Depression and anxiety are serious conditions that affect your physical, emotional and mental health. On average one in 7 men between 16 – 24 years of age experience depression or anxiety each year, while one in 8 men over 24 will experience depression and one in 5 will experience anxiety.
Depression is one of the highest risk factors of male suicides with 6 out of 8 suicides being men with depression. For men, it is important for them to realize that anxiety and depression are medical conditions and not a sign of weakness.
Depression and anxiety are both separate conditions although they can be paired with one another in most cases. There are several forms of both conditions ranging from mild to very severe. Depression affects your moods making you feel sad or low. The duration can range from weeks to years if not treated correctly. Anxiety is a condition where you feel anxious or worried about events or circumstances which can’t be controlled, and the feelings don’t go away.
Causes and Risk Factors In Men
The cause of depression and anxiety differ from person to person as no one’s situations or emotional state are exactly the same. A variety of things can trigger them.
Some of the factors that can adversely affect mental states in men include:
- Employment or unemployment
- Health issues
- Social isolation
- Family issues, including pregnancy and children
- Drug and alcohol abuse.
The symptoms of depression and anxiety can be either physical or emotional or a combination of both.
The physical symptoms of depression include:
- changes in appetite
- insomnia or trouble sleeping
- loss of libido
- exhaustion for no reason
- signs of substance abuse
Some of the emotional signs of depression are:
- often feeling sad
- being withdrawn or isolated
- losing interest in favorite things and feeling worthless.
In anxiety, the physical and emotional symptoms can be similar to those of depression although there are key differences that stand out.
The physical signs of anxiety include:
- dizziness and vertigo
- shortness of breath
- panic attacks
- muscle tension and a racing heart
The emotional symptoms may include:
- fear of losing control
- avoidance and denial
- blank stare and loss of concentration
- constant worry
With suicide being a leading cause of death for males aged 15 – 44 years of age, it is important to seek help if you or someone close is at risk. If you think or know that someone close to you has anxiety or depression you need to reach out and let them know that you are here for them.
Men are highly overrepresented in suicide statistics, generally accounting for about three out of every four deaths by suicide.
- Isolation from friends and family is usually one of the first signs that something isn’t right
- Mood swings or changes in behavior over time including risk-taking, aggressiveness, irritability, and a negative self-view can be symptoms of suicidal thoughts
- Self-harm including cutting in obvious or hidden parts of the body is a sign that immediate treatment or intervention is needed
Finding Help and Treatments
There are many places that you can seek help from, including consulting friends, online help websites, telephone hotlines, and your doctor or local hospital. There are various holistic treatments, some still a little controversial, for fighting back against anxiety and depression.
These can range from lifestyle changes like healthy eating and getting plenty of exercise to Chinese medicines and therapies. Physical exercise can release endorphins to naturally boost mood and help you feel better about yourself. Healthy eating will make you feel energized and fresh, not lethargic as sugary and processed foods tend to do.
There is some evidence that consuming foods high in omega 3’s, such as oily fish, and folic acid, found in leafy greens, may reduce depression.
A low GI (glycemic index) diet has been proven to help reduce weight as well as provide a healthy diet. Balanced sugar levels greatly assist in preventing mood swings.
Some other natural treatments may include:
- Sleep: Getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night can greatly improve your mood
- Setting goals: Making plans for the future to kick start a better lifestyle can be as simple as starting with a walk to the shops or planning an adventure with friends or a family member
- Supplements and herbs: A few herbs and supplements that can improve or balance mood are magnesium, kava root, vitamin B, ashwagandha, St Johns wort and essential oils such as lavender
- Meditation: Meditation can help to calm the mind and bring an overall Zen to your lifestyle
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: This therapy has been known to be as effective as medications that are prescribed by a doctor. It teaches people the strategies needed to bring positivity back into dark and stressful situations that they may endure. Other nonmedicinal therapies may include gestalt therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and hypnosis
- Acupuncture: Treating anxiety with acupuncture is a great way to stay drug-free. This treatment has next to no risks when using a registered acupuncturist, whereas drugs can have serious side effects and cause further mental health damage
- Reflexology may also be used, which utilizes pressure points to relieve stress in the body
Every man is different, which is why all therapies have different effects and degrees of efficacy; some may work wonders while others are a bust. It is important to find the right one for you by speaking to your healthcare professional and formulating a plan for your treatment. It is important to remember there is always help available if you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask.