Many men won’t verbally say that they feel depressed but just like women they do. Depression in men can be painful to the point of possible thoughts of suicide if help is not sought out. To help understand the signs of depression in men and what type of help is available for men who feel depressed, I have interviewed therapist Carlton F. “Perk” Clark, LCSW.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“A licensed clinical social worker, I’ve been doing psychotherapy full-time with adults since 1975. I have several specialties (transpersonal psychotherapy; mood disorders; men’s issues; organizational development: see www.psychod.com ) I’ve studied very deliberately how men (compared to women) develop various forms of mental well-being and mental illness, and what men seem to want in those situations in order to strengthen their functioning.”
What are some signs and symptoms that a man is feeling depressed?
“Sometimes one sees the classic lethargy, sleep disruption, increased substance use, decreased libido and negative cognition. Other times one sees just a persistent state of emotionally blunted interpersonal behavior with increased amounts of irritability and low self-esteem. For some men, being merely sad or anxious is quite a big deal, they’ve not learned to be in those states or adapt to them in skillful ways. Sometimes they might call this a ‘˜depressed’ state but it doesn’t meet the criteria we use to diagnose a depression.”
“The basic symptoms (for at least two weeks, five of these) are: ‘˜a depressed mood’ (sad, empty, tearful); disinterest or the absence of pleasure; significant weight loss or gain; sleeping a lot or a little; being agitated or slowed down; loss of energy; feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt; diminished ability to concentrate; recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal ideation.”
What type of impact can depression have on a man’s overall life?
“There are too many variables here to give you a clear answer. Consider: is the man 24 years old or 64? Are there any pre-existing difficulties in functioning (behavioral, physiological)? Has he endured depressions repeatedly in the past? Are there losses or traumas in his history? Is there substance dependence involved? Does he have to appear for work on a daily basis and function well there to stay safe? Sometimes very depressed men continue to work and parent, albeit in a contracted style. Other times depression robs a man of the capacity to love and to work, and can be quite debilitating.”
How can a man overcome depression?
“Sometimes people overcome depression over time without any treatment at all. When effort is involved, there are a number of efforts that are commonly cited which include: aerobic exercise; the identification and disruption of certain types of thinking and behaving that cause anxiety, anger, despondency, cynicism; the activity of self-observation which generates information and insight about a man’s actual life situation and his habitual (or conscious) responses; learning about emotions per se, the labeling and identification and expression of same. Sometimes anti-depressants help quite a bit ‘” other times people report little assistance from them.”
What type of professional help is available for a man who wants to overcome depression?
“There are groups of men that meet together without any professional assistance; community mental health centers with low fees; treatment specific to military veterans at vets centers; psychotherapy and counseling from trained professionals (counselors, clinical social workers, psychologists, psychologists) in private practice; and medications available from primary care physicians. There are self-development schools meeting in churches, synagogues and mosques and in people’s homes. There is all kinds of help, and research suggests that ‘˜about 80% of men and women who suffer from depression recover,’ especially if they will persist in counseling and in the use of an antidepressant that works for them.”
Thank you Carlton for doing the interview on men and depression. For more information on Carlton Clark or his work you can check out his website on http://www.psychod.com.
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Treatment for Depression