When some of us think of depression, we may think that women experience it more than men. Some health professionals say this is because women experience hormonal changes during menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause, which may both contribute to depression and complicate its treatment. But, are men really less likely than women to get depressed, or are they just less likely to acknowledge it?
Depression in Men
Although depression is the same disorder in both sexes, men do experience different symptoms and act on it in a different way. For example, women may be more likely to have anxiety in association with their depression, while men are more likely to exhibit signs of substance abuse or conduct disorder. Some evidence indicates that depression may be even more dangerous for men than for women. Men are more likely than women to commit suicide, although women are more likely to attempt suicide. To make matters worse, many men may shy away from talking about their feelings, asking for help, and seeking treatment for depression.
Perhaps one of the reasons male depression may go undiagnosed is that men fear the repercussions of admitting they have a mental illness. They may be concerned that their coworkers, friends, and family would feel differently about them if they admitted they needed help for depression. Also, they may fear that their job security, promotion potential, and health benefits would be negatively affected if their coworkers or boss found out they were depressed.
Symptoms of Depression
Although men and women share several common symptoms of depression, there are other, less obvious ones that may be more common in men. Depression in men may cause:
- Persistent feeling of sadness or emptiness
- Loss of interest in relationships
- Decreased interest in hobbies
- Excessive time spent at work
- Sleep problems
- Physical problems with no apparent cause, such as digestive disorders, headaches, or non-specific pain
Men often turn to alcohol and drugs to help reduce their depressive symptoms. Many times, men mask depression well enough to go undiagnosed by health professionals.
Depressed men may be less likely to experience sadness, anxiety, worthlessness, and guilt as symptoms of depression.
The important thing for men to remember is that depression is a treatable condition.
The more we find out about how depression differs between men and women, the better health professionals will become at recognizing and treating this condition in men.
If you think you may be depressed, schedule a visit with your doctor. If your doctor asks about depressive symptoms during a routine visit, give honest answers. It is possible that another condition, such as an infection, a thyroid disorder, or low testosterone is causing you to feel depressed. Sometimes when these conditions are treated, your symptoms will disappear. If your doctor determines that your symptoms are not caused by another condition, you will likely undergo a psychological evaluation for depression, either by your doctor or a referred mental health professional.
During a psychological evaluation, the doctor will ask you about your symptoms, your drug and alcohol use, whether or not you have had thoughts of death and suicide, and if depressive disorders run in your family. Also, the doctor will assess your mental status, including your speech, thought patterns, and memory.
Depending on your diagnosis, treatment for depression may include a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and other therapy to help alleviate symptoms of depression.
In addition to your prescribed therapy, the National Institute of Mental Health suggests you incorporate the following strategies into your life to help cope with depression:
- Participate in regular exercise.
- Go to the movies, ball games, or other social activities.
- Set realistic recovery goals.
- Make it a point to be around people.
- Find someone to confide in.
- Expect your mood to improve gradually, not overnight.
- Postpone important decisions, such as job changes or changes in your marital status, until your depression has lifted.
- Allow your family and friends help you cope with depression.
It is important for men to understand that depression is a disease of the brain, not a sign of weakness. Seeking treatment can improve the quality of life of any man who is depressed, as well as those close to him.
Mental Health America
National Institute of Mental Health
Mental Health Canada
Canadian Psychiatric Association
Depression basics. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/index.shtml. Updated 2016. Accessed April 4, 2017.
Depression in men. Help Guide website. Available at: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/depression-in-men.htm. Updated April 2017. Accessed April 4, 2017.
Major depressive disorder (MDD). EBSCO Plus DynaMed website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116638/Major-depressive-disorder-MDD. Updated January 23, 2017. Accessed April 4, 2017.
Men and depression. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/men-and-depression/index.shtml. Updated 2013. Accessed April 4, 2017.
Last reviewed April 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP Last Updated: 4/4/2017