Depression is a a word that is often used to describe prolonged sadness or bad feelings, but it is actually a common yet serious mental health diagnosis. Like many mental health issues, depression can be experienced in varying degrees of severity and is fairly unique to each individual. Even its causes and methods of treatment can vary from case to case.
Regardless of why someone becomes depressed, it is important to understand the reality of depression, how to notice the signs of depression, and how to cope with its often difficult symptoms. After all, to know how to overcome an obstacle like depression, a man first must understand exactly what it is.
What Is Depression, Exactly?
Every man has times when they feel down and sad for one reason or another. It could be the news of a death in the family, the loss of a job, or even a breakup. Life can be difficult, and at times can leave you feeling “depressed.” But this concept of depression is not the reality of what it means to suffer from depression.
As discussed in the Men& Depression Toolkit, depression is “a significant mood disorder that can negatively impact your day-to-day life.” It is then, not simply being in a bad mood, but instead a diagnosed mood disorder that can have life-altering symptoms.
People become depressed for many reasons, as there is no singular cause. It is, however, more likely you may become depressed if you have one or more close family members who also suffer from depression. If you have suffered one or more significantly traumatizing life events then you might also be more likely to fall into a diagnosably depressive state, especially if the trauma resulting from these events becomes altogether too much to cope with.
Substance abuse, dark cold climates, and other underlying medical conditions can also play a role in causing depression. With so many possible causes, it’s no surprise that depression can affect upwards of 5 percent of Canadians each year. What is even more alarming is that as many as four in ten people who have feelings of anxiety or depression have not sought treatment. This is why it is important to understand the potential signs of depression, so you can identify them early and seek help before your condition worsens.
Signs You Might Be Depressed
Just as depression is unique to each individual, the symptoms can also vary significantly from person to person. Still, if you are experiencing one or several of the following symptoms for a prolonged period of time, you might be showing signs of depression.
Below are some common symptoms associated with depression, which are also described in the Depression Toolkit. If one or more of these symptoms are significantly and negatively impacting your quality of life, it might be time to consult a medical professional for counsel to help improve your day-to-day life.
- Thoughts Of Suicide: One huge red flag that can signal depression is thoughts of suicide. Any suicidal thoughts should be met with alarm, and you should seek help immediately if you have these types of thoughts.
- Thinking The World Is Better Off Without You: Your thoughts don’t need to be explicitly about suicide to be depressive and dangerous. Feeling like the world would be better off without you is a bleak and depressive state of being. If you feel like this, talk with someone about this, as you might benefit greatly from some immediate treatment.
- Irritable For Little To No Reason: Having a strong negative reaction for little to no reason can be a sign of depression.
- Loss of Interest In Activities: More specifically, having no interest in activities that once brought you joy.
- The Feeling Of Guilt Or Worthlessness: Similar to feeling like the world would be better without you, if you feel constantly guilty or worthless, you might be experiencing signs of depression.
- Difficulty Concentrating: If you suddenly find it hard to concentrate, this is another potential symptom.
- Struggling To Make Simple Decisions
- Using Work Or Hobbies As An Escape: If you are finding yourself obsessing over your work or a hobby, where you had not previously, you might be using this as a deflection from your depressive feelings. Take note if you are obsessing over your job or hobbies.
- Engaging In Reckless And Dangerous Behavior: If you are suddenly engaging in reckless behavior, including driving under the influence, engaging in unprotected sex, or extreme gambling, you might be experiencing depression.
- Illicit Drug Use: If you begin using drugs as a form of abuse or escape, you may already be experiencing depression, and this coping mechanism will likely only make things worse.
- Over-Indulging In Alcohol Regularly: A glass of wine with dinner is one thing, but if you are getting drunk regularly and blacking out, then this could point towards an alcohol dependency, and depression may be a possible root cause.
- Feeling Overwhelmed Constantly: If you are feeling like you can never catch up or are always treading water, this might be a sign of anxiety or depression.
Depression By The Numbers
If you have recently been diagnosed with depression, or have several signs that lead you to believe you might suffer from depression, you might feel alone or embarrassed. You must understand that while depression might make you feel different from your normal self you are by no means alone.
It is important you understand you are not the only one suffering from depression, and equally important for you to seek help from friends, family, and medical professionals when symptoms of depression become too difficult to withstand on your own.
As previously mentioned, upwards of 5% of Canadians suffer from depression each year. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 280 million people suffer from depression worldwide. So make sure you remember that while sometimes the symptoms of depression might make you feel isolated or lonely, you are by no means alone in your struggle with depression. In addition to there being many others struggling with the same symptoms, there are also lots of productive ways to cope with your depression to help you live a healthy, happy, and productive life.
10 Ways To Help You Cope With Your Depression
1. Increase Your Amount Of Physical Activity
Physical activity is a great way to cope with depression and improve your mood. This is especially true if some of the root cause of your depression resides in your lack of activity or how you feel about your physical appearance. Exercise also gives off endorphins, which can improve your mood.
Your body is your sanctuary, and taking care of it goes a long way to put you into a good mental state. Try finding a physical activity you enjoy. Exercises with a social component, like yoga classes, biking, and running groups, are also great to help shake you out of a depressed state. Remember to pace yourself, and try your best to have fun in the process.
2. Get Sunshine And Fresh Air In Nature
Nature, fresh air, and sunshine are all highly effective at improving symptoms of depression. Sunshine provides Vitamin D, which can help with mood. It also helps regulate your circadian rhythm. Nature is a great way to regain perspective, and appreciate life and the smaller things in life. Fresh air and focused breathing can also help you calm racing thoughts and focus on being present.
3. Try New Methods To Manage Stress
Stress management is often crucial to help cope with depression, and even rid yourself of some of its symptoms. For one, you must identify any unhealthy or broken cycle in your life. If you are currently unable to cope with stress then clearly your current methods need to change.
Start by accomplishing the most simple tasks, as this will help alleviate the sense of worry and worthlessness. Take the time to journal, plan, and talk about your tasks and daily struggles. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether it is from a friend, family member, or a professional in the form of a therapist.
4. Focus On Getting A Quality Sleep
A lack of sleep can make everything harder. It can also exacerbate and worsen already existing feelings of depression. Working towards improving your sleep habits can go a long way to improve your depression.
For one, a consistent daily routine is helpful. A routine makes life more manageable and predictable, which in turn can lower stress. Getting plenty of physical activity, and limiting caffeine and other substances also can help with sleep. If you suffer from anxiety or some insomnia, try some deep breathing and meditation before bed to help calm your mind and body.
You can also try turning your room into a tranquil sanctuary. Keep your bedroom free of clutter, and consider a noise machine, or calming essential oils if you sometimes to find peace and quiet in the evening hours.
5. Seek Support In The Form Of Counseling or Therapy
Therapy and counseling can have a negative connotation, especially if you are a man seeking this help. But the reality is counseling and therapy are fantastic tools, and seeking them out is a brave and worthy endeavor.
Community is great when you feel isolated and alone. So is having a qualified person to talk to. This is even more critical when you have more severe symptoms of depression like suicidal thoughts or feelings of worthlessness. Remember you need to prioritize your wellbeing, and therapy is a great way to make that a reality.
6. Build A Robust Social Life
If you have spent some time with symptoms of depression, there is a good chance you have abandoned much of your social life, and have spent more time alone. While spending time with people might not be high on your priority list as you battle depression, try and force yourself to re-engage in social activities.
Start by attending social events you enjoy – or used to before your depression started. This could be live music, sporting events, or comedy shows. It could be something as simple as a dinner out with friends. This is a great way to snap out of your dark moods and see the lively world around you. Remember to be a good listener, and work to continuously make plans for the future.
7. Consider Medication If Advised By A Medical Professional
Sometimes depressive symptoms are chronic and severe. While other coping methods are helpful, you might require even more help to deal with your more extreme symptoms. If you are advised to take medication, it might be worth following these doctor recommendations.
Remember that depression is often an imbalance within the brain chemistry, and can be hereditary. Some medications exist that can help correct whatever imbalance you may have, and greatly improve your quality of life.
8. Change Your Diet
There is a lot of truth in the concept of “you are what you eat.” If you eat like trash, you are probably going to feel like trash too. Try eating more fruits and vegetables, and limit unhealthy foods that weigh you down. While caffeine might make you feel alert, try and limit your caffeine intake as it can mess with your sleeping.
9. Get Rid Of Drugs And Alcohol
Many people turn to drugs and alcohol when they are depressed. But this is a temporary fix that often adds fuel to the fire of depressive feelings. Alcohol is, after all, a depressant. Drugs all come with a high risk of dependency, which is why it is never a good idea to go down that path, especially when you are in a compromised mental state.
10. Practice Self Love And Self Care
Lastly, make sure you take the time to listen to yourself and take care of your needs. Make yourself the priority. This means talking openly about your feelings, wants, and desires. Take the time to practice self care whenever possible.
Be proud of yourself. When you are working hard to get back on your feet while depressed, it can be hard to do simple tasks. Reward yourself for every step in the right direction you take, no matter how small it seems. After all, the further you head in the positive direction, the less hold the symptoms of depression will have on you as you move forward.
How Depression Can Impact Your Life
Coping with depression is critical because left untreated, depression can have lasting negative impacts on your life. Depression in extreme can lead to suicide, which is the ultimate negative outcome. It can also contribute to drug and alcohol abuse, as well as people alienating themselves from friends and loved ones.
Depression can have some profound impacts on your life, but they don’t always have to be bad. If you use the above coping mechanisms, depression can have the opposite effect on your life. Taking the time to listen to yourself and make yourself the priority may be the shift in life you need. Seeking help, socializing, eating better, and establishing a routine are all steps toward a healthy and fulfilled existence. Remember that while you can not choose whether or not you are diagnosed with depression, you can control how you allow it to impact your life.