Why Are The Signs Of Depression In Men Different Than In Women?
While everyone may experience the issues mentioned in this article, please note that as part of our initiative responding to the APA Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men (2018), these articles will focus on how these topics affect men and boys. We use “men” to refer to people who identify as men.
Gender alone does not determine whether or not someone can experience depression, as everyone can face depression or mental illness.
Signs of depression, however, may vary drastically specifically between men and women. Men are more likely to openly display anger and aggression rather than sadness, and family and friends may not realize that this can be a symptom of depression.
After first giving an overview of depression in men, we’re going to examine five major depression symptoms commonly found in men: overindulging in escapism, medical issues, substance use disorder, irritability, and risky behaviors.
Depression In Men Versus Women
Depression can be seen as two-pronged: there are signs and symptoms, and then there are coping mechanisms and other depression-influenced behaviors.
Men and women can show different signs and symptoms as well as different coping mechanisms. Depression in men is more often undiagnosed because the depression isn’t recognized, signs and symptoms are downplayed, there’s a reluctance to talk about the symptoms, and overall resistance to mental health treatment.
Men and women often these common symptoms of depression:
- Extreme fatigue
- Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
- Difficulty enjoying activities that are usually pleasurable
- Feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness
On the other hand, men may experience certain problems or engage in certain problematic behaviors that could indicate depression but aren’t typically recognized as such:
- Overindulging in escapism
- Medical issues
- Substance use disorder
- Risky behaviors
Depression can be particularly dangerous with men because many of us don’t want to recognize that we may need help, largely because traditional masculinity ideology encourages us to limit the expression of our emotions, particularly those linked to depression. This likely factors into why women are statistically twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression.
Now, let’s look more closely at some of the most common depression symptoms in men.
Common Depression Symptoms In Men
There are many possible depression symptoms, and some of them are found in both men and women. Here are the most common depression symptoms that men, in particular, tend to exhibit.
We may not realize it, but overindulgence in escapist behaviors often signals a desire to escape from reality and our depression.
These behaviors can vary widely but involve an unhealthy or unsustainable amount of time and money. Some escapist behaviors common among depressed men include pornography, video games, working out, gambling and sports betting, watching sports, and binge-watching shows or films.
Severe stress can indicate depression and wreaks havoc not only mentally but physically too. Men struggling with stress and depression might experience headaches, gastrointestinal issues, and other ailments. Other physical manifestations of depression in men may include sudden or significant weight loss or gain, fatigue, and a racing heartbeat.
Substance Use Disorder
Men may turn to alcohol or other drugs to cope with their depressive symptoms. Curiously, this is less likely to be viewed as a sign of depression in men than women.
Whereas women are more likely to experience substance use disorder once they are already depressed, men often experience this leading up to the onset of depression, meaning that substance use disorder might contribute to the likelihood of depression in men.
Women are more likely to show overt sadness and are usually more willing to discuss their emotions than men. While men with depression may open up and discuss their depression symptoms, they’re more likely to display depression-related behaviors and traits, including anger and a short temper.
Unfortunately, displays of anger and irritability are more socially accepted among men than women, meaning that people (including medical professionals) may fail to recognize such behaviors as indicative of depression in men.
Along with substance use disorder, depressed men are generally more likely to engage in risky behaviors than depressed women, including dangerous driving, binge drinking, sex, and gambling, as well as other risky financial behaviors.
Men often use these behaviors as a shield to mask or distract from their depression, and it can thus be more difficult to view them as depression-specific symptoms.
There are several ways to fight depression—and you can find a substantial list below in the FAQ section—but perhaps the two most powerful ways are consulting with a professional and getting physical exercise.
When you meet with a professional, you have your own dedicated space to strengthen your health and ensure your needs are getting met.
Often, men discuss needing to be strong or stoic for their partners, families, etc., and being unable to voice their needs because doing so would take up space. That’s why setting up time and a dedicated space for yourself to take control of your health is key.
It can take a lot of strength to step up and consult with a professional; if you’re not ready yet, getting physical exercise can help.
Regular exercise helps boost the feel-good chemicals endorphins and serotonin, which are the brain chemicals commonly targeted by several types of antidepressant drugs.
Many men report a significant improvement in their health after meeting with the professionals at BetterHelp.
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We hope this overview of depression symptoms in men and how they differ from women has been useful.
Commonly Asked Questions Below:
How does a man act when he is depressed?
How do you tell if a man is suffering from depression?
What are 5 major symptoms of depression?
What are the 4 main causes of depression?
What are the 11 symptoms of depression?
What are the 5 signs of mental illness?
What are the 5 causes of depression?
What are the three major signs of depression?
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why do guys get depressed?
Men can become depressed for several reasons, including genetic history, health issues, medication, stress, trauma, major changes, grief, relationship problems, work, and financial difficulties, dissatisfaction with their weight or physique, and more.
Which of these is a male-specific symptom of depression?
The five symptoms of depression highlighted in this article, except escapist behaviors and health problems, are more likely to be found in depressed men than women.
Is depression more common in males or females?
Depression is more common in women, but this may be because women are more likely to acknowledge their depression symptoms and reach out for help.
How can I test my mental health?
There are useful resources online that allow you to test your mental health quickly and easily. For example, you can take a Mental Health Test from Mental Health America. It’s important to note that these tests are not substitutes for professionals.
How can I improve myself mentally?
There are many ways to improve your mental health. In general, it’s about keeping balance and prioritizing your happiness and comfort. Try the following approaches to start:
- Value yourself – Give yourself time for your favorite hobbies and projects, and do your best to avoid self-criticism.
- Treat your body right – Exercising, hydrating, eating well, and getting adequate sleep can all boost your mental health and overall well-being.
- Track your gratitude – Journaling or otherwise recording what you’re grateful for is a great way to train yourself to be more positive. You don’t have to write novels, just starting with one sentence for one thing you’re grateful for that day is perfect.
- Consider the company you keep – Having strong connections to friendly, supportive people can greatly enhance your sense of well-being.
- Volunteer – Volunteers consistently report feeling good about their volunteer efforts—plus, you’ll get to meet new people.
- Manage stress – Deep breathing, meditation, playing or listening to music, laughing—these are all tools that can help increase your mental well-being.
- Try something new – Go for a different route on your walk or bike ride, try seeing a film by yourself, go for a day trip—just mixing things up from your daily routine can help.
- Avoid substances – Substance use disorder is a likely symptom and coping mechanism of depression.
- Get in nature – Just spending thirty minutes in nature can increase your energy levels and well-being.
- Disconnect – Taking a break from social media and the internet, news, etc., can help you relax and reconnect with yourself.
- Get the help you need – Meeting with a professional takes real strength and is one of the most powerful ways to improve yourself mentally.