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Middle Age Men and Depression: A Matter of Fact

June 14, 2011

You’re cranky all the time, and one Saturday you don’t get out of bed until noon. “Honey, what’s wrong, are you down about something?” your wife asks.

“How the hell should I know? What difference does it make anyway?” you say, pulling the sheets up to your chin and turning to face the wall. “I want out,” you start to say, but sitting in front of some shrink who’s going to tell you to cheer up and put you on another pill, hell…better left unsaid. Anyway, once you get up, pound down a few cold ones, and mow the lawn before the game comes on at 3, you’ll be fine because nothing beats watching the 49ers smash the Cowboys. And they better smash them good, because you have 200 bucks riding on it with the spread.

Middle age men are often stoic, “tough as nails,” and refuse to admit they are depressed. They may consider it a character defect or a sign of weakness. Recognizing the symptoms of depression is the biggest hurdle to diagnosis and treatment. Approximately half of those experiencing symptoms never get proper diagnosis or treatment. If left untreated, more than one out of every 10 people battling depression commit suicide.

What are the symptoms of depression?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health:

  • difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • fatigue and decreased energy
  • feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness
  • feelings of hopelessness and pessimism
  • insomnia, early morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • irritability, restlessness
  • loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • overeating or appetite loss
  • persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
  • persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelingsthoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

You need support from the people around you — your family and friends — when you are recovering from depression. Seek out a few whom you can rely on. Don’t choose only one person, since that can be overwhelming for the person. Talk to all of them about your depression. Many symptoms of depression are also those of low testosterone. A testosterone blood test should be part of a depression work-up for every middle age man.

Suicide is number eight in the top ten killers for middle age men. Anybody who expresses suicidal thoughts or intentions should be taken very, very seriously. Do not hesitate to call your local suicide hotline immediately. Call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) — or the deaf hotline at 1-800-799-4TTY (1-800-799-4889).

Warning signs of suicide with depression include:

  • a sudden switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to  be happy
  • always talking or thinking about death
  • clinical depression (deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping) that gets worse
  • having a “death wish,” taking risks that could lead to death, like driving through red lights
  • losing interest in things one used to care about
  • making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless
  • putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will
  • saying things like “It would be better if I wasn’t here” or  “I want out”
  • talking about suicide (killing one’s self)

If you or someone you know is genuinely threatening suicide, it may be necessary for urgent intervention. 911 will dispatch police and ambulance service. This may result in a 5150 (forced observation for up to 72 hours), but may save a life.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. Wanda Lee permalink
    December 28, 2011 11:03 am

    This article is very helpful.
    Should I give this entire article to my depressed boyfriend? He is 56 years old.

    • December 30, 2011 12:56 pm

      Wanda, It’s very individual whether or not to give reading material to someone who is depressed. Its better to talk about it and then ask him if he wants some information. The links (like webMD) are good if he wants general information. Let him ask for more. If he won’t talk about the problem, he probably won’t want to read about it. If it’s beyond just simple talking and reading, then better to see a therapist. You could start with a medical doctor for a check-up and a testosterone level, which can cause moodiness. Depression in middle-aged men should always be taken seriously, and don’t let it drag out too long. A few days or weeks of “the blues” might be acceptable, but more than that you should seek professional help.

  2. June 15, 2011 10:54 pm

    Well said, Akemi. Thanks for your helpful comment. We all can benefit by taking some time to become familiar with this common problem and give support to someone before it’s too late.

  3. Akemi permalink
    June 14, 2011 5:56 pm

    I think people need to understand depression is a kind of disease, just like a flu, because some people still believe people who get depressed and don’t want to do anything are just lazy or weak. That kind of ignorance could make things worth. Since it is a disease whether or not short term or long term, it requires an appropriate treatment.

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