The Male Perspective – Differences Of Depression Symptoms In Men
Updated August 28, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Debra Halseth, LCSW
Many people experience depression at some time in their lives. Yet, depression isn’t always easy to recognize. That’s especially true when a male has depression because their symptoms are often different from those of women. Maybe you’re a man who is having some mental or even physical health issues, but you don’t know what’s wrong. Or maybe your male loved one is looking for answers. If you have the slightest suspicion that the trouble may be related to depression, it’s a good idea to learn more about depression in men and how depression affects men differently than women.
If you’re depressed, you might have any of the symptoms of depression. However, if you’re a man, some of the symptoms might be more likely for you. Others show up differently. Here is a look at the signs from a male perspective.
Symptoms In Men
The following symptoms often happen during the depression in men.
Anger, Aggressive Behavior, And Irritability: Have you ever felt angry, and you didn’t know why? Many men feel angry and behave aggressively when they’re depressed. Other people typically don’t understand the reason behind these thoughts and feelings, and men often don’t recognize them as a sign of depression either.
Restlessness Or Feeling On Edge: You might feel restless during a depressive episode. You feel like you need to get up and move around, even when you need to stay where you are. Or, you might feel on edge, as if you need to prepare yourself for something terrible that’s right around the corner.
Losing Interest In Things You Once Enjoyed: Men often lose interest in their work, even if they were once delighted with their job. You might also lose interest in family life or anything else you once found pleasurable.
Sexual Problems: If you’re having trouble with your sexual performance, the problem could very well be depression if you’re a male. You might not even feel the desire to have sex. In either case, it’s understandable that you would want to get beyond your depression so you can regain a healthy sex life.
Alcohol Or Substance Abuse: One thing that often happens with depression in men is self-medicating with alcohol or illegal drugs. Usually, this begins before the depression takes hold, but it typically continues and increases as the depression deepens.
Making High-Risk Choices: Men often take big chances when they’re feeling depressed. They may do something physically dangerous, like driving too fast on the freeway. Or, they might gamble with money they need for themselves or to help support their family. Another example of high-risk behavior as a part of depression in men is having sexual affairs or having a lot of unprotected sex.
Withdrawing From Others: Depression in men often involves withdrawing from others. Men may isolate themselves from others when they’re depressed. Perhaps that’s due to a societal trend for parents to teach their boys to solve problems on their own and their girls to be more social creatures. While this trend may be changing, it still affects many men today.
Physical Ailments: Depression in men often takes the form of physical complaints. You may feel your heart racing, have tightness in your chest, experience digestive problems, or notice frequent aches and pains. You might go to your primary physician with these health issues and find that either they can’t identify the cause or nothing they do seems to help.
Difficulty sleeping: Sleep problems are common in depression in men and women. For men, the trouble is usually that you have trouble going to sleep or staying asleep.
Other Symptoms You Might Have
In addition to the symptoms that are more prevalent in men, you might also have signs that are common in both men and women.
Feeling anxious: Anxiety is associated with depression for many people. It’s a feeling of nervousness, unwarranted fear, or worry about the future.
Troubles with concentration and memory: Both genders may have a hard time concentrating while they’re depressed. They may have memory problems, as well, especially in remembering details.
Feeling sad, empty, or hopeless: These feelings are usually a part of a depressive disorder, but not always. For a diagnosis of depression, your mental health expert would look for either these sad feelings or a loss of interest in pleasurable activities.
How Are Women’s Symptoms Different?
Some women’s symptoms are similar to those of depression in men. However, women tend to be more likely to have eating disorders along with their depression, for instance. They may also be more likely to oversleep or overeat than men.
Gender Differences In Depression Triggers
In a 2015 article, Paul R. Albert, Ph.D., reported that, globally, 5.5% of women experienced depression each year, while only 3.2% of men had depression in a year. Albert suggested that the difference could be the different things that trigger depression for men and women. For example, women may be more likely to be sensitive to interpersonal relationship issues, while men seem to be more affected by situations related to their careers and goals.
Another factor is the hormonal changes women go through during their lives. For example, if a woman has premenstrual dysphoric disorder or postpartum depression that comes at a time when her hormones are in flux. And, the inconstancy of female hormones may play a role in other forms of depression, too.
LiveScience reports that there’s evidence that women respond differently to stress. When there’s a death in the family, their relationship is rocky, or they lose their job, they think and behave in ways that make the stressful feelings last longer. One way they do this is to ruminate or dwell on upsetting events or situations. They engage in negative self-talk and blame themselves for what happened. Depression in men usually doesn’t include a tendency to ruminate, and that may be one reason that sometimes men can get past stressful events more easily.
But men do have depression, too. The cause may be partly genetic, as it might be for women. But what brings on a depressive episode? For men, the triggers for depression may include financial problems, life changes, trouble at work or losing a job, or some type of underlying illness.
The Severity Of Symptoms In Men And Women
The severity of symptoms often differs between men and women. The difference may be partly because men frequently avoid seeking help or don’t realize they’re suffering from depression. Even if they go to a healthcare professional, that person might not detect the depression behind physical symptoms. So, men’s symptoms may become extremely severe before they talk to a mental health professional, while women might more often seek help during the earlier, milder phase.
Gender Difference In Suicide Rates
Sometimes people with depression think about or attempt suicide. According to data reported by the World Health Organization, the suicide rate for men in the U.S. was 21.1 per 100,000 in 2016, while the rate for U.S. women was only 6.4 per 100,000. Women try to commit suicide more often, but men may be more likely to succeed in the attempt. This difference might go back in part to the fact that men wait so long to get treatment.
Differences In Seeking Treatment
It’s hard to say precisely why women might seek treatment more often than men. It may have to do with cultural differences. Or, it might have more to do with the fact that symptoms in men can be so much harder to recognize. Men may have symptoms that don’t show up as the sadness or hopelessness so often associated with depression. Men’s symptoms may look more like anger issues, substance abuse problems, or recklessness. That’s why it’s so vital that you learn to identify any symptoms you’re having and realize if they could be indicators of depression.
What You Can Do
When a male loved one is showing signs of depression, the most important thing you can do to help is to listen empathetically and offer your support. If he doesn’t recognize that these symptoms are related to depression, you might point him to information on depression symptoms in men. You might need some help and support yourself, as well. A counselor can help you understand what he’s going through and how to be there for him. They might also suggest ways for you to stay mentally healthy during this difficult time.
On the other hand, if you’re a man who recognizes some of these symptoms in yourself, talking to a therapist can be helpful in many ways. They can assess your condition and recommend treatments. During therapy, they can teach you new ways to deal with stress, help you learn how to change negative thought patterns, and show you how to avoid aggressive or risky behaviors.
Many men find it hard to even think about seeking mental health help. You might believe you need to handle your mental health problems on your own, especially if you’re someone who is usually very independent. It’s okay to have feelings of doubt. Many people do feel that way the first time they decide to go for therapy. But the benefits of treatment for depression in men far outweigh the discomfort you might feel.
Talking to a therapist might not be as hard as you imagine. By talking with a licensed counselor at BetterHelp, you can have therapy in a private setting that you choose. Or, you can go to a mental health counselor where you live if you prefer to see someone a friend recommends in your area. Either way, getting help may be the best move you ever made. With the proper treatment, your symptoms of depression can decrease, you can get your life back on track, and you can enjoy your life again.
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