Movember: Men and Depression

Sad Icelandic sculpture

Based on the explosion of reality TV shows, you might think that anyone would feel comfortable sharing their problems in the privacy of a doctor’s office. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong.

When it comes to depression women are three times more likely to seek help. And though more women attempt suicide, more men actually commit suicide. Indeed, some 5 million men experience depression each year. And those are only the ones we know about.

Men often forget that psychological pain is as legitimate as physical pain. If you had a broken arm, you’d go to your doctor to fix it. Right?

Although both men and women suffering from depression experience feelings of loneliness and helplessness, there are some characteristic differences in men: Depressed men are more likely to exhibit aggression and engage in addictive behaviors, like alcohol abuse and risky behaviors, like unsafe sex.

Here are some common signs of depression in men:

Fatigue: Despite sleeping 10-12 hours a night, you still feel exhausted and depleted of energy.

Chronic Pain: Backaches, headaches, and stomach pain that won’t go away can also be signs of depression.

Anger and Irritability: Rather than sadness, men suffering from depression tend to show signs of irritability and anger, which often masks that there’s a deeper problem. Are you blowing up at people over minor problems? Are you itching for a fight? Are you unable to tolerate everyday tasks and activities without losing your cool?

Difficulty Concentrating: Are you having trouble getting your work done? Is your mind wandering during important tasks? Are you forgetful?

Isolation: Are you pulling away from your relationships? It’s not uncommon for depressed men to push away loved ones; it’s a defense mechanism.

Sexual Dysfunction: Are you having difficulty becoming aroused or experiencing orgasm? Are you less satisfied with sex than you used to be? Are you suddenly craving or engaging in unsafe sex? These are common in men suffering from depression. No matter how embarrassing, your best bet is to discuss it with your doctor. He’s there to help you, not judge you.

Men are less likely than women to seek help. Why? Is it just that we’re too proud? Sometimes. But, there are many more important reasons why men don’t seek help for depression, including:

  • Men often mischaracterize signs of depression such as fatigue and irritability as something other than depression.
  • They think it’s just something temporary that will go away.
  • They’re more likely to blame an issue or person such as their marriage or boss as the source of their problem.
  • Men are more concerned about the social stigma surrounding depression and fear of looking weak or less masculine.

If you or a man in your life is exhibiting signs of depression, then contact a doctor as soon as possible. This is a health issue that shouldn’t be ignored.

Photo credit: FCC, WorldIslandInfo.com

Depressed? Maybe Your Psychiatrist Will Prescribe Botox.

Botox makes you happy. So does a new Lexus, but I can’t prescribe that.

Botox® temporarily freezes dynamic lines such as crow’s feet and forehead wrinkles. When Botox is done well, it can raise your eyebrows and make your face appear well rested, younger, happier. Botox also makes it difficult to furrow your brow or frown.

Too much Botox freezes your face, making it expressionless (which could be seen in both winners and losers at the recent Golden Globes: Were they happy? Sad? Shocked? Who could tell?).

Because Botox can make people look better, it’s no surprise that people who get Botox are happier afterwards. A review in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology actually looked at the cost of treating depressed patients with Botox. Here’s the reasoning: If you cannot frown because of Botox, then your mind will interpert this as you feel less angry or sad. Preliminary studies showed that people treated with Botox had more positive emotions and felt less depressed after their treatment.

While the logic is easily followed (and is emphatically supported by people who ordinarily pay cash for their Botox), the science is absent. There are no studies that show Botox improves depression as compared to placebo, therapy, or antidepressants. Much more research would have to be done to show that there is a real benefit (it would be  interesting to compare Botox to simply giving people $500 in cash and teaching them to frown less).

Depression is a disease and is never fixed quickly. Treating depression always requires effort, often requires therapy, and sometimes requires medication. I doubt that medication will be Botox. Or a new Lexus.

Photo: Geekadman Flickr.com