How To Help A Man With Depression
WhatToGetMy Instructional Article
- This article will help you to understand what causes depression in men, the signs and symptoms of depression in men, and how to help a man with depression, whether the man is your spouse/husband, your boyfriend/partner, or any other male friend and/or loved one.
What causes depression in men? Understanding Depression and its causes in men.
Table of Contents
1 in 3 American men surveyed took medication because of depression, while 1 in 4 spoke to a mental health professional. And the suicide rate among men is 4 times higher than women. Source: American Psychological Association
The above chart obtained from the American Psychological Association paints a stark and saddening picture of the reality of depression in men. It shows that as much as 30.6% of men have suffered depression in their lifetime, while 9% continue to experience it daily. And this shows that the subject of depression in men (and indeed in anyone) ought to be taken seriously.
And the reason why this is the case is because unlike women, it is not very easy to detect depression in men. This is because men generally do not like to talk about their feelings even when they don’t feel too good. They see it as a sign of masculinity to put on bravado, even if it is a false one. Showing how they feel is perceived as weakness. And it is because society and culture have conditioned their mind to be that way.
There is no scientific explanation for what causes depression in men or people generally. But generally, negative life events trigger or cause men (and people) to slide into depression. Negative life events like:
- losing a job;
- getting divorced/estranged from a spouse (our article on How to help someone going through a divorce can also help you help him if he is going through one and is depressed as a result);
- breaking up with a partner (check out our other helpful article on How to help someone with a broken heart to also find tailor-made suggestions if this is the cause for his depression);
- losing a child or a loved one;
- finding out about a terminal illness (and to help you know exactly what to say to him in this trying time read our helpful article on What to say when someone is ill. And if he happens to be your boyfriend, then our article on What to do when your boyfriend is sick will help you very much);
- suffering any other terrible loss/blow.
Other causes include:
- feelings of loneliness and/or isolation,
- or not having friends,
- not getting a sense of fulfillment at work or even at home,
- a phase of midlife crisis in some cases (our article on Male midlife crisis stages has specific ways to help a man going through a midlife crisis),
- or just a general feeling of not having a purpose in life.
For some or most men, a multiplicity of the above factors could be the cause of their depression.
There are three important things to know, note, and understand about depression, both generally, and in men:
1. Depression is not a disease or a life sentence.
It is simply a mood disorder that can be overcome with the right approach and treatment. That said though, depression is very serious if not handled appropriately and on time. This is because left untreated, it can decline/degenerate into a mental illness/problem. The chart shown below (obtained from Statista) shows how prevalent mental illness is amongst men, and for some, it is because of not attending to the depression they felt at the early stages.
Percentage of U.S. men with any or serious mental illness in the past year as of 2019, by age. Source: Statista
2. Depression is a major trigger point for suicides.
This is the second important reason why it is very serious and should be handled appropriately and on time. Another survey seen on Statista and shown below shows how serious depression can trigger suicide.
Suicide thoughts, plans and attempts among U.S. adults as of 2019, by major depressive episode. Source: Statista
As much as 11.8% of men with a serious depressive episode actually went ahead to make suicide plans. And so any talk or mention of suicide should be taken very seriously.
The other reason why any talk of suicide should be taken seriously is because as shown in the first chart, men are 4 more times more likely than women to follow through with any suicide plans.
3. Finally, it is not easy for men to open up.
And this means you need to be patient and understanding. It also means that you need to delicately approach the subject of his going for help and broach it strategically.
Sometimes what works best is suggesting that they see a doctor for the physical symptoms (which will be discussed in the next section). And hopefully, in discussing those physical symptoms with the doctor, they can prod them to open up more and direct them to a professional who can help them with dealing with depression.
What are the signs and symptoms of depression in a man? 10 Signs and symptoms of depression in men.
General signs and symptoms of depression in both men and women include feelings of emptiness and sadness and a general disinterest in life. When it comes to men specifically, you may notice some or all of these 10 signs and symptoms:
Because men find it difficult to verbalize exactly how they feel, when they are going through depression, they often throw fits of anger/rage as a way of expressing their pent-up feelings. If your male friend/loved one was not given to rage before and you notice that he’s becoming very angry very easily consistently, it is worth paying attention to.
2. Mood swings.
Men are generally not given to mood swings, but when they go through a depressive episode, sometimes their moods are like a yoyo. One minute he is upbeat and excited and the next he is the complete opposite. These mood swings are a reflection of how he is feeling and should be paid close attention to, especially if the mood swings persist for more than 2 – 3 weeks.
3. Very irritable and frustrated easily.
He may start getting very frustrated easier than normal especially if the trigger point only keeps getting worse. For instance, if the trigger point is that he feels unfulfilled at work, giving him more mundane work by his employers will make him more frustrated than will normally be expected.
4. Sometimes getting suddenly abusive.
This does not however excuse their abusive behavior at all. If he is a partner/spouse, it is important to take appropriate steps to get him and yourself help.
5. In some cases, substance abuse.
For others, they may resort to taking drugs as a coping mechanism because the temporary high they get from the drugs dull the pain and feeling momentarily.
6. Feeling sad.
And you see this in how he carries himself. He may slouch often or just not carry himself with the same confidence you’ve always known him for.
7. Not enjoying life and the things they used to like doing before.
Depression makes one question life in general and whether there’s a point to it at all. This leads to general disinterest and loss of passion for the things that one used to enjoy doing.
8. Indulging in more risky behaviors like gambling and the likes.
You may find that he is suddenly given to living life on the fast lane and overindulging. This will be a source of concern if he wasn’t given to this kind of lifestyle before.
9. Little to no interest in sex.
Depression tends to affect a man’s sexual performance and where this happens, it would further compound issues because he will lose interest in having sex since he is no longer confident in his sexual performance.
10. Physical symptoms like sleeping too much, fatigue, headaches, eating disorders.
He may start to show some of these physical symptoms. In our article on Why do depressed people sleep so much, we explain the physical disorder of oversleeping and its relationship with depression.
How to help a man with depression – Helping a spouse, partner, or other male loved ones through depression.
Now that you know the 3 important facts about depression and how it affects men, as well as the more common signs and symptoms they would exhibit, you are halfway there in helping him. To make the full circle in helping him regain his zest for life, follow these 15 helpful steps, and he will be on track to full recovery in no time.
1. Gently broach the subject with him.
Lovingly ask him if everything is okay and what could be the problem, especially when he throws fits of anger or gets moody and irritable. It won’t be easy being patient with him especially when he gets angry. It is easy to also react by responding in kind. Rather than do so, wait until you have calmed down and then approach him and talk to him. Without being accusatory, tell him that you’ve noticed he is not his usual self and seems to get worked up rather too quickly and if everything is alright. He may rebuff you the first time but don’t give up on him.
2. Spend quality time with him and talk about his life with him.
Sometimes loneliness and isolation exacerbate feelings of depression. Being surrounded by friends and loved ones always helps the one going through depression. It shows and reminds them that they are loved.
If you notice your husband, boyfriend, or a friend or loved one is feeling down and going through depression, spend time with them playing games and just anything that will make them laugh and realize that there is so much to live for.
In spending quality time with him, find ways to introduce discussions about his zest for life and the things he likes, and how he feels generally. This will be a sensitive topic so it’s important to go at his pace and listen unreservedly and without judgment.
3. Encourage him to seek help.
Percentage of U.S. men who received mental health treatment or counseling in the past year from 2010 to 2019. Source: Statista
This won’t be easy because men don’t like asking for help, and may take some time. You can start by encouraging him to see a doctor for the physical symptoms. You can also encourage him with the stats in the above chart to show him that there is nothing wrong with him asking for help and it does not make him weak.
Encourage him that he does not need to start talking about how he feels outrightly and that by talking about the physical symptoms, the doctor will ease him into talking about the other symptoms.
To make it even easier for him to seek help, offer to go with him to see the doctor just as a way of supporting him.
4. Show him support groups.
When men go through depression, a part of them feels ashamed for feeling the way they do because they feel it is not manly to feel that way. Knowing that there are other men in the same boat as them and being around such men in trying to get healing and recover, helps immensely in getting them to open up and get help. You can help him by finding out if there are such support groups for men going through depression and encourage him to sign up and join them. This support group can become his new good friends especially when you may not be able to be around to help him for whatever reasons.
5. Encourage him to take on hobbies and interests.
If he’s lost interest in the hobbies and interests you had as a couple, you can find out from him what other things he likes and suggest new hobbies and interests that he can try out. Tell him that you will try them out with him. In that way, it would make it easier for him to consider and start those new hobbies and interests.
6. Encourage him to help someone else and sign him up for volunteer work if he’s willing.
Generosity activities like helping others have been proven to help in alleviating feelings of depression. And the reason for this is simple. By helping someone and bringing happiness in someone else’s life, their joy infects you and makes you realize that you can contribute to someone else’s life.
Encourage him to help someone or sign up for volunteer work. Tell him that it will be a good way to alleviate the boredom he is feeling. Check out our article on 3 Ways to show generosity to others for the type of ideas you can give him on how to help others.
7. Invite him to game night.
Organize a game night of fun and games with some close friends. Or if you sense that he isn’t feeling like having company and would not enjoy being around people so much, you can start by having the game night just with him. Our article on 9 Fun games to play with two people can help you with exciting game ideas for your game night with him.
Slowly ease him into hanging out with other people by suggesting and asking him how he feels about a game night with friends. This is important because part of the process of recovery is being around more social gatherings as a way of being around people and staving off loneliness and isolation.
Our article on 15 Exciting games to play with 6 people can help you with exciting games for game night with 6 or more guests.
8. Encourage him to start exercising if he isn’t already doing so.
Keeping physically fit and active helps with combatting depression. Exercise releases feel-good hormones into the brain and this in turn affects one’s general mood for good. Our helpful article on How to get motivated to exercise when depressed has all the gist on getting the motivation to exercise if one is going through a depression. You can read it to get tips and ideas to share with him in encouraging him to start exercising.
To make it easier, you can join him, as a way of encouraging him. And not to mention that it would also be beneficial for you too because exercise is good for everyone’s longevity and quality of life.
You will like this related article on Benefits of families exercising together.
9. Encourage him to sleep more.
Depression affects sleep patterns. For some, it makes them sleep less while for others it makes them oversleep. Getting at least 8 hours of sleep will help him tremendously on the path to recovery. Encourage him to try and sleep for 8 hours and if he needs some help with sleeping, you can buy him any of the items listed in our article on Best gifts to help sleep to help him.
Related article: How to stop thinking while sleeping.
10. Go for a nature walk with them.
Nature walks in the neighborhood or parks have a therapeutic and calming effect. You can add walking the dog to the walk. Taking walks with friendly pets like dogs is also known to have a relaxing effect.
11. Watch a movie together with them.
This is another way you can spend quality time with them. Find funny and relaxing movies rather than serious and slightly depressing movies. The whole point is to try and keep things light and make him see the brighter side of life.
12. Buy them occasional spontaneous gifts.
We all love receiving gifts, and they usually cheer us up when we receive them. It is the same for him. Surprise him with a nice spontaneous gift, and if you don’t know what an appropriate gift would be under the circumstances, our article on Gifts for depressed people can help you.
13. Speak positive words of encouragement to them.
When a person is depressed, the last thing they need around them is negativity. Encourage them to remain positive even in their trying time. And you can do this by always being positive around them and speaking only positive things to them.
If he’s your boyfriend, check out our article on What to say to your boyfriend to make him happy to keep him positively encouraged. And if he’s your husband, our article on 23 Ways How to make your husband feel appreciated shows you things you can do for him as well.
14. Encourage him to eat well.
Healthy eating is essential at all times, and especially when one is going through a depression. Depression will make a person not eat well and this will in turn affect their health. As his spouse/partner, monitor the kind of foods he eats and present him with healthy alternatives every chance you get. Check out our article on What foods should we eat to maintain a healthy lifestyle to know what types of food he should eat more of.
15. Keep stressors at a minimum.
Once you’ve identified what the stressors and triggers are for him, as much as possible, keep these to the barest minimum.
Frequently Asked Questions.
1. How do I deal with and support a depressed husband?
Support and help him by following any or all of the 15 steps listed in this article.
2. My boyfriend is depressed, how can I help?
Help him by adopting all of the 15 steps listed in this article. And remember to be patient and gentle with him. You can also try out some or all of the fun activities suggested in our articles on Things to do in the winter with your boyfriend, Things to do on a rainy day with your boyfriend, and Fun things to do in the summer with your boyfriend.
3. How can you detect depression in a young male?
If you see him show any of the 10 signs listed in this article, it is likely he is going through depression.
4. What are the signs of depression in men over 40?
Men over 40 also display any or some of the 10 signs listed in this article.
5. How do you handle depression in men and relationships?
Show them love, care, and patience. You do this when you follow all 15 steps listed in this article.
Remember that depression is not a disease or a death sentence. Your husband, boyfriend, friend, loved one needs your love, patience, and support to be able to deal with the depression they are passing through. Always remember that it is not easy for men to open up about how they feel and this is all the more reason why it is important to help them through utilizing the 15 ways suggested in this article. Lovingly, gently, and patiently walk the path of healing and recovery with them and in no time you will have them back to you in their usual upbeat self.
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