Depression in Men Looks Different than It Does in Women

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
April 10, 2022
Depression in Men Looks Different than It Does in Women

Depression is often thought of as a women’s health issue. Women are almost twice as likely as men to experience symptoms of depression, according to the Office on Women’s Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

But the truth is: Depression also affects men and in large numbers — about six million American men struggle with depression. Unfortunately, they’re less likely to address their depression than women. 

Signs of Depression in Men vs Women

Some signs of symptoms of men’s depression appear as aggression, not depression, so the true problem is often overlooked.

Women usually experience: 

  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, helplessness and/or guilt
  • Have changes in their appetite, causing weight fluctuations
  • Sleep too little or too much; feel tired and irritable  
  • Lose interest in enjoyable activities and hobbies
  • Have difficulty concentrating, remembering facts and/or making decisions
  • Deal with headaches, digestive issues and aches/pains

Men can go undergo some of those signs and symptoms. But unlike women, many men also:

  • Develop substance use issues
  • Exhibit risky behavior like reckless driving and unsafe sex 
  • Present controlling or abusive behavior in relationships 
  • Act angry, violent and/or frustrated

When men do recognize they’re feeling off – they ignore it, downplay it, avoid discussing it and/or resist treatment. Sadly, 49 percent of men are more depressed than they admit, according to Mindwise. Why? Our society encourages men to suppress their feelings. And men’s depression is often triggered by financial, legal or work-related stress – issues men don’t want to discuss because it’s viewed as a disappointment or failure. 

“It’s extremely important to talk about what’s troubling you,” says Bernard Kaminetsky, medical director, MDVIP.  “Untreated depression can result in bigger problems.”

Depression in Men Typically Goes Undiagnosed & Untreated

When depression isn’t addressed, its signs and symptoms tend to exacerbate, eventually affecting relationships and work life. Workers suffering from depression miss twice as many days on the job as workers without depression. Some top reasons why depression in men usually goes undiagnosed:

Physical Health

Depression also takes a toll on physical health. Take substance abuse for example. When men are depressed, they’re twice as likely to binge drink as women. Since alcohol is a depressant, the over consumption can cause and/or worsen depression. Substance use, along with other negative lifestyle habits associated with depression, including poor sleep habits, unhealthy nutrition choices and skipping workouts, raise the risk for obesity, high blood pressure, addictions, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The American Heart Association now considers depression a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Studies also have found depression slows recovery of a heart attack or stroke.

Male Depressions & Suicide

Probably the biggest threat linked to untreated depression is suicide. And while suicide is a risk to both genders, men die from suicide 3.8 times more often than women. 

One reason for the higher suicide rates is trauma. About 60 percent of men experience trauma such as an accident, physical assault, combat or a disaster. Keep in mind, most first responders (police officers, firefighters, EMTs) and military service members are men. Many events they’re involved in handling can haunt them, manifest into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition notorious for increasing the likelihood of depression, suicidal thoughts and suicide.

If you’re suffering from depression, talk to your primary care physician. They’re trained to deal with depression and can help you find treatment or other care providers if necessary. If you don’t have a primary care doctor, consider partnering with an MDVIP-affiliated physician. They have time to really work with you and develop a wellness plan that can address your physical and mental health. Find a physician near you and begin your partnership in health » 

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About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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