Depression in men. How is it different from depression in women?
Depression is diagnosed almost twice as often in women, but men are six times more likely to commit suicide. One of the reasons for such statistics may be atypical symptoms of depression in men, which causes that the disease often goes undiagnosed in them.
The hypothesis that depression in men differs from depression in women was first put forward in the 1980s. At that time, an educational program was carried out in Sweden, aimed at general practitioners, which aimed to help doctors detect symptoms of depression and prevent suicide. The program turned out to reduce the number of suicides, but only in women. The program was repeated in the 1990s with similar results. It was then concluded that perhaps the symptoms of depression in men are different than in women and therefore not detected by diagnostic systems.
Typical symptoms of depression, according to the ICD-10 system, include depressed mood and decreased energy and activity. Depressed people often feel tired, enjoy nothing and have trouble concentrating. They also often have sleep disturbances and decreased appetite. In addition, symptoms of depression include low self-esteem, self-confidence and frequent feelings of guilt.
Men may have all or some of the above symptoms, but other behavioral changes are often more noticeable. They include e.g. aggression, self-aggression, outbursts of anger, irritability. Depressed men rarely feel sad and rarely have symptoms such as feelings of guilt and inferiority, low self-confidence, a sense of helplessness, pessimism. They are also less likely than women to have difficulty concentrating and are less likely to be anxious. They are less likely to focus on their health and less likely to worry about their health. However, they are characterized by the suppression of emotions, sometimes the inability to cry, they often resort to workaholism or increased sexual activity. They are also much more likely to fall into alcoholism or drug addiction and commit suicide under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Atypical symptoms make depression in men more difficult to observe, and what’s more, men struggling with problems are less likely to turn to their relatives or specialists for help. In addition, alexithymia is common in men – they have difficulty understanding and describing their emotions.
Avoiding talking about your problems may be due to the style of upbringing and how masculinity is portrayed in society. Men feel that they should always be strong and handle everything on their own. Mental suffering and life problems that overwhelm them are a reason for shame, which is why they do not want to talk about it to their family, friends or seek help from a psychologist or psychiatrist. They try to cope on their own, often with the help of alcohol or drugs, which only makes their situation worse and sometimes suicide seems to be the only way to get rid of suffering…
- Kielan A., Gorostiza D., Mosiołek A., Chodkiewicz J., Święcicki Ł., Walewska-Zielecka B. (2020). „Depresja u mężczyzn – specyfika, etiologia i związki z tendencjami samobójczymi oraz używaniem substancji psychoaktywnych: przegląd piśmiennictwa”, Postępy Psychiatrii i Neurologii, 29 (1): 54-66.
- Depressive episode, ICD-10
Author: Maja Kochanowska