American males are raised with these cultural expectations.

While depression in a woman may cause her to feel sad and emotional, a man could become irritable, aggressive, angry, or hostile. These qualities are all a part of the accepted macho or tough guy image, appear to be normal behavior, and hide the true situation. This attitude is still very common among many male-dominated institutions, like the military and athletics. Another way males with depression deal with their symptoms is through drinking alcohol.

The most common symptoms of depression include low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts, and disinterest in formerly pleasurable activities. Fatigue, changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, apathy, and sexual problems, including reduced sex drive are others. Men will often talk about the physical aspects of their depression symptoms rather than the emotional side which is more acceptable to their male image.

The most common signs of depression: sadness, crying, disinterest in hobbies or favorite activities, and verbalizing suicidal thoughts are seldom seen in men. More diagnoses of male depression might be made, according to some mental health specialists, if alcohol abuse, anger, and lashing out were added to the accepted list of depression symptoms. Depression in men often lowers libido or sexual desire and may contribute to erectile dysfunction and diminished sexual performance.

As men age, they must cope with all kinds of stressors. Retirement may be the dream of relaxation and rest, but tied up in the package is the loss of income and meaningful work. Work was the structure for scheduling their lives. Often, when men retire, they just drift because they have lost their routine. This can threaten their self esteem and trigger depression symptoms. A health problem and the resulting illness can be another triggering factor. Illnesses and deaths among family and friends of older men may often trigger depression symptoms.

The way men grieve is just as different from the way women do, as the difference in the way the two sexes experience depression. Many of the same male cultural expectations play a part. Showing emotion is taboo and unmanly. Men tend to assume full responsibility for their bereavement and suppress their grief. This not only increases the time it takes to work through grief; it can lead to troublesome behaviors like the buildup of anger, aggressiveness, and substance abuse. Physical signs of grief in men may include increased cholesterol levels, ulcers, high blood pressure, and pain. Addictive behaviors, such as over-consumption of alcohol or drug abuse, may intensify because of suppressed grief. XXX

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