Friday, 26 September 2014

Supporting a Man and his Depression

When men and women are depressed they tend to turn inwards but men may appear to take this to a different level. You'll certainly notice behavior change. Not only may he reject all offers of help and support he may become tetchy or even hostile. As for advice, well you may need to tread carefully with that one.

Of course if your man (your husband or partner) had problems accepting advice or help before he became depressed there’s no reason to expect he will now. If anything the defenses are up and, to him at least, there’s a smell of role change in the air. Perhaps he has always been the breadwinner, the rock and the person you turn to and he doesn’t want that to change. Plus of course, the socialization of men often tends to make traditional males highly self-contained. He has probably grown up with the notion of men as being assertive, independent, job-focused, unemotional and brave. Alongside this you could maybe read stubborn, unreasonable, inflexible and pessimistic, well, in so far as his health and wellbeing is concerned.

With all these negatives what’s a partner to do? First, it’s useful to know the signs of male depression. Even in these more enlightened times it’s perhaps unlikely for him to openly state that he feels down or depressed, so it’s often a case of reading the signals. Unfortunately the signals can leave many a partner feeling baffled, upset and wondering what on earth they have done wrong. He may spend more time out drinking, or immersing himself in work. When asked why, he’ll shrug you off, find excuses or become irritable. Small things can turn into big upsets, all of which have the effect of making you feel defensive and pushing you away. Paradoxically, if you do back off fully he’ll feel even more isolated and more rejected and his mood may worsen further.

Now some advice; neither you, nor anyone else, have it within their gift to take his depression away. It’s important to emphasize this because you may start to believe you are inadequate in your attempts to help him feel better. In and amongst the long moody silences he may sometimes ramble on about why the world is such a bleak place and look to you for answers. Don’t feel you have to answer. You can try to offer support in different ways and you can sympathize with his plight, but you are not a source of worldly wisdom.

Try to stick with your routine. Don’t stop seeing your friends and family because you are worried. You must take care of yourself and you begin to isolate yourself there’s a danger you will become angry, resentful and even depressed yourself.

Don’t become an emotional punch bag. If he says cruel things or when he openly rejects your support, tell him how it makes you feel. Don’t do it in a confrontational manner by blaming him, but say that it hurts and maybe ask if there is a more specific way you can help him. He may say “yes, just leave me alone” but you’ve sewn an important seed.

Even if your man is depressed and rejects you, it can still be helpful to ask him for help or advice in certain matters. The fact that he still feels needed and useful and that his opinion still counts can provide boosts to his self-esteem and reminds him that you are a partnership.

These are just a few words of advice. If someone else has influence, maybe a close friend, why not draw them in too? Remember though, depression is a process and sometimes a long hard road for the person who suffers with it. If the depression is relatively mild, it may self-correct within 3 months or less, but if more severe it will inevitably benefit from medical intervention. 

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Is That Man Depressed?

There’s supposed to be increasing awareness of the signs and symptoms of depression in men, but what happens if we compare a man and a woman with identical symptoms? This is exactly the question a researcher from the University of Westminster in the U.K. set out to answer. The results suggest that women are far more likely to be viewed as having significantly more distressing symptoms and more in need of help.
Low moods are commonplace and the list of associated symptoms is quite lengthy. In most cases however, low moods pass whereas the symptoms of major depression are deeper and last longer. Five of the most common warning signs of depression are constant worrying, moodiness, inability to make decisions, low sex drive and a lack of self-confidence. Sometimes, but not always, thoughts of death or suicide might also be stated, as in “sometimes I think I’d be better off dead” or "you have to wonder what’s the point of it all?”
Major depression is the most widespread form of mental disorder.  It has long been thought of as a condition that affects mostly women, but increasingly there is awareness that men may be affected just as frequently, though their symptoms may not be recognized as easily. There are several reasons for this. For example, whereas women are more likely to acknowledge emotional feelings and seek treatment, men are inclined to divert to activities such as work, alcohol, drugs or other forms of risky behavior. Men may not see depression for what it is, or if they do feel discomfort, they may find difficulty expressing their feelings. In addition, there is a stigma attached to depression that challenges long-held beliefs of what it means to “be a man.”
There is some evidence that the pattern of depression in men is somewhat different than women. For example, the onset of depression in men often occurs later in life, comes in shorter bouts and, in general, the risk of recurrent depression is lower. The risk factors for men include work stress, relationship breakdown, fatherhood, unemployment, bereavement and genetic vulnerability.
In the University of Westminster’s research, male and female volunteers were asked to consider one of two fictitious people, Kate or Jack. The symptoms they were asked to consider were identical and the volunteers were asked whether Kate or Jack was likely to be suffering a mental health disorder and whether he or she should receive professional help.
Men and women were equal in their view that Kate suffered a mental disorder, though men were less likely than women to consider Jack as suffering from depression. In fact, men were significantly more likely to rate Kate’s symptoms as more distressing, difficult to treat and deserving of sympathy than Jack’s.
Stereotypes about gender and depression still exist and these continue to affect attitudes as to whether professional help should be sought for men experiencing the symptoms of depression.