Your well-being involves not only your physical health, but your mental health as well. How would you respond to these questions?
- When you’re feeling down or upset, do you keep things inside or isolate yourself?
- When challenged, do you lose your temper easily?
- If things aren’t going well, do you have difficulty concentrating?
- Do you tend to eat too much or very little when you’re feeling anxious?
- Are you frequently tired, do you sleep a lot, or do you have difficulty sleeping?
- Do you often have physical symptoms, such as stomachaches or backaches?
- Do activities that you used to enjoy no longer provide as much pleasure?
- Do you often feel empty or sad?
- Have you lost interest in sex?
- Do you self-medicate with alcohol or other substances when you’re anxious or stressed?
If you answered yes to any or several of these questions, you’re not alone. Men often choose unhealthy ways to cope with stressful situations or feeling depressed. Aside from those listed above, men may also engage in risky or escapist behavior, such as reckless driving, unsafe sex, or spending an excessive amount of time at work or on sports, for example.
Nearly six million men are diagnosed with depression every year in the U.S. We all face situations that can leave us feeling down, such as a breakup or the loss of a job. Over time, (typically within a couple of weeks), these feelings and situations usually resolve themselves. Sometimes, however, these issues seem overwhelming and in the extreme, may be accompanied by thoughts of suicide. Unlike situational depression, clinical depression lasts much longer, tends not to subside, and may result in the unhealthy or debilitating coping mechanisms mentioned here. Family history and chemical imbalances in the brain may play a role in this condition. It’s important to know, however, depression is very treatable.
Because of masculine stereotypes, men tend to minimize or deny their feelings, which keep them from reaching out for help. We want to be seen as strong and in control; that we have it all together. We don’t want to be perceived as weak or admit to anything that might detract from our masculinity. Although it is decreasing, for men there is still a stigma attached to asking for help. But, asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it’s actually a sign of strength.
Healthy alternatives, or more productive coping skills, include the following:
- Seeking emotional support from a friend or loved one
- Living a healthier lifestyle, including eating healthy and exercising
- Trying to get enough sleep with improved sleep hygiene (at least 7 hours)
- Engaging in some of the activities you do enjoy
- Reporting concerns to a medical professional if you’re unable to do the above
- Seeking an assessment and evaluation from an addiction specialist to determine what might be helpful, including treatment
- Considering talk therapy and possibly medication