Movember: How Depression Affects Men & Women Differently
Depression can be mild, moderate or major, but it’s important to know how gender differences lead to different manifestations in men and women
For a long time, clinical depression was known as a “woman’s disease.” While it’s true that women are twice as likely to develop depression as compared to men, experts believe that plenty of men suffer from this serious and pervasive illness. However, men tend to experience it differently as compared to women, and many times may not realise there’s a problem till the situation is severely aggravated.
What causes depression in men?
Depression is extremely complex; it may occur due to a single reason or due to a range of reasons. These include genetics, brain chemistry and hormones, stress, conflict, death or a loss, or physical, sexual or emotional abuse. Chronic illness, substance abuse and certain medications.
Signs & symptoms
Different men display different symptoms of depression, but the common ones are:
- Feeling sad or “empty”
- Feeling angry, anxious, hopeless or irritable
- Inability to focus or remember details
- Insomnia or feeling sleepy/sleeping all the time
- Overeating or loss of appetite
- Aches/ pains, headaches, digestive problems, cramps
- Loss of interest in work, family and once-pleasurable activities such as sex
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
- Inability to meet responsibilities, be it at work or for family
Experts say that learning how gender differences affect depression is critical to understanding the illness. To mark Movember, an awareness month dedicated to men’s health, we list down 10 ways the condition manifests differently in men.
#1 Men are less likely to develop the condition
The biggest depression-related difference between the sexes is the fact that women are at twice the risk of developing the condition. This is due to biological reasons, including hormones and genes. Men don’t go through as many hormonal changes as women, which is why a depression gender gap exists – from puberty to until after menopause.
#2 Men often fail to recognize their symptoms
Women in general tend to be better tuned into their emotions and may realise that they are depressed. Men often choose to deny or hide their unhappiness, and may not recognise their symptoms as depression. Cultural conditioning and their desire to portray a tough image also play an important role in not owning up to depression. Over time, they shrug off even the slightest hint that they are depressed.
#3 In men, depression can often look like anger
Melancholy is a hallmark sign of depression and many men do exhibit it. However, most men who are depressed may experience increased irritability, frustration or anger as their negative emotions rise. They may become cold and withdrawn, or may turn aggressive and hostile.
#4 Depressed men may try to mask their sadness
Conditioned by society to think of themselves as tough guys, men may shift their attention and energy to other outlets. It could be TV, sports, working late hours or engaging in risky behaviour such as unsafe sex, gambling or reckless driving.
#5 Depressed men are more likely to stay silent
Mental health stigma often keeps people from speaking up. This is more common in men as they fear being judged or are beset by feelings of shame. Research shows men tend to downplay their symptoms and are more averse to seeking help from a medical professional.
#6 Men’s depression is often harder for others to recognise
Scientific evidence shows there’s a gender bias when it comes to mental health conditions. Women are more vulnerable, and doctors are more likely to diagnose women with depression than men. This is despite men showing similar symptoms. Family members may also not pick up on depressive symptoms in men, which may lead to further depression.
#7 Men are less likely to ruminate when depressed
Women tend to dwell on and rehash negative feelings more often than men who are depressed. This may involve bouts of crying, negative talk and blaming oneself. Men tend to distract themselves when upset, often turning to TV, hobbies of friends. This distraction may seem to ease symptoms of depression, but may not help deal with it in the long term.
#8 Unlike women, men don’t usually turn to food
In women, depression is often associated with anxiety disorders such as panic and phobic symptoms. Many of them also develop eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder.
#9 Men who are depressed are more likely to abuse alcohol
Men often end up turning to alcohol or drugs, especially before the onset of depression. Over time, they end up dependent and may end up binging and craving a fix. Women, on the other hand, turn to alcohol after the onset of depression or as anxiety levels rise.
#10 Depressed men are more likely to commit suicide
Women are more likely to experience feelings of guilt and attempt suicide, but they actually attempt suicide less often than men. Symptoms of depression symptoms in men often go longer without being diagnosed or treated, worsening their condition. Studies show that men suffering from depression are more likely to be successful than women when they attempt suicide.
Untreated depression may result in weight gain or loss, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, and irritability. Studies have revealed that patients with major depression have a higher risk of death in the first few months after a heart attack.
Eating healthy, exercising often and getting ample sleep keep you physically and mentally healthy. Our experts can help you find that balance