Movember: Depression In Men - How To Spot The Symptoms And Advice On Treatment

Movember may be a time where your normally clean-shaven boyfriend ditches the shaver to grow a moustache - and looks hilarious - but behind the fuzzy top lip there are a number of good causes.

In the first of a four-part series focussing on men's mental health, we wanted to tackle male depression.

Depression is much more than just feeling down (as many people, too quick to say "snap out of it", still believe). It is a serious illness that affects your mood, motivation and self-esteem, impacting all areas of life - from work to personal relationships.

But in our 'big boys don't cry' culture where lads are largely taught to hide their emotions, how does depression manifest itself in men?

There is a lot of stigma surrounding mental health, which only worsens when it comes to men. But organisations and charities are taking a stand, hoping to tackle the taboos of a seldom talked about issue.

Men's Health Week 2013 focussed on male depression and earlier this year Stephen Fry took mental health stigma head on when he revealed he had attempted suicide while filming abroad in 2012.

We spoke to mental health charity Mind about symptoms, causes, treatment and stigma.

Signs of depression in men

Depression affects everyone differently, but there are some common symptoms, including feeling low-spirited, restless, irritable, unable to relate to other people and losing interest in sex.

Men and women can react to depression quite differently. Women are more likely to have symptoms such as tearfulness and low mood, whereas men are more likely to externalise symptoms or ‘act out’, displaying aches and pains or becoming angry and frustrated.

There is still a lot of stigma around mental health, do men deal with depression differently?

Men are just as likely to experience depression as women, roughly one in ten people, but are far less likely to seek support.

Almost a third of men would be embarrassed about seeking help for a mental health problem and less than a quarter of men would visit their GP if they felt down for more than two weeks, in comparison to a third of women.

Men are half as likely to talk to their friends about problems as women and only 3% of men would discuss worries with their relatives, compared to 54% of women.

Men try to find ways of dealing with their problems independently. They prefer to watch TV or drink alcohol whereas women were twice as likely to talk to their friends, when trying to unwind.

Issues such as self stigmatisation, or the idea that ‘real men don’t cry’, can prevent men from accessing the help that they need. Even when they do reach out, diagnosis is difficult because more typically ‘male’ symptoms, don’t fit with the classic signs of mental distress that GPs look out for.

What causes are associated with male depression?

The causes of depression vary from person to person and it can happen for one or more reasons. Occasionally it may appear for no obvious reason.

Potential causes include life events, loss, internalised anger, childhood experiences, physical conditions, side effects of medication, diet, street drugs and alcohol, and genetic factors.

Men may be more likely to self-medicate than women, but tobacco, alcohol or other drugs, make depression worse.

What are effective treatments for depression - are some more or less suited to men?

  • Regular exercise (at least 20 minutes a day) can be very effective in lifting mood, increasing energy levels, and improving appetite and sleep. Stimulating endorphins and engaging in group activity is a effective treatment.
  • Group therapy allows people to work together on their problems, with a therapist. Talking to others and getting their insight can help you understand yourself better; you may also learn about relationships with others.
  • Befriending, peer support and volunteering schemes can also be effective, as can Arts therapies such as art, music and drama therapy, particularly for men who find it difficult to talk about how they’re feeling.
  • Practitioners of complementary and alternative medicine may offer treatments such as acupuncture, massage, homeopathy and herbal medicine that many people with depression have found helpful.

For more information about depression, as well as support and advice, visit Mind's website.