April is Mental Health Awareness Month.
We all experience feelings of sadness from time to time, but depression is another animal entirely. Depression is often correlated with feelings of guilt, emptiness or worthlessness that typically aren’t related to any identifiable cause. Depression affects both men and women, but men are less likely to seek treatment for mental health issues than women. Read on to learn about depression in men and what you can do to support a partner with depression.
What is Depression?
Also known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, depression is a common mood disorder that results in persistent feelings of sadness and general loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. Depression can hinder a person’s ability to complete or enjoy daily activities and may result in symptoms severe enough to affect appetite, sleep and the ability to work. In order to be clinically diagnosed, these symptoms must last at least two weeks.
Individuals with depression may experience depressive episodes more than once throughout their lives. In fact, as many as 17.3 million U.S. adults – roughly 7.1% of the population – have experienced at least one major depressive episode in their lives. Each year around 6 million U.S. adults fail to seek treatment for depression and, in 2018, men were over 3.5 times more likely to die from suicide. 
The 5 Most Common Types of Depression in Men
Major depression is considered one of the most common forms of mental illness in the United States. The severity of symptoms varies greatly from one individual to another, but they often result in impairment of one’s ability to carry out daily activities. There are many forms of depression, though certain types seem to be more common in men than others.
Here’s an overview of the 5 most common types of depression in men:
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – This form of depression affects roughly 5% of American adults and causes symptoms that fluctuate with the changing seasons.  Men with SAD tend to experience a worsening of symptoms in the fall and winter.
- Persistent Depressive Disorder – Also known as dysthymic disorder, this form of depression involves symptoms that last 2 years or more. Symptoms of persistent depressive disorder are less severe than those of major depression and this form only affects 1.5% of U.S. adults. 
- Psychotic Depression – Somewhere between 5% and 25% of people diagnosed with depression experience symptoms of psychosis such as delusions or hallucinations. 
- Minor Depression – Research shows up to 16% of American adults experience minor depression which is characterized by similar symptoms to major depression but with lesser severity and depressive episodes of shorter duration. 
- Bipolar Disorder – Though not technically a type of depression, bipolar disorder causes significant shifts in mood and energy. Men with bipolar disorder experience high moods known as mania as well as low moods categorized as depression. This condition affects an estimated 4.4% of American adults at some point in their lives. 
Though depression is one of the most common forms of mental illness in the United States, researchers have yet to identify a specific underlying cause. Current research suggests this condition is caused by a combination of psychological, biological, environmental and genetic factors.
Tips for Supporting a Partner with Depression
The symptoms of depression can come and go over the course of an individual’s life, so it’s important to understand the signs and to seek help when needed. As the partner of someone with depression, there are certain things you can do to support your loved one. The best thing you can do is listen – make yourself available if your partner wants to talk but don’t force a discussion if they’re not interested. Ask questions to help your partner express himself, show empathy and validate his feelings.
In addition to providing support for your partner, take the time to learn about depression on your own. Having an understanding of the condition may help you ask more appropriate questions or provide more targeted support for your partner. You should also learn to recognize the signs when your partner needs more help than you can provide. Encouraging your partner to seek treatment may be the best option in some cases. Don’t expect your partner to respond immediately, but gently encourage him to get the help he needs and be there to support him throughout the process.
If you or a loved one is suffering from depression, get help. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) Helpline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) to get help for yourself or your partner.