Is Male Depression Different From Female Depression?

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated May 15, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide, substance use, or abuse which could be triggering to the reader.
Support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression than men, and some underlying biological factors may contribute to this discrepancy. However, many scientists hypothesize that the primary driver of the gender gap is that women are more likely to self-report symptoms, and men who experience depression may be less likely to seek help, get a diagnosis, and receive treatment.

The gender gap in diagnosing depression is concerning and may contribute to why men are four times more likely to die by suicide than women. However, reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness, and a combination of psychotherapy or medication may help individuals manage their symptoms and find contentment.

Explore anger, depression, and conflict with a professional

What is depression? 

Major depressive disorder is one of the most common psychiatric disorders in the United States, and it can be serious and even life-threatening. Though 6.2% of adult men in the US self-reported having major depressive episodes in 2020, it is estimated that the actual percentage of men who experience major depression is higher due to stigmas about men seeing mental health support. 

How depression varies by gender

Most depressive symptoms are the same for both men and women. These include the following:

  • Irritability
  • Substance use
  • Angry outbursts
  • Overwhelming sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness
  • Crying easily or often
  • Loss of motivation, difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling worthless or engaging in self-blame
  • Lack of interest in previously enjoyed hobbies
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Appetite changes
  • Unexplained physical pain, such as headaches or gastrointestinal issues
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Fatigue or restlessness
  • Thoughts of suicide

According to Dr. Andrew Angelino, a Howard County General Hospital psychiatrist, men are more likely to experience anger, whereas women are more likely to experience excessive crying. These differences in emotional experience may be due to how many children are taught to express their emotions based on gender. In addition, according to a 2021 survey from the Institute of Psychology, men may be more likely to:

  • Use substances to self-medicate
  • Disconnect emotionally
  • Become aggressive
  • Engage in risky behaviors, including reckless driving
  • Die by suicide

Why depression in men is often undiagnosed

To understand why men don’t often reach out for help, the American Psychological Association refers to the stereotypical image of a “strong man,” the Marlboro Man. The Marlboro Man, a rugged cowboy, might not reach out for help, talk about his emotions, or acknowledge having emotions. In many American families, the Marlboro Man represents the “ideal” version of masculinity. 

To adhere to the standards of masculinity, many men are taught as children to suppress their emotions. When men do not follow their gender expectations, they may face repercussions. For example, a study found that men who reveal vulnerability at work are seen as less competent by their peers. Additional studies find that men who act more supportive, empathetic, and emotionally available often experience harassment, lower pay, and are viewed as weaker. As a result, some men become unwilling to express emotional vulnerability or reach out for help. 

Symptoms of depression that are more common in men—such as experiencing increased aggression, risky behaviors, substance use, and anger—are not commonly discussed symptoms of depression. If you look up the symptoms of depression on a webpage, these symptoms may not be included. Due to a lack of knowledge, some men may blame external factors for a change in mood and behavior rather than relating them to depression. 

Depression is treatable

Depression is a highly treatable mental illness. If you’re experiencing treatment, talking to a doctor or therapist can help you connect with the following options. 

Medication

If you are experiencing moderate, severe, or chronic depression, your psychologist, doctor, or psychiatrist may recommend medications. Consult a medical doctor before starting, changing, or stopping a medication, and attend all medication management appointments to help your psychiatrist track your emotional responses and potential side effects. Some medications may interact with vitamins, supplements, and other medical treatments, so contact your doctor and ensure you talk about all areas of your treatment plan. 

Self-help practices 

Many practices have been proven effective in preventing the occurrence of depressive symptoms and reducing the severity of symptoms. These include but are not limited to the following: 

  • Meditation
  • Deep breathing
  • Mindfulness
  • Massage therapy
  • Light therapy
  • Gratitude journaling
  • Listening to music
  • Routine exercise
  • Sufficient sleep
  • Adequate nutrition
  • Positive self-talk
  • Maintaining supportive social bonds
Getty/AnnaStills
Explore anger, depression, and conflict with a professional

Psychotherapy

Though reaching out when you seek support can be challenging, it is often better to address mild depression before it becomes moderate or severe. Untreated depression can impact your relationships and physical health and may increase your chance of engaging in risky behaviors. 

Psychotherapy, especially cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can effectively reduce the severity of depressive symptoms. CBT is a popular type of psychotherapy where therapists work with clients to acknowledge, understand, and reorient maladaptive emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. For men who are worried about adhering to gender stereotypes and masculinity expectations, CBT can be oriented to address those feelings

If you feel uncertain about attending in-person therapy sessions, you can sign up for online therapy. A 2017 study found that online CBT, offered through sites like BetterHelp, is effective for many psychiatric disorders, including depression. Some men may find it easier to be emotionally vulnerable when physically distant from their therapist. Studies have found that men often prefer online therapy due to these reasons. 

Takeaway

Almost twice as many women are diagnosed with major depressive disorder as men. However, while some biological differences may contribute to higher rates of depression in women, it may not be the complete picture. Some men are reluctant to seek help due to unhealthy gender expectations, which can lead to emotional suppression. Additionally, some symptoms of depression are different in men, making recognizing depressive symptoms challenging. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression or want to confide in someone, you can reach out to a licensed therapist at any time online or in your area for support.
Depression is treatable, and you're not alone
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
You don't have to face depression aloneGet started