Men, the holidays are upon us, the economy is in the toilet, and the outlook is bleak.
Maybe you see where I am going with this. Yes, my friends, we need to discuss depression.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, researchers estimate that at least 6 million men suffer from a depressive disorder -- major depression, dysthymia, seasonal affective disorder and bipolar disorder -- each year.
These disorders are rarely acknowledged or recognized by the men who suffer from them.
Those that do, rarely seek help, and sadly more than four times as many men than women commit suicide.
So men, let's spend a little time discussing the issue so that you may be empowered with the knowledge to recognize the warning signs and seek help if needed.
What causes depression?
The causes of depression are not fully understood, but are many and varied. It can be hereditary in up to 50 percent of people suffering from recurrent episodes of depression.
It can be triggered by tension, stress, traumatic life events, and chemical imbalances in the brain, thyroid disorders and possibly even poor diet or food allergies.
Whatever the factors that trigger it, depression begins with a disturbance in the part of the brain that governs mood and left unrecognized and untreated it can be disabling.
How do I know if I am depressed?
In my experience, most men who have come to see me about the possibility of depression have had some suspicion that something was wrong. It wasn’t until a family member, friend or loved one expressed concern that they finally sought help. Men, I cannot stress the importance of recognizing symptoms when they begin.
The National Institute of Mental Health suggests asking yourself the following questions.
Am I feeling:
Sad or empty.
Irritable or angry.
Guilty, worthless, pessimistic or hopeless.
Tired, slowed down.
Less interested in work or sex.
Uninteresting or not worth living
Sleeping more or less than usual.
Having trouble concentrating, remembering, working, completing tasks.
If you were able to answer yes to any of these, you may be suffering from a real medical illness.
It is now time to talk to your doctor. Depression can be treated and the sooner the better.
How is it treated?
There are many options for treatment. Medication and “talk” therapy are effective.
My experience has been that a combination of both is the most effective. However, everyone is different and what works for one individual may not work for another.
There are also nutritional and natural supplements that can be helpful adjuncts to therapy.
The B vitamins are essential for brain function as are certain amino acids. Zinc can be essential as well and has been found to be deficient in people with depression.
Certain minerals like calcium, magnesium and chromium can be beneficial as well. Essential fatty acids are also needed for normal brain function.
There are also certain herbs that can aid in the treatment of depression, as well as the symptoms that occur with depression.
This is where the partnership between you and your physician is important. He or she can determine if you may need nutritional support or further workup for other medical problems that may be contributing to the depression.
The most important step in the treatment is asking for help. This often takes a lot of courage, especially for men.
Don’t deny the symptoms. Acknowledge there may be a problem. Enlist the support of loved ones and educate yourself. Always remember, knowledge is power.
Until next time, good health and happy holidays.