Men’s Health A-Z

Depression


Frequently asked questions about depression in men, including symptoms, causes, prevention and coping.

Depression

What is depression?

Clinical depression, or major depression, is more than simply being unhappy. It is a mood disorder caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, stress from life-changing events, serious illness, substance use and even certain medications. 1 in 5 Canadians suffer from depression, and anyone can experience depression at any age.

moderate depression (having a significant impact on daily life), and severe depression (making daily life almost impossible).

Causes

There is no one cause of depression, but potential triggers include genetics, biology and brain chemistry, major stressors in someone’s life, serious illness, substance use, and even certain medications.

Yes, depression can be triggered by a genetic predisposition or a family history of the condition.

Long-term stress increases the risk of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. When stress becomes overwhelming and prolonged, the risks for mental health problems and medical problems increase.

Substance use like drinking alcohol can worsen or trigger depression. Depression is also associated with long-term use and withdrawal from substances like alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant and should be consumed in moderation as it affects your thinking, behaviour, breathing and heart rate.

People who experience depression and anxiety often experience similar symptoms, including nervousness, irritability, sleep problems and concerns with concentration. That said, anxiety and depression have separate causes and emotional and behavioural symptoms. There is no evidence that one causes the other, but there is evidence that many people can suffer from both disorders in their lifetime.

One other symptom of depression is a change in one’s sex drive, when you may not feel like you have the energy for sex. Generally, depression can also cause you to experience a lack of enjoyment of everyday activities, which could include sex. But that can also function in reverse; a low libido can trigger those feelings of depression.

Medications each have their individual side effects—one of which can be depression. Speak directly with your doctor or health care professional, and review the information provided by your health care professional about your medications to see if depression is a suggested side effect of its use.

Depression and insomnia can be interconnected. For example, people with insomnia may have a higher risk of developing depression than those who do not. Vice versa, 75% of people with depression have trouble falling and staying asleep.

Eating foods like those with saturated fats, refined sugars, heavy processing, or caffeine can potentially make you feel worse when depressed. So, a healthy diet and regular exercise are suggested to manage depression symptoms.

Prevention

Eating right, sleeping well, limiting alcohol consumption, and getting outside and moving are all simple behaviours that can positively impact your mental well-being. 

Get Active 

Physical activity is recommended to treat mild to moderate depression, and as a secondary treatment for moderate to severe depression. It helps improve mood, reduce stress, and improve sleep.

Eat Healthier 

Certain nutrients found in various foods have been suggested to support the treatment of depression, including B vitamins, Vitamin D, antioxidants, Omega-3, fibre, and other minerals and vitamins present in fruit and vegetables like magnesium, zinc and selenium.

Sleep Better

Sleep and depression work in conjunction with one another. On the one hand, poor sleep can contribute to depression; on the other hand, depression can make someone more likely to develop sleep issues. With that in mind, taking steps towards good sleep hygiene can generally help you sleep better and boost your mood, and potentially decrease some of the symptoms of depression.

Lower Stress

Stress caused by major life events or anxiety can play a role in triggering depression. The toll on your body from stress can contribute to health problems including, anxiety and depression. Taking steps to manage your stress can reduce its negative health effects.

Drink Less

The overconsumption of alcohol can lead to depression. The long-term risks of frequently drinking alcohol include depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. If you already suffer from depression, alcohol can make depression more severe. Alcohol dependence often results in clinical depression, and the rate of suicide among people dependent on alcohol is six times that of the general population. 

Commonly asked questions

Depression is a serious mood disorder that affects emotional, physical and mental well-being. As noted above, doctors describe the condition as either mild, moderate or severe, depending on its level of severity. Severe depression is when daily life is almost impossible to get through and can be associated with suicidal behaviour.

Symptoms of depression can come back or worsen. There is no guarantee depression won’t return. However, you can take steps to reduce its impact or symptoms worsening.

Depression lasts for different amounts of time for each person; there is no average amount of time to experience depression.

Symptoms & Diagnosis

The two common symptoms of depression are sadness and hopelessness and a lack of interest or pleasure in day-to-day activities. Each happens nearly every day, for two weeks or more.

Other symptoms include:

  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Sleep problems
  • Loss of interest in day-to-day activities like work, relationships, sex and hobbies
  • Withdrawal from loved ones
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Pessimism
  • Guilt and low self-esteem
  • Irritability; fatigue
  • Lack of concentration and difficulty remembering
  • Thoughts of suicide

Men have a higher rate of irritability, anger and discouragement with depression.

Forgetfulness and confusion, among other memory problems, have been linked to depression. Depression can also cause a lack of concentration, lack of focus and difficulty with decision making.

Depression has also been associated with short-term memory loss.

There are several online tools available to screen for mental well-being, depression, anxiety and substance use, such as the “Here to Help” online tool. However, depression should be diagnosed by healthcare professionals such as your doctor, psychologist, or psychiatrist.

Treatment

Everyone is different, and different treatments might work for some and not others. However, it’s important to remember that depression can be treated. Treatment could include counselling and therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy and medication. Support groups or self-help groups in your community can be helpful, as is support for family and friends.

Learning self-help skills and taking care of yourself is also beneficial. Eating right, sleeping well, limiting alcohol consumption, and getting outside and moving are all simple behaviours that can positively impact your mental well-being. Similarly, reducing your stress in ways that work for you can support your recovery; this could include yoga, meditation, journaling, creative expression, and more. Educating yourself on depression can help you better understand the disorder and give you the tools and knowledge to support your recovery.

Everyone responds differently to different depression treatments. You may need to try a few options before you find what works for you.

Supporting Men with Depression

To support someone you know who has been diagnosed with depression, you can help support them get to treatment and stay in treatment as long as needed. 

You can also:

  • Learn about depression
  • Help them find support groups
  • Continue to stay in contact with them and encourage them to engage socially. 
  • Gently encourage them to stay active, eat healthily and do things they enjoy.

Most importantly, don’t get upset with them—depression is something they have, not who they are.
Stay alert for warning signs of suicidal behaviour. You can call 911 or Canada Suicide Prevention at 1-833-456-4566, which is open 24/7 and provides services in English and French. If there is an immediate risk, take them to the emergency.

What’s my 10-year outlook for Depression and other health concerns?

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