There are so many differences between the sexes. The topic of depression really drives home that point. Let’s briefly touch on one of the most dramatic ways men and women experience depression differently. Roughly two times as many women are diagnosed with depression than men. However, this could be because women (in general) are more likely to seek mental health care.
Meanwhile, untreated depression is believed to be the number cause of suicide. Therefore, while women are more like to have suicidal thoughts, men account for 80 percent of suicides in the U.S. Let’s dig deeper into this and other differences.
How and Why Men Experience Depression Differently Than Women
Rumination vs. Aggression
As touched on above, depression symptoms differ between men and women. Generally speaking, women will be more prone to dwell on negative thoughts, self-blame, and cry. This does not help with depression at all but it does alert loved ones to an existing problem.
Men, conditioned to not show “weakness,” unconsciously distract themselves. Rather than ruminate, they act out. Men with depression become aggressive, openly display anger, and can become threatening. In addition, men are far more likely to rely on substance abuse as a form of self-medication. From there, risky behavior can escalate to other reckless choices, e.g. gambling, driving dangerously, and having unsafe sex.
While all of this does prevent men from ruminating, it also prevents them from seeking care for the underlying cause. Needless to say, it will make life uncomfortable and miserable for the people in their lives.
Other Forms of Distraction
The following behaviors are more common in men with depression:
- Overworking and obsessing over work-related tasks
- Withdrawing from loved ones
- Becoming very controlling
These choices, within the dominant culture, allow a man to mask his pain through acts that are often viewed as “masculine.”
Co-Existing Mental Disorders
Women with depression have been found to have a higher incidence of co-existing conditions like anxiety, panic disorder, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). The most prevalent are eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia. Almost 95 percent of anorexia cases occur in young females. Girls in this age range are often struggling with depression. Societal body standards play a big role in both issues.
Research continues, but recent studies found molecular differences in the brains of males and females. Also, hormonal differences between the sexes could impact the onset of depression. This would account for why adolescent and teenage girls have such a high incidence of depressive episodes.
More anecdotally — but widespread anecdotally — it appears women are more in tune with their emotions and changes thereof. Hence, they will be more aware of the signs of depression and report these feelings. Men usually do not seek support until depression manifests in obvious physical symptoms. Even then, men look for treatment for the physical issue and not any potential psychological cause.
Self-Harm and Suicide
To return to where we started up top, this is the elephant in the room. Anyone diagnosed with depression is considered a risk for suicide. But what about all those men who do not talk about it and thus, do not get treatment? Also, we must never downplay the fact that women are at risk for suicide, too.
There is no blood test or x-ray that shows anyone to have depression. Diagnosing this common disorder is a process that requires the help of a skilled professional. While women display telltale signs more often, this is not something to be subject to guesswork. If you or someone you know is struggling with any of the potential signs of depression, it is essential that you speak to a mental health practitioner for guidance and support.