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Study Forces Conversation About Men and Depression

Could you be depressed and not even realize it? Find out what new research is saying about gender stereotypes—and how they might influence diagnosis.

That image of the tough, independent guy works great in the movies—but could this sort of gender stereotype be causing men to suffer from undiagnosed depression?

It just might be related, according to a new study published in the journal PLoS ONE.

When researchers asked people to read a short description of a depressed man or woman, the participants were less likely to perceive the fictional guy as depressed and in need of help—even though he had the same symptoms as the woman. 

The scientists suspect that stereotypes about men being strong and independent may keep people—especially guys—from recognizing the signs of depression in themselves and their friends. And this, in turn, could affect how many guys get the help that they need.

Around 6 million men in America suffer from depression, so admitting you're concerned about your mental health (or that of a friend's) should never be associated with weakness. In fact, men can use their strengths to seek help and follow through with treatment. Here are a few pointers to get started.

  • Recognize the signs. The most common symptoms—for men and women—are lack of energy, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, and loss of interest in favorite activities. Men, however, may also display depression as irritability, anger, or aggression. And they often cope with the emptiness of depression by overindulging in work, exercise, sex, drinking, gambling, or risky behaviors.
  • Seek help. If you think you may have symptoms of depression—which can last for weeks or months—talk to your family doctor or a psychiatrist. Your employer or insurance company may also have special support programs for mental health issues. And of course, don’t forget your partner, friends and family—they can be the backup you need to help get you through.
  • Follow your doctor’s plan. Treatment options for depression include taking prescribed medications, like antidepressants, and attending psychotherapy or counseling sessions.
  • Stay healthy. Getting regular exercise and sleep, while avoiding alcohol and drug use, can prevent or reduce relapses of depression.

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