Studies show that while women are diagnosed with depression around two times more often than men, men are four times more likely to commit suicide. It appears that many men may fail to recognize or acknowledge the tell-tail signs of depression. Research suggests that traditional symptoms of depression, such as sadness and feelings of worthlessness, may not be aligned with the unique way many men experience depression.
3 Reasons Depression is Different in Men
Some men find it difficult to recognize and communicate symptoms of depression
From an early age, males are discouraged from talking about feelings. Through lack of practice, some men will have a smaller emotional vocabulary and will struggle to identify and fine-tune their emotions. This can lead to perceiving symptoms such as tiredness, low energy and irritability as signs of a physical illness. Men are also more likely to describe themselves as feeling stressed or overwhelmed than withdrawn or hopeless.
Masculine norms discourage asking for help
Stereotypical male traits such as self-reliance, stoicism, strength and confidence can backfire if stubbornly obeyed. When men believe that asking for help will threaten their masculinity, they are more likely to struggle alone. Depressive symptoms can then progress and become difficult to hide, leading some to isolate themselves to avoid appearing weak. Such attitudes can prevent men from receiving legitimate assistance.
Men are more likely to engage in unhelpful coping strategies
Driven by the societal pressures to appear resilient and tough, some men will turn to unhelpful coping strategies. These include over indulging in alcohol to unwind, disengaging from family or friends, and exercising or working to excess. There is also strong evidence that men who are developing depression will engage in heated arguments with angry outbursts. In fact, a recently developed assessment of male depression specifically asks about having a short fuse, yelling and smashing things, drinking alcohol, working more and wanting more sex.
In summary, when there are symptoms of depression, men are less likely to recognize there is a problem, less likely to seek help and more likely to try and cope in unhelpful ways.
Dealing with Depression and Anger Head-On
If you or someone you know are showing signs of depression as discussed above, it’s important to not get hung up on labels. Whether you call it stress, feeling overwhelmed, or depressed, it doesn’t matter.
Depression is not just about feeling sad and useless. The signs could include having a shorter fuse, drinking excessively, working more, increased marital conflict or feeling tired all the time. These symptoms are like a “check engine” light in your car. It’s important that you heed the warning. The sooner you decide to do something, the sooner you can develop a plan. An appointment with a physician or someone specializing in depression therapy can help point you in the right direction. With an action-based treatment plan you can be helped to regain control of your symptoms.