Why Men Suffer in Silence: Male Depression

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Hidden in Plain Sight

Why does such dangerous depression so frequently go undiagnosed in men? Because it's so easy to miss the symptoms. Women typically express their feelings to others and reach out for help. Depressed men often do neither. "I know what's wrong," male patients have sometimes said to me. "Talking about it won't help." Instead, these men may isolate themselves, withdrawing into TV watching or electronic games. They may self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. They can become irritable, aggressive, or uncharacteristically violent.

These are problems that can strain or break families. What's more, they can sneak up on men who were previously healthy and have had successful careers. Depression becomes more common as men age, in some cases possibly due to a decline in testosterone. Research shows that 12 percent of adults 65 years of age or over who are seen in primary-care settings have clinically significant depression. When it hits men in middle age, as it so often does, the behavior that results can be a huge shock as wives and children wrestle with watching a loved one morph into a stranger they barely recognize. It's important to understand how and why men become depressed and what those who love them can do to help.

The good news is that when I have been able to convince male patients to be treated for depression, their mood and productivity have improved. I also believe their risk of coronary artery disease diminished. Among the positive changes I have seen: One man's heart arrhythmia subsided; another improved his blood pressure and required less medication to control it. Several men returned to an active exercise program and improved their cholesterol because they lost weight. It's worth the fight to make these changes happen.

Continued on page 4:  How to Help the Man You Love

 

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