The public has become much more aware of the problem of depression in recent years. Celebrities have spoken out about their private struggles, mental health care has become more widely available, and drug commercials assure us there are better days ahead. Still, a number of myths about depression persist. One of those myths is that depression mainly affects women. While it’s true that it affects more women than men, a significant number of men are affected and in different ways to women. This myth can lead to men being less aware of the problem and less likely to seek help if they do become depressed. Here are some facts about men and depression.
More Than a Third of Depressed People are Men
Women appear to suffer from depression about at about twice the rate of men. This is thought to be because of major hormonal changes, such as during pregnancy and childbirth, and because women are much more likely to be victims of domestic violence, which is a major risk factor for depression. However, men account for at least a third of the people suffering from depression, and this may be a low estimate, as men are less likely than women to seek treatment for depression or even discuss it.
Symptoms of Depression Often Look Different in Men
When many people think of depression, they imagine it as persistent sadness. While this is a common symptom of depression, it’s not the only one, and it may not even be the most significant one. What’s more, it’s more likely to be a symptom of depression in women than in men. Men with depression may not feel especially sad. Instead, they may feel irritable, angry, or aggressive. For many men, being unusually short-tempered, getting in more arguments, or being excessively critical are more reliable signs of depression than sadness. Other symptoms might include sleeping too much or too little, slow movements, poor concentration, persistent fatigue, emotional numbness, or inability to feel pleasure. Men may also be more aware of physical symptoms, such as body aches, headaches, tension, and racing heart.
Men can Suffer Postpartum Depression
Most people are aware that a significant number of women experience postpartum depression. They have huge hormonal changes punctuated by a traumatic event, followed immediately by a huge life change and hardly any sleep. It’s surprising postpartum depression isn’t more common than it is. What fewer people know is that men also experience postpartum depression. One study found that men actually experience postpartum depression at rates comparable to women. If that sounds suspicious to you, the reason might be that this data was collected at pediatrician visits. There were far fewer male respondents, but they appeared to be the fathers most involved in caring for the child, which likely means those dads, like the mothers, were dealing with much more responsibility on much less sleep–a perfect recipe for depression.
Men are More Likely to Self-medicate
Men are more likely than women to self-medicate using drugs or alcohol. This is likely one factor contributing to the much higher rates of addiction and fatal overdoses among men. One study found that while drug use was about equally common in women with and without depression, it was far more common in men with major depression than without. This trend may be because men experience depression differently, or are more reluctant to seek help. Many men see depression as a sign of weakness, although it’s no more a sign of weakness than catching the flu. Many men are also uncomfortable at the thought of talking to a therapist, as articulating one’s feelings is often difficult and requires a certain level of vulnerability.
Men are More Likely to be Depressed because of Losing a Job
There are several cultural factors that contribute to depression for both men and women. For women, the belief that women should be more accommodating and not push back when they feel they’re being treated unfairly can lead to feelings of helplessness, that there’s no point in trying to change a bad situation, so you just have to endure it. For men, one big cultural expectation is that they are the breadwinners. They provide for the family. This makes losing a job especially difficult.
One study found that about six percent of people employed full-time suffer from depression compared to about 12 percent of people who have been unemployed for two weeks and 19 percent of people who have been unemployed for a year. There is some two-way traffic here, as depression can also lead to more days of missed work and eventually unemployment. Women are also likely to become depressed because of losing a job, but the association between unemployment and depression is stronger for men. And there is also a strong correlation between unemployment and substance use, which makes sense because depression is a major risk factor for addiction.
Men are More Likely to Die by Suicide
This is a dire statistic but it’s more complicated than it first appears. Women are far more likely than men to attempt suicide because of depression, but men are far more likely to die by suicide. Globally, men are almost twice as likely to die by suicide. This appears to be because men tend to use more lethal means–a gun instead of pills, for example. Complicating this further, only about half of people who commit suicide appear to be depressed. This might be in part because depression is under diagnosed in men. The main factor appears to be that many suicides are not caused by depression, but specific life stressors, such as problems around relationships or finances.
If you or someone you love is struggling with depression, The Dawn Medical Rehab and Wellness center can help. We are one of Thailand’s most respected addiction treatment and wellness centers. We use cutting-edge treatment modalities, including TMS and CBT to provide personalized care to treat addiction, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, PTSD, and executive burnout. See our contact page to reach us by phone or email.