Anxiety and Depression In Men: A Closer Look
What happens when men suffer from both depression and anxiety at the same time? Is that even possible? Well, the answer is yes. You can have depression and anxiety and it can be exhausting.
One of the worst feelings in the world is when you’re a man who’s sandwiched between depression and anxiety. Often, when we hear these terms, we think that someone is suffering from either one or the other. Either they’re depressed or they suffer from anxiety.
These are separate disorders, but they can affect you together at the same time. Anxiety can be a symptom of depression. It’s also quite common to have depression that’s triggered by anxiety.
What Does it Feel Like?
With depression and anxiety, often it’s not the situation that directly impacts how you feel and what you do, it’s your perception of the situation. It’s what you’re thinking and sometimes what you’re thinking can become distorted.
You see, everything that you feel is valid, but not everything that you think is true. Sometimes, we misinterpret information, ignore or over-generalize the issues at hand. It’s not your fault, you just think differently.
When you feel depressed and anxious, you might be having distorted thoughts about yourself, the world around you, and the past, present, or future. One of the founders of cognitive behaviour therapy, Dr. Aaron Beck believed that people who suffer in this way have a lot of repressed hostility toward themselves. It’s called retroflected hostility.
You can recognize this in your own life if you’re too self-critical, have negative thoughts about yourself, or even if you feel suicidal. Feeling down from time to time is normal. Even feeling anxious occasionally is normal, but when you have these symptoms for weeks and weeks, you might be suffering from depression and/or anxiety.
You might have a loss of appetite, insomnia, or low energy levels. You might be thinking to yourself “just stay in the cave, hibernate and don’t come out, don’t do anything, nothing will ever work.” That’s the anxiety side of the equation that makes you just wanna disappear or do nothing. You might get the feeling that you want to freeze time or step outside of it altogether.
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Another symptom is unsettling dreams.
Do you have dreams where you’re frightened, alone and always being victimized? Well, Dr. Beck looked at the dreams of depressed patients and found that they often experienced unpleasant events in their dreams, and upon deeper analysis and reflection found out that they had an intense need to make themselves suffer.
It’s a symptom that you might be stuck between depression and anxiety.
What’s Going Through Your Mind?
There’s something called a cognitive triad that I want to share with you. The cognitive triad is a therapeutic framework for analyzing key elements of a person’s belief system. This was first formulated by Dr. Aaron Beck in his book Depression: Causes and Treatment (see Amazon) .
It goes like this – a person experiences negative views about themselves. It leads to negative views about the world around them. That leads to negative views about their past, their present or their future. That process then starts all over again with greater intensity. It goes round and round, gaining strength with each turn.
Positive ideas and information are blocked out of your mind and negative ideas are reinforced and amplified. You begin to contribute negative events to flaws in yourself, even when the facts might point to something else. This just serves to strengthen your negative core beliefs.
Positive information doesn’t fit into your framework anymore, no matter how relevant or true. In fact, positive information gets reworked inside your mind and reshaped to look like something negative and that’s the only data that your mind accepts.
How to Get Help with Depression and Anxiety
If all this sounds way too familiar, then you shouldn’t bear it alone. In fact, you’re not alone. According to the American Psychological Association, men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women. Men are more likely to hide their feelings and turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope.
Related: 10 Ways Booze Makes Depression Worse
You shouldn’t lose hope and you shouldn’t try to cope with failing mental health on your own. It’s not a sign of weakness to talk to a counsellor, therapist or mental health practitioner. Some treatments don’t even involve medication.
In over 100 documented case studies, cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) was found to be equally as effective as medication for treating depression and anxiety.
Part of what a CBT therapist or counsellor does is help you create a dialog between what you’re thinking in your head and how you feel in your heart. The goal is not to produce a good feeling or 100% happy thoughts, but to create a sense of balance that you can manage.
Related: 5 Good Coping Skills for Anxiety
Other Ways to Deal with Depression and Anxiety
To battle your depression and anxiety, it might be helpful to schedule activities that you find enjoyable. Your mind might be telling you to do nothing or you might not feel like moving, but that’s exactly what you should do.
You should think about things that brought you joy before the onset of your depression. What activities did you enjoy? Make a list of things that you can do to bring about a sense of wholeness. Then, see if you can’t slowly start to get back into those activities.
To battle anxiety, it might be helpful to gently begin to confront the things that trigger your anxiety and reflect on how it makes you feel. If you suffer from social anxiety, then you can explore ways to engage with other people in ways that feel safe for you.
You might join a small book group or rekindle an old friendship through social media. It might help to think about social anxiety as a bathtub or pool of water that’s just too hot. If you start slowly and slide in your toes, then your feet and then your legs…before you know it, the water doesn’t feel so hot.
Surround yourself with positive ideas and affirmations. You can use sticky notes or write in your journal. You can put messages to yourself on your smartphone or follow social media profiles that regularly post positive messages. The goal is to get out of the bubble of negative thoughts that dominate the way you process information.
There are many other ways to get out of that stuck feeling of being sandwiched between depression and anxiety. It helps to talk to someone who can listen to your experience and use their experience to help you feel and think better.