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The symptoms of depression in men are significantly different than those in women. You might have expected they would be the same, given how similar men and women generally are, but there are well observed differences in men’s behavior when depressed than women’s.
According to the National Institute for Mental Health, men demonstrate more aggression, irritability and anger than women when they are depressed. Characteristically, men who are depressed have more issues with getting enough quality sleep than women. Men are more likely to use drugs or alcohol to cope with their depression than women.
Women are, however, more likely to suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts according to some metrics. There are almost twice as many estimated cases of women with depression than men, and women are more likely to attempt suicide than men. However, the suicide rate (successful attempts) is much higher for men (up to five times as high in some Western nations) because they’re use more reliably lethal and violent methods to take their own lives than women.
Reasons for the Difference in Symptoms
Exactly why symptoms of depression in men are different from symptoms in women is not well understood. Differences in emotional intelligence between men and women could account for some of the symptoms of depression in men that are different from those in women.
Women, by large, are socialized to be more empathetic. Empathy appears to be linked to emotional intelligence and sensitivity. A more emotionally sensitive person could be more likely to feel depression, though this is hard to prove and remains a theory for the moment.
Depression in Men
Many men and boys suffer from depression. Thought most do not talk about it. The symptoms of depression in men can look like confrontational masculine behaviour. Feeling irritable, being angry or aggressive are perceived as normal for many men. However, they are also signs and symptoms of depression. This makes them harder to recognize than the isolation and visible emotional distress that women are more likely to exhibit.
In most cultures around the world, men and boys are discouraged from discussing their feelings. While it may be commonplace to see a girl or a woman cry, boys are told from a very young age that they should not cry and that they should be tough and suppress their feelings. Emotional intelligence is not prized as academic achievement or physical prowess is.
This toxic masculinity has led to many ruined lives and vast, incalculable suffering–to both men and women. If boys are taught to express their emotions they can cope better with the risk factors of depression. Emotions worn openly are easier to spot and get help for, suppressed emotions cannot get resolution.
The stigma of joblessness, medical conditions, and divorce is another huge factor in suicide and depression rates. In India, jobless farmers have an astronomically high suicide rate, with over 12,000 every year, according to The Centre. If a man cannot feed his family, he is seen to have failed.
Men are also more likely to socially isolate at the end of a relationship or divorce than women. This isolation is a major contributing factor to the higher suicide rate in men. “Marital disruption was associated with higher prevalence rates of major depression in both men and women, but only men had a greater risk of a first-onset major depression.” Women are more likely to suffer from mental health issues.
Men are much more likely to face imprisonment than women in most of the world, and suicide rates in prisons are substantially higher in prisons than in the rest of the population. However, men also commit a bulk of crime. Women take their lives at a higher rate than men in prison, but there are vastly more men than women in prison.
In general, the symptoms of depression in men tend to be missed. For example, excessive sleep, compulsive eating, or risky behaviors.
Treating Depression in Men and Women
There is some controversy about whether men and women respond to antidepressant medication differently, but in general men and women respond equally well to therapies and medications. There is much greater variance inside the groups than between them. The side effects are usually worth the improvement in mood.
The effectiveness of antidepressants is a controversial topic, but they appear to work as effectively against the symptoms men suffer from and women suffer from. It appears that the underlying causes of depression might be the same for men and women, with some small differences between men and women in general but larger differences between individuals as a whole.
A mental health professional is the best person to diagnose clinical depression and advise on treatment. No two cases of depression are the same, and what treatment you receive will be tailored to your condition, after medical professionals listening carefully to your symptoms, history and thoughts.
If you think you have depression or are concerned someone else you know might have it, you can talk to a doctor or seek help online. You can also call a helpline.
UK and Ireland: 116-123#
Canada’s crisis centers are designated by province but all information is available here.
There is help available.
Dealing with depression is not something anyone should have to do alone. You might have felt the pressure not to tell anyone, but talking to family and friends can be a very successful way of getting the help you need.
The Institute for Mental Health says it best: “Depression, even the most severe cases, can be treated”.