This will be my last in a series of blogs that I have been writing on depression. It will be centered on male and older adults depression. If you or someone you love is experiencing this condition I hope you will find in todays blog information that will help you to recognize the signs and symptoms and to guide you on a path to wellness.
The signs and symptoms of depression can differ in men and women. The reason for this isn’t exactly clear. However, it likely involves a number of factors such as brain chemistry, hormones, and life experiences. And even though male depression is a serious medical condition, men are more likely to ignore the signs of depression or even refuse to seek treatment.
Depression in men can often be overlooked. The reason being that men tend to be less savvy at recognizing the symptoms of depression than women. Because men like to think of themselves as strong and in control of their emotions they are therefore more likely to deny or hide their feelings. They might try to mask the feelings with unhealthy coping behaviors. However, they need to know that it is a common problem that affects many men at some point in their lives regardless of age or background.
You may think that feeling sad or emotional is always the main symptom of depression. But for many men, it isn’t the foremost symptom. For example, headaches, digestive problems, tiredness, irritability or long-term pain can sometimes indicate depression. So can feeling isolated and seeking distraction to avoid dealing with feelings or relationships. Other classic symptoms men might experience are, weight and sleep disturbances, lack of concentration, loss of interest in work or hobbies. Men are also more likely than women to experience “stealth” (sneaky) symptoms such as irritability, substance abuse and agitation. Some symptoms that can be overlooked are anger or reckless behavior. And because men find it difficult to talk about their feelings they tend to focus on the physical symptoms that often accompany depression. This can then result in not treating the underlying depression.
Biological, psychological, and social factors all play a part in depression in men. Relationships, lifestyle choices, and copings skills also have their part in the puzzle. And then let’s talk about stress. Stress can come from anywhere, anytime and to anyone but below are listed some events that are common to triggering depression in men.
- Marital or relationship problems
- Constant money problems
- Losing or changing a job
- Overwhelming pressures at work or home (family responsibilities)
- Not reaching important goals
- Health problems (chronic sickness, injury, disability)
- Death of a loved one
It is important for men to pay attention to the clues that their feelings and behaviors are communicating to them instead of taking the head in the sand approach. By being honest with themselves they will recognize that there is a problem. They shouldn’t feel ashamed but need to reach out and seek help. That can be by reaching out to a family member or close friend, making an appointment with the family doctor, mental health care professional or even someone in their faith community and talking honestly with them about what is going on in their mind. Without treatment, depression is unlikely to go away and may get worse. Untreated depression can make you and the people close to you miserable. Along with causing problems in every aspect of your life, including your health, career, relationships and personal safety.
Even if the depression is severe, it usually improves with medications and or psychotherapy. Asking for help can be hard for men but they really need to see that instead of it being a sign of weakness, it really is a sign of strength to seek out help when they need it.
Despite having more illnesses or physical problems, most older adults feel satisfied with their lives. That is not to say that they do not experience depression. They do. However, it can be difficult to recognize because they may show different or less obvious symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms
Sometimes older people who are depressed seem to feel tired, have trouble sleeping, or appear grumpy and irritable. Depression can also cause confusion or attention problems which can mimic Alzheimer’s disease or other brain disorders. Depressive symptoms can also be caused because of the medical conditions many older adults face such as heart disease, stroke, or cancer. It is also worthy of noting that taking various medications with side effects can contribute to depression.
One other thing I would like to point out is that as people age they will experience many losses. And loss is painful. It can be the loss of independence, health, mobility, career, or loss of loved ones. The grief that they feel is understandably normal and feelings of sadness may last for a long time. It can sometimes be hard to tell if the person is dealing with just grief or clinical depression but there are some ways to tell the difference. Grief is more like a roller coaster where the individual experiences a wide variety of emotions with a mix of good and bad days. They will have moments of pleasure or happiness. On the other hand, with depression the feelings of emptiness and despair are constant. Therefore, if the grief becomes complicated and lasts for an extended period of time it may be depression and professional treatment might be needed.
Most depressed people will find support from family and friends, self-help, support groups, and psychotherapy to be helpful. If however, medication is recommended along side of psychotherapy the risk of side effects or potential reactions with other medicines must be carefully considered. People over 65 have to be careful when taking medications, especially when they’re taking medications for different conditions. Older adults have a higher risk for experiencing bad drug interactions, sensitivities, missing doses, or overdosing. Therefore it is very important that every doctor knows all the medications that have been prescribed. For this reason elderly people with mild to moderate symptoms of depression or are wary of taking additional medicines, psychotherapy can be especially beneficial.
So, there you have it. I believed we have covered all age groups regarding depression. Hopefully, you are encouraged that depression can be successfully treated. No matter your age, seeking out the right treatment may help improve your overall health and quality of life. If you would like to set up an appointment, please call (616) 516-1570 or click on the blue “contact” tab on the lower right side of the page. I would love to hear from you and I look forward to offering my support and help as you walk down the path of wholeness.