For men, recognizing depression’s warning signs can be hard. Ignoring them is worse.
Heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson. The most decorated Olympian of all time, swimmer Michael Phelps. Four-time NBA All-Star DeMar DeRozan. The list goes on. Baseball Hall-of-Famer Ken Griffey, Jr. Six-time NFL All-Star wide receiver Brandon Marshall.
Not just great male athletes. Men with depression. Men who have admitted it.
Men bottle up. So many grew up thinking they had to suck it up. No matter what “it” was. You know, big boys don’t cry.
But they do.
Not just athletes. Actors. Ryan Reynolds. Yep, Deadpool. The Rock, er, Dwayne Johnson (who is actually both an athlete and an actor… and a UM grad, in case you didn’t know). Brad Pitt.
Let it out
These men realized that keeping their depression hidden didn’t do anyone any good. And that coming out about it might help others realize that going it alone is about the worst thing you can do.
“If you don’t treat it [depression], it can last longer and it can happen more often than if you don’t,” says Dr. Samir Sabbag, professor of clinical psychiatry and behavioral science at University of Miami Health System. “The best choice is to reach out to a psychologist or psychiatrist or some counselor, or anybody who can identify if it’s something that maybe needs a little bit more attention, and address it right away.”
Depressed men are from Mars, too
One of the challenges for men is that they may not recognize the warning signs. You might think depression means feeling sad or gloomy all the time. But not everybody exhibits depression the same way.
Men, particularly, may externalize. They might:
- Drink too much alcohol;
- Be irritable, hostile, or angry;
- Work all the time.
Or they might show physical symptoms:
- Suffer from headaches, backaches or stomach pains;
- Have trouble sleeping, or sleep too much;
- Feel fatigue;
- Lose sexual desire or experience erectile dysfunction.
Other symptoms include having trouble concentrating, withdrawing from others, and perfectionism. That’s what the Rock says happened to him. He refused to leave his mother’s apartment and spent his waking hours cleaning it.
Worst of all, says Dr. Sabbag, is having suicidal thoughts.
“Thinking about not wanting to be alive anymore or looking for ways to not be alive. That’s a big red flag. You definitely want to reach out for help.”
The most important thing to remember might be: Don’t wait. If you’re not feeling like yourself, or if a close friend, a spouse, or someone else you trust says something like, “Are you feeling okay? You seem like something’s wrong,” listen up.
And go see a professional. That’s the manly thing to do.
Carlos Harrison is a contributing writer for the UMiami Health News blog. He is a former national and international television correspondent, as well as a newspaper and magazine writer and editor.