Depression is defined as a mental illness wherein a person experiences a variety of symptoms such as, low mood, irritability, low appetite, sleep disturbances, feelings of guilt and difficulty in concentrating. Although the primary symptoms of depression may be seen among both men and women, there are certain signs and symptoms which are different.
Depression can look different for both men and women, they may experience signs and symptoms differently as well as different coping mechanisms. Our mankind has been known for the sex differences for decades now when it comes to depression and they are yet very crucial in understanding the illness to the core, said Jill Goldstein.
Depression is common among men but women have a higher tendency of developing depression as 10.4 percent of women compared with 5.5 percent of men in the U.S are affected by the same.
Understanding how depression might look different between men and women is crucial, let’s have a look. Depression in men doesn’t get diagnosed easily due to the perception of society that men are the strong ones wherein depression in women is easily diagnosed due to the perception that women are emotional beings.
Different Signs and Symptoms of depression in men and women
There are certain behavioral signs of depression which look differently in men such as alcohol and drug use are more common among men than women. Also, men report higher rates of anger attacks/ aggression, substance abuse and risk taking behaviours.
Certain behavioural changes which are noticeable among men are;
- Heavily drinking or taking drugs
- Avoiding family or social settings
- Working obsessively without taking a break for long periods of time
- Becoming a dominant and controlling person or could be abusive in nature as well
- Indulging in risk-taking behavior, such as unprotected sex or rash driving
On the other hand, behavioural changes which are common in women are;
- Overeating and weight gain/loss
- Less energy, fatigue or feeling of slowed down
- Feelings of extreme guilt, feeling worthless, helplessness, hopelessness and pessimism
The tendency of depression among women is also likely to occur more than men due to the factors such as depression in winter season due to the lower levels of sunlight (seasonal affective disorder). Strong feelings of guilt and worthlessness, wherein a person criticises themselves harshly.
A theory has been proposed explaining the behavioural changes in men which states that these occur as a result of men trying to mask depression in order to adhere to the masucline
norms. This might be the reason for concealing depression and may also cause them to indulge in self-destructive behaviours.
Depression could also affect a man’s sex drive and may also be the reason for losing interest in their hobbies and passion or makes them feel less motivated in their work setting.
The emotional signs of depression in men may confuse them as it’s easier to discuss the physical symptoms than the changes in mood. However, depression affects the emotional state of both men and women, which leads to low mood.
Men may be less comfortable expressing their emotions but sudden changes in their emotional state can be seen in different ways, such as:
Although the differences may vary due to the societal expectations of how men and women express emotions, it is likely that men would be less willing to express their feelings of sadness, whereas on the other hand, women would be able to openly talk about the same.
On the other hand, emotional symptoms of depression in women, which are commonly seen are:
- Persistent sadness, feeling anxious or emptiness inside
- Loss of interest in activities which earlier were pleasurable, including sex
- Feeling cranky often than usual, excessive crying for no apparent reason or feeling restless
Women may also turn to unhealthy habits easily such as over eating, which is called emotional eating. The causes of depression may vary among men and women, wherein it has been seen that women may become depressed due to certain life changing events, such as pregnancy and giving birth.
Coming to the physical symptoms of depression in men, majorly the symptoms would be:
- Tightness in the chest
- Digestive issues
- Sleeping too less or too much
- Feeling agitated and restless
- Eating too less or too much
Women, on the other hand experience persistent physical symptoms, some of which are:
- Digestive problems
- Chronic pain in body
- Overeating or eating too less
Men’s issues originate from different causes than women
For instance, men’s issues stem from societal expectations and the cultural gender norms, which may often lead them to think that they must be the breadwinners of the family, they mustn’t rely on others or seek help for that matter and they aren’t conditioned to openly talk about their feelings. Often these traditional beliefs have a negative impact on the mental health of men and these also keep them from getting the help they need.
It is also believed that men are very less likely to seek treatment for issues such as substance abuse, depression or stressful life events. According to a survey by Mental Health America, this is due to the factors relating to:
- Traditional societal norms
- A reluctance to initiate talk regarding these issues
- Indulging in downplaying their symptoms
On the other hand, several factors contribute to raising the chances of depression in women. According to the National Institute of Health, reproductive genetic or other biological factors contribute to it. Other factors such as interpersonal factors, and certain psychological and personality characteristics also add up to the chances of raising depression.
How is depression treated among both men and women?
It is crucial to understand the seriousness of the disorder and how crucial it is to treat and seek help for the same. There are several ways to fight depression but perhaps the two most powerful ways of combating depression would be seeking help from a professional (therapist or a psychiatrist) and getting physical exercise.
When you undergo therapy, it gives you a dedicated and safe space to express your emotions and be vulnerable enough to talk about your needs. Counseling helps the person understand their needs and gives space to voice one’s needs and work upon one’s own behaviours for better.
Increased awareness about depression may help in dealing with this condition better. Depression in both men and women is manageable and getting the treatment from a professional (hypnotherapist) would help in treating it the right way.