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Emotions are part of being human and men are no different. Of course, the male stereotype is to be strong and silent, however, there are physical and mental signs that something is not quite in balance – these are signs that something needs to change. In the course of any given year, an average of 3% of men experience a major depressive episode and 1 in 10 men will experience major depression at some point in their lives. In this article I will describe how men come to terms with their depression and useful points on how to cope and where to get support.

What is balance… and the signs of male depression

‘Balance’ is elusive and I often recommend the concept of doing your best with the knowledge you have and the supports that are accessible. Men may feel they are ‘broken’ or ‘overwhelmed’ – if you had a broken bone, however, you would seek help to get it set straight and monitored for recovery. The mind can seem broken as well, which may include a variety of negative thoughts and beliefs and the related emotions of anxiousness about the future and a feeling of feeling down and depressed. Your mood and mental thoughts can shift and improve, not with a physical cast, but a cast of the right supportive factors.

General signs of depression

  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in activities you previously enjoyed, like former hobbies and social events
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Sleep irregularities
  • Concentration problems
  • Unexplained aches and pains

Depressive signs more common in men

  • Physical issues – backache, headaches, sexual dysfunction, digestive problems
  • Anger and agitation – being sensitive to criticism, losing your sense of humor and having a short temper, being physically aggressive/violent, abusive or controlling
  • Reckless behaviour – participating in risky activities such as drugs, excessive alcohol and gambling or unprotected sex

Coping and supports for dealing with your depression

A fundamental point to realize is to be patient with yourself – this is not likely a quick-fix. If it is an urgent situation, call 9-1-1 or go to your local Emergency Department or call a local crisis support line. Otherwise, keep the perspective that giving yourself some time, self-care and attention will gradually improve your state of mind. Next, you need someone to open up with – it’s important not to be alone since your mind may be full of negative thoughts and negative self-perceptions. Make a list of people you can open up with and make contact – it could be a good friend, a close family member or your primary health care provider. Many work places offer confidential counseling services – by phone or in person. If you prefer to be anonymous, contact Crisis Text Line, a non-profit organization providing free crisis intervention by SMS messaging. Your local state or province or territory offers local crisis lines that you can access online or by phone – Heads up Guys is a Movember-supported Canadian site where you can access both information and contact numbers and locations for personal support. Support in the United States is accessible from MentalHealth.gov.

Other important things you can do now

A proactive step that will help your mental health is to shift your lifestyle and diet to one that is healthier. A regular exercise routine will boost your mood, improve your sleep and provide a physically satisfying way to shift your body and mental state. Try to go outdoors daily such as to a local trail in a park or just a walk around the block. Fresh air and observing nature can get you out of your own head and give you perspective that is greater than yourself. Eat small, regular, balanced satisfying meals, including protein with each meal (eg: meat, poultry, or legumes) with some vegetables. A multivitamin or B-complex can be very helpful for the nutrients your brain requires to promote healthy neurological balance. Taking an omega-3 based supplement such as fish oil or flaxseed oil can also improve neurological functions including mood balance.

Dr. Rahim Habib ND
About the Author

Rahim Habib is a registered naturopathic doctor with over 15 years of experience in general family practice. He has a special interest in helping patients comprehensively detoxifying their bodies for preventative and therapeutic benefit. He also has a special interest in children’s health, assisting kids in their learning and behavioural health with conditions such as ADHD, Autism spectrum, asthma, allergies and childhood obesity. He also helps adults with chronic conditions, such as thyroid disorders, infertility, inflammation, obesity, autoimmunity, dementia and cancer care. He is the director of the Four Seasons Naturopathic Clinic for Detoxification and Healing and can be reached at 905-597-7201 or www.FamilyNaturopath.ca.