Feelings of Depression, Substance Abuse, And Men

Depression and substance abuse go hand in hand much of the time. Whether a person is depressed and tries to cope with it by drinking or drugging, or a person gets depressed as a result of drinking or drugging, the correlation is there.

Some mental health professionals state that women tend to suffer from feelings of depression more than men, but this may not necessarily be the case.  It may be that more women are likely to admit that they are depressed, whereas men tend to hide it out of shame.

Hidden Depression in Men

Mental health experts state that men are less likely to admit that they are depressed.  Sadly, some men hide their feelings of depression for years due to one reason or another.  Perhaps they think that by admitting it that they are weak instead of strong. Experts say that women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression oftentimes because men view it as a shameful thing.

When men hide their feelings of depression, it can escalate over time. What may start off as mild sadness can turn into mild, moderate, or severe depression. Some may even get to the point where they entertain the thought of suicide. Some even follow through.

Sometimes they try to cope with it by using alcohol or drugs, thinking it will make the negative feelings go away or at least numb them for a while.  This is not helpful and can even increase the chance of suicidal thoughts and suicide.

Symptoms of depression

Recognizing feelings of depression in women is easier than men because the symptoms for women are more apparent: sadness, weight gain, isolation, and sleep problems.  On the other hand, men tend to lose weight, become agitated, or abuse drugs to cope with depression.  Of course, both sexes can have the some of the same symptoms, but the overall symptom patterns between the sexes differ.

Stress is a major factor contributing to feelings of depression.  For women, stress is more likely to come from family issues and for men, work issues.  Women are much more likely to share with others their stressors, but men tend to keep their feelings inside or mask them with anger.

Listen to what Marianne Legato, MD, who is an expert in gender-specific medicine, says: “I have long been convinced that depression is underreported, underdiagnosed, and undertreated in men, largely because of the way they’re socialized.”

From the time boys are quite young, it is common for them to be taught not to cry or show their sad feelings.  They are taught that crying is for girls and babies.  This tends to cause men to hold their feelings in and view negative feelings, such as sadness, as a weakness.

The statistics on depression

At least 19 million Americans suffer from depression, and in fact could even be higher as many men are not diagnosed.  Men need to know that feelings of depression do not have to hold them back.  Wrestling with depression does not mean that one is weak or a baby. It means that there are some issues that need to be dealt with and it is important to communicate those issues with a friend, family member, or a professional.

In addition, trying to cope with feelings of depression by drinking or drugging will only make matters worse.

If you are suffering from depression, consider taking the first step to admitting it to yourself and then to another.  Seek help from a professional counselor if need be to get to the root of your issues.  There are treatments available to help alleviate symptoms of depression, so you do not have to struggle with such negative feelings.

If you’re struggling with substance abuse, there is treatment available for that too. You don’t have to struggle alone any longer. Between professional help, and doing things on your own to increase your self-esteem and learn more effective coping skills, you’ll be well on your way to managing or overcoming feelings of depression and/or substance abuse.

A word about negative mindsets

If you are like most people, once in a while you wrestle with some negative thoughts- even when you have vowed to let a certain situation go.  Plenty of people have days in which their thought life got the best of them and before they knew it, they were trying to wallow in their own self-pity party.

This usually continues until they learn how NOT to give in to the negativity. They learn how to catch those nasty thoughts early on and

change the momentum of their thought life.

It doesn’t happen overnight. Just as learning a foreign language takes time and effort, so does re-training your brain to cancel out negative thoughts when they arrive unexpectedly.  To aid in your progress toward beating depression and/or substance abuse, here are 5 ways that you can manage negative thoughts when they flood your mind.

  1. Practice deep breathing. You have probably heard about this before, but here’s a reminder that deep breathing helps you in various ways. First, it helps you physically in that it helps to reduce your heart rate (because the negative thoughts may be making your heart race) and second, it helps your mind in that you change your focus from the negative thought to the act of inhaling and exhaling.

This is the key: Focus your thought life on breathing in and out 5 times. Yes, when the negative thought comes (my boss is going to fire me, my son is using drugs, my boyfriend is going to leave me, my mom is not going to make it, I don’t have enough money, etc.) take the time to take 5 deep breaths. Inhale deeply and exhale slowly. As you do, concentrate your focus on the breathing process. By doing so you are relaxing your body and giving your mind a chance to shift gears because normally it would be gaining momentum in the negativity pattern.

  1. No worries. Once you have done your breathing, remember all of the times you have stressed out about something and the things you thought were going to happen never did. Remember the time you freaked out when the boss called you into his office because you thought you were in trouble? Turns out all he wanted was to tell you he would be on vacation next week and needed you to cover in some areas.  Or the time you had a good cry when you thought you had some incurable disease when in reality you just had a minor ailment that went away easily. Most of the things we worry about do not go down the way we think they will. It is unnecessary stress! So, remember this the next time you find yourself deep in negative thoughts.
  2. Make a plan. Let’s say you continually find yourself thinking that you cannot succeed in your current job.  Maybe you have your own business or would like to start a business, but you are fearful and worried that you will fail.  That is negative thinking at its finest.  Instead of continuing to entertain those negative thoughts, sit down and make a plan on how you can succeed. You do not have to wallow in fear and doubt; rise up and do something different!  There really is no such thing as a failure anyway, as long as you learn from setbacks or obstacles that you face.  Successful people do not stay on the ground if they get knocked down; they learn from the situation and get back up with a different plan and a firm resolve to push through whatever comes their way. You can too!
  3. Get the headphones out. Have you ever felt sad and so you listened to sad songs?  Those sad songs don’t usually make you feel better, do they?  When negative thinking tries to dance with you, it’s time to inspire and motivate yourself via audio or video inspiration.  It’s time to let the “coach” give you a good old-fashioned pep talk! Tap into the many resources available and get your thought life back to where it should be.  Put the headphones on and go for a walk or throw a motivational CD in the car on the way to work.  Pump up the good mojo jam!
  4. Speak positively. When you find yourself starting to doubt, fear, or get angry, sad, etc., it’s time to make yourself speak positively. You have to retrain your brain to go to the positive because for some reason it likes to go to the negative automatically.  I find that speaking positive things helps me to get the thought momentum going in the right direction.  Afraid of failing? Say, “I am successful and I can do anything I set my mind to.”  Tired of waiting for your soul mate? Say, “I am enjoying my life solo as I patiently wait for my soul mate.”

You see, sometimes you can trick your brain by speaking a positive statement or visualizing a positive outcome.  You might want to think negative, but if you force yourself to speak positive, your brain will shift gears.  You know what else will shift your brain in a moment? A good, hearty laugh!  Just start laughing for no reason and within a few moments, you will just feel happier!

You do not have to give in to negative thoughts any longer. As you progress in your recovery from feelings of depression or substance abuse, take these tips and use them in your everyday life.  Say NO to negativity and enjoy your journey more and more.