Depression is a topic that many of us may only associate with women or children, and not necessarily with men. The truth is, depression affects everyone, regardless of your gender. It's also more common in the US than you may think. Today we’re discussing the myths surrounding male depression, as well as some resources you can use to find help when you need it.
According to Ken Clark, LMFT, founder and practice director for Chenal Family Therapy, “probably six or seven out of 10 adults will have…clinical depression somewhere at least once in their adult years.” Now, depression can come from a variety of different things, such as the loss of a loved one, a midlife crisis, or stress from school or work. Men experience depression just as much as anyone else does. “The tragedy,” Ken tells us, “is that we pretend like men are somehow impervious to this or that we just toughen up or something like that.” This mindset is absolutely false. The reality is that men in general experience depression at a rate of 5-6 million adult males per year in the United States. So, if you’re a male battling any of the symptoms of depression, this would actually be incredibly normal, contrary to popular belief.
Okay, so you might be wondering: what are the symptoms of depression? And are those symptoms different among men, women, adults, and children?
Well, Ken says that symptoms are different among men and women. “Some of that difference is part of how we’re trained in our society to act as men and women at times.” It may be more acceptable for women to shed tears, for example, compared to men. That is not say that men do not shed tears, but they tend not to do it openly. They might go into their office at work or find a room at home where they can cry without anyone seeing. Other symptoms may include irritability, lack of motivation, loss of joy and pleasure. The same symptoms that you see when a child experiences burnout are also prevalent in adult men. They seem sort of checked out from their surroundings.
It's good to know the warning signs, but it’s also important to know events that may trigger depression. Generally, any traumatic experience can lead to depression. “Loss, scary events, being a first responder, or in military service. All of those things can change how we see the world, and whether or not we feel hope or fear,” Ken states.
Men, just like for many people, often hit plateaus in their life where they must redefine their identity. At 49, men may not be looking to start a new career. They’re already in the job they’re going to be in, the house they’re going to be in, the city they’re going to be in for the rest of their lives. Some men may not have as many peers or close friends as women or children do. There tends to be a lot of isolation and loneliness among men, even if they’re standing in a room full of other men. “Men don’t connect on that level,” Ken warns. “Anybody that doesn’t really have that close friend they vent to, that they talked to life about, that they blow off some steam with, sure they’re going to be more prone to depression.”
Don’t think that depression is only brought on by a negative experience, though. Some men even suffer from depression after getting recently married, or recently having a baby.
Just as women experience postpartum depression, men experience what is called “adjustment disorder.” Ken explains that “when big things happen, the way your life functions, your identity, is redefined. Your role is changed. You feel less important or like all the pressure is on you as a father. Those adjustments can lead to anxiety, depression, and bad choices. Recently getting married or having a child can impact who we see in the mirror and how we feel about the day ahead of us.”
Alright. So, we’ve discussed symptoms and causes of depression among men, but what are some resources in our society that men can benefit from if they are experiencing depression?
One of the most underutilized resources that men can use today is actually therapy. Ken shared a recent study in the U.K. revealed that men who went to therapy experienced a double-digit increase in their income in the year after they went to therapy. “Therapy works,” he explains. “It makes you a better earner, friend, husband, dad, son, brother, all that kind of stuff. One of the best things you can do if you’re battling depression is to go online and search for therapists in your area.” Men can even use a service online where they remain completely anonymous and just tell someone what is going on. None of the therapists are going to place the blame on them. That’s not what they’re there for. They’re there to hold a space for anyone to talk through and process their feelings.
If depression has worsened to the point where someone cannot get out of bed, or is having dark or suicidal thoughts, they need to talk to their primary care physician, psychiatrist, or nurse practitioner who works in mental health and think about taking some medication for a small season of their life. “Depression medications make huge changes in how we experience the world without changing a whole lot about who we are in the grand scheme of things,” Ken reveals.
One resource that men can use to battle their depression may be closer than they think. By simply communicating with the people that they care about and letting them know that they are feeling upset or sad could be the easiest step to finding help. Don’t hesitate to ask for more companionship. We can’t solve the problems we experience with anxiety and depression without the help of the world around us.
So, whether they’re talking to a therapist, doctor, or just a close friend, it’s important that men who are experiencing depression do not hold in their thoughts or feelings. It’s critical that they talk to someone.
If you or someone you love is experiencing depression and you’d like to talk directly with Ken Clark’s group at Channel Family Therapy, their practices are located across the state of Arkansas. You can always find them at channeltherapy.com for any of their Arkansas locations, as well as their location in Dallas, Texas. Ken also encourages anyone experiencing depression search for a listing of therapists that share a similar life journey or understand your background. “Finding the right therapist is like finding a great pair of jeans. You try a few on, you got to break them in. It’s okay to move on from a therapist after two or three sessions if it’s not working for you. Try somebody else,” he says.
The bottom line is simple: depression affects everyone, regardless of your age or gender. It’s okay to talk to someone about how you’re feeling. It’s important to use the resources around you and that you’re working to improve your mental health.
You are not alone.