Depression symptoms may look different in men
More than 6 million men in the U.S. have a depressive disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Their symptoms; however, might look different from females suffering from this disease.
“Men tend to hide or deny their more vulnerable emotions, and are more likely to demonstrate symptoms of anger or irritability, making the diagnosis of depression harder to recognize,” says Lori Osborne, mental health clinician with Advocate Medical Group at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill.
Common symptoms of depression include change in appetite, change in sleeping patterns, persistent sadness, feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness or guilt, inability to concentrate, loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed and irritability.
Overall, women are 70 percent more likely than men to experience depression, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). However, a study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that the statistics could be more gender equal if lesser known symptoms such as anger attacks and aggression, substance abuse and risk taking were used to diagnose depression in men.
Depression can be caused by many factors. The National Institute of Mental Health lists three common factors, but notes that most of the time, it is likely a combination of all three.
- Genes — family history can increase the likelihood of depression
- Brain chemistry and hormones — the brains of people with depression look different on scans than those of people without the illness
- Stress — major life changes or other stressful situations can contribute to male depression
Osborne says men and women can also differ in how they deal with depression.
“Women tend to be better able to put their emotional experience into words and are more likely to seek professional help or talk with a friend or family member,” says Osborne. “Men are more likely to try to manage their symptoms through over-involvement with activities such as work, computer use or TV, and to self-medicate through alcohol or other substances.”
Though they might be hesitant to speak up about their symptoms, it’s critical for men to seek help as they are about four times more likely to die from a suicide attempt than women, according to NAMI.
“Men appear more hesitant to seek treatment for depression than women,” Osborne says. “Common barriers include embarrassment about seeking help, hesitancy or awkwardness about expressing deeper emotions, and uncertainty that therapy will help. Men tend to be socialized to be in control and not ask for help so they may delay seeking treatment, if at all.”
Whatever their personal barrier may be, Osborne encourages men and women to talk openly to their doctor or therapist about their concerns.
“Therapy helps people take control of their life,” she says. “It is a collaborative process where the person makes the changes they need and want in their life by learning new skills and better understanding their condition.”
About the Author
Lynn Hutley, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs and marketing at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and Advocate Eureka Hospital in central Illinois. Having grown up in a family-owned drug store, it is no surprise that Lynn has spent almost 18 years working in the health care industry. She has a degree in human resources management from Illinois State University and is always ready to tackle Trivia Night.