In my previous post, I wrote about depression, the signs and symptoms and treatment options. In this post, I will discuss how depression looks different for men and women. Being aware of the differences is important in order for the problem to be recognized and to get the proper help. “While the symptoms used to diagnose depression are the same regardless of gender, often the chief complaint can be different among men and women,” says Ian A. Cook, MD, the Miller Family professor of psychiatry at the University of California–Los Angeles.
Depression in Men: In men, depression is overlooked because they may think that it is a sign of weakness. They deny depression because they usually believe that they need to be strong and in control of their emotions. And in American culture, expressing emotions is usually considered a feminine trait. Depression in men can also be traced to cultural expectations. Men are supposed to be successful or have control over their emotions. These cultural expectations can cover up true depression. Depression in men can be overlooked because they usually do not talk about their feelings. Instead, they talk about the physical symptoms that accompany depression such as fatigue, pain, or difficulty concentrating. This can lead to depression being untreated which can lead to negative consequences, such as suicide. Men can experience depression in different ways to women. A man can become irritable, aggressive, drinking more than usual, or overworking. A man can deny his feelings and hide them from others.
There are three common signs of depression in men:
Pain: Backaches, headaches, or sleep problems that do not respond to normal treatment.
Anger: Can lead to irritability, loss of humor, road rage, short temper, or aggression. Can also lead to abusing their wife or becoming controlling.
Reckless behavior: Engaging in risky activities such as driving too fast, having unprotected sex, abusing drugs, or gambling.
There is no single cause for depression in men. Lifestyle changes, stress, biological and psychological causes, lack of social support, anything that makes them feel useless, alone, or hopeless can trigger depression.
Treating Depression in Men:
Don’t try to tough out depression on your own. There is help such as therapy and medication. You could also make lifestyle changes such as exercising, eating well, building a social network, joining a support group, and reducing stress.
There is treatment for depression. What works for one person may not work for another and no one treatment is appropriate in all cases. The best approach involves:
support: talking to someone about how you feel can be great help. The person you talk to needs to be a good listener. Having a strong support system can speed your recovery. Reach out to others, because being alone can make depression worse.
lifestyle changes such as exercise, eating healthy, learning to manage stress, relaxation techniques and challenging negative thoughts can help alleviate depression. I mentioned some relaxation techniques under my post Natural Ways to Cope with Panic and Anxiety Attacks.
balancing emotions: learning how to recognize stress and expressing your feelings and emotions can make you more resilient.
professional help such as talk therapy or medications can help. Therapy can give you tools to treat depression and can give you skills to prevent depression from coming back.
Depression in Women: The causes of female depression and symptoms are different than from men. There are a number of theories that explain why women have a higher incidence of depression such as biological changes, hormonal changes and psychological causes:
Premenstrual problems: Hormones fluctuate during the menstrual cycle often causing premenstrual symptoms (PMS). For some women the symptoms are mild, but for others it is severe enough it cause disruption in their lives. Often the diagnosis of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is made.
Pregnancy:Hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can contribute to depression, especially if you are already at high risk.
Postpartum depression: This is a normal reaction that subsides within a few weeks but for some women it can be severe and can last for a long time. This is also believed to be influenced by hormonal changes.
Health problems: Chronic illnesses and or disabilities can lead to depression.
Negative feelings: Women tend to ruminate when they are depressed which makes the depression worse. Men tend to distract themselves which can reduce depression.
Overwhelming stress: Women tend to develop depression from stress and produce more stress hormones than men do.
Below is a table taken from author Jed Diamond. It shows the differences between men and women depression:
|Differences between male and female depression|
|Women tend to:||Men tend to:|
|Blame themselves||Blame others|
|Feel sad, apathetic, and worthless||Feel angry, irritable, and ego inflated|
|Feel anxious and scared||Feel suspicious and guarded|
|Avoid conflicts at all costs||Create conflicts|
|Feel slowed down and nervous||Feel restless and agitated|
|Have trouble setting boundaries||Need to feel in control at all costs|
|Find it easy to talk about self-doubt and despair||Find it “weak” to admit self-doubt or despair|
|Use food, friends, and “love” to self-medicate||Use alcohol, TV, sports, and sex to self-medicate|
|Adapted from: Male Menopause by Jed Diamond|
Treating Depression in Women:
Treatment is the same as everyone. You can refer to my previous post, Not Just the Blues for more information on treatment options or refer above to Treating Depression in Men.
Depression is common and treatable. The goal to recovery is to start small and take things one day at a time. Feeling better takes time, but you get to feeling better by making positive choices for yourself. Talking to someone, seeking help and having a positive support system is also essential in the treatment for depression. Don’t deny your feeling or symptoms. It is important to listen to how you feel and get the proper treatment for recovery.