Cedric and the Black Dog | Part 2Mar 14, 2021
Cedric and the black dog is a vignette that describes the experience that a lot of men have with depression.
Guys will often say that they’re being followed by a black dog, or they feel like they are at the bottom of a dark bottomless shaft or an actor trying to play themselves. These descriptions highlight that depression is a very individual, subjective experience. Its impact or severity and how long the experience might last can vary. Yet, it is pervasive, sometimes debilitating, and its symptoms can affect your thoughts, your emotions, how you act and behave, as well as your relationships. However, with the right knowledge and support, overcoming depression is very possible.
The underlying cause of depression is not entirely known. However, what is understood is that it's not necessarily a single event or experience that causes depression; instead, it is the combination of several contributing factors that lead to its development. Other contributing personal factors such as biological or genetic vulnerability, chronic stress, medical problems, medications, social, lifestyle and relationship challenges may also trigger depression.
Research shows that women often experience depression more than men; however, men are less adept at recognizing symptoms. Often men underplay what's happening to them, resulting in attempts to ignore feelings of sadness, shame, hopelessness, or guilt. Typically, men will allow the underlying causes of the problem to develop over a prolonged period until it becomes chronic. Often, men will attempt to mask the problem via masculine behaviors of aggression and anger.
Men also respond to the experience of depression through increased substance use such as drinking or drug use or engaging in high-risk activities such as drink driving. Men also isolate themselves more than women when depressed and will immerse themselves in their work or interests. Subsequently, their relationships with loved ones, friends, and colleagues start to deteriorate. The unfortunate irony with this behavior is that these relationships are often critical in overcoming the problem they are experiencing.
Over prolonged periods of struggling with depression, men begin to experience physical and neurological symptoms. Depression is associated with cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease, heart attack, and stroke. "Many men were not aware that physical problems such as headaches, stomach problems, and chronic pain might actually be symptoms of depression." Chronically recurring depressive episodes also impact the formation and regulation of emotions and memory due to neuroanatomical abnormalities. This includes the brain's areas responsible for attention/working memory, executive function, and memory recall. Brain structure actually changes because of depression.
The most significant risk for men concerning depression is the impact of suicide. Untreated chronic depression can sometimes lead to suicidal ideation and acts of self-harm. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, men die by suicide three and a half times more often than women. A contributing factor to this number is the extreme methods in which men choose to take their lives. In the US, firearms account for almost 50% of all suicides. White males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides, and the rate of suicide is highest in middle age, white men in particular.
However, due to the greater social awareness surrounding depression and its treatment, men are nowadays more open to the idea of reaching out. They are open to feedback from friends, loved ones, and colleagues that they are not alone and that professional help is available. While men's willingness to help themselves has started changing, more needs to be done. Continuing research into men's physiology, interpersonal and intrapersonal psychology to identify effective gender-specific treatment options are required. Such options will drastically help men cope emotionally and physically with chronic stress or acute adverse experiences.
The potential of decreasing the likelihood of developing depression involves proactively improving the quality of lifestyle factors. These factors include good sleep patterns, healthy eating, nutrition, and regular exercise and self-care habits. Improved relationship connections, such as intimate or romantic, family, social or occupational, are the foundation of reducing the likelihood of developing depression. Finally, further social advocacy is needed to help men seek help and teach everyone to recognize the signs of depression in men.
IF YOU RECOGNIZE ANY OF THESE SYMPTOMS, THEN CONSIDER CONNECTING WITH A TRAINED, LICENSED MENTAL HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONAL AND START A CONVERSATION.
- A desire to withdraw;
- Losing interest in friends and activities you used to enjoy;
- Difficulty concentrating on things;
- Feeling down or irritated most of the day, nearly every day;
- A significant change in weight or change in appetite;
If you are struggling with managing or overcoming depression or suicidal thoughts, I invite you to schedule a free 30-minute consultation.
Information and Resources on Men's depression:
Heads Up Guys: https://headsupguys.org/mens-depression/
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): https://www.nami.org
Anxiety and Depression Association of America: https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/depression