Do you pop a pill to beat the blues? If so, you’re not alone: More men are taking antidepressants than ever before, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
After combing through the numbers from 2011 to 2014—the most recent data available—the CDC found nearly 1 in 10 men reported taking antidepressant medication in the past month. That’s a 69 percent increase from 1999 to 2002, when only 5 percent of men reported taking antidepressants.
What’s more, 21 percent of men reported taking antidepressants for 10 years or more. While women were twice as likely to report taking antidepressants as men, there was no significant difference in how long both genders used the medication.
It’s worthy to note that nearly half of all antidepressant prescriptions are given out to treat conditions other than depression each year, according to one 2016 JAMA study. Physicians reported prescribing the pills for anxiety, pain, insomnia, and panic disorders, too.
But the scary part is, when looking at antidepressants as a depression treatment in men, it’s possible these numbers might not paint the whole picture. That’s because men deal with depression differently than women, and may not even be coming forward about their symptoms.
“Male depression sometimes manifests through the ‘male code’ that says you cannot show weakness, sadness, or vulnerability,” Fred Rabinowitz, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at California’s University of Redlands, told Men’s Health in December.
And depression in guys tends not to be as easily identifiable, either—so it’s possible that men might not identify what they’re feeling as depression. Symptoms of depression in men can show up as things like anger, impulsivity, and substance use, rather than just simply sadness or the blues. In fact, when researchers from the University of Michigan surveyed more than 5,600 men and women using symptoms of depression more common in men as the basis for diagnosis, 6 percent of men met the criteria compared to 22 percent of women. But when they used the traditional symptoms of depression, more women fit the criteria than men.
Another reason guys may put off depression treatment? Some guys don’t like dealing with the side effects of antidepressants, says Rabinowitz. They includes weight gain, insomnia, and yes, even sexual problems like erectile dysfunction and delayed ejaculation. (Keep your erection hard for life with the Men’s Health Guide to Erectile Dysfunction.)
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors—a common class of antidepressants that includes Prozac, Zoloft, and Lexapro—may manipulate the neurotransmitters in your brain, which can delay your orgasm, according to urologist Tobias Köhler, M.D. But don’t use fear of those sexual side effects as a reason to put off seeking care: Other types of antidepressants don’t seem to cause the same problems. (Here are four more common medications that can kill your sex life.)
Suicide is the seventh leading cause of death in men—and untreated depression can act as a possible trigger. So if you think your sadness or other mood symptoms may be something more serious, see your doctor. He or she will be able to determine if something else might be causing your symptoms, like a medication with unpleasant side effects.
Plus, he or she may be able to refer you to psychiatrist if they think your symptoms point to depression. Research suggests that a combination of therapy and medication is the best treatment. However, every guy is different—a lot of men need to be encouraged to seek therapy by a family member or friend before they even consider it.