Depression is a mental health condition that can significantly affect your feelings, thoughts, and day-to-day ability to function. It’s an issue that’s becoming increasingly prevalent in Australia, and among Australian men. In fact, it is estimated that 1 in 8 men will experience depression in their lives. However, the way men experience, express, and manage depression can be quite different to women’s experiences. This is due to a variety of factors, including societal norms, biological factors, and other experiences unique to men.
Understanding these differences is not only important for those grappling with depression, but also for their family, friends, and the healthcare professionals who provide the support they need.
Facts about depression:
- Depression affects around 300 million people, worldwide
- 1 in 6 women and 1 in 8 men will experience depression in Australia
- Women are more likely to experience suicidal thoughts
- 75% of those who take their own lives are male
- Men aged 85 and older experience the highest age-specific rate of suicide
- Women are more likely than men to seek help for depression
Differences in the presentation of depression in men and women
Depression, despite being a common experience, can present itself very differently in men and women. Whilst some general symptoms like sadness, irritability, or feelings of emptiness are shared between genders; the way these symptoms are expressed can vary quite a bit.
In general, our society tends to teach boys that they shouldn’t cry. Of course, this varies between families and backgrounds and, thankfully, has started to change in recent years. Even so, grown men these days might have difficulty expressing their depression and often do so very differently than women who are experiencing depression. For example, men are less likely to feel comfortable crying or talking about their feelings. For this reason, women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression – not just because women are more likely to suffer from depression, but they are also more likely to notice the signs and symptoms and seek help.
For men who feel as though showing signs of emotional vulnerability isn’t acceptable, depression may present with symptoms of irritability, anger, and even threatening behaviour.
“Women with depression may come in crying; men may come in acting out in anger,” says Andrew Angelino, M.D., Chair of Psychiatry at Howard County General Hospital. “We’ve taught boys that they don’t cry; so instead of crying, they get angry and threatening.”
Depression can also manifest differently according to your age. For example, adolescent girls struggling with depression may feel dissatisfied with their body image, experience guilt, difficulty concentrating, or pervasive and long-lasting sadness. Depressed boys, on the other hand, might lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, and appear more tired or disinterested, especially in the morning.
As adults, depressed women often struggle with stress, sadness, and sleep issues. In contrast, men tend to lean towards irritability and impulsive anger. Of course, these examples are generalisations and it’s important to know that depression can look different for everyone. However, it’s crucial to understand how depression can appear differently in men and women, if we’re to recognise the signs and help men get the support they need. After all – no one should go through depression alone.
Risk factors for depression in men
In Australia, as well as around the world, there’s a significant gender gap in seeking help for mental health issues. Women are generally more likely to reach out for help when they’re depressed. Men, however, tend to resist seeking help due to societal pressures and unhelpful stereotypes about masculinity.
Alarmingly, whilst women are more likely to have suicidal thoughts, men are four times more likely to die by suicide. Those within the LGBTQ+ community also experience high rates of depression and suicide, often exacerbated by difficulties accessing healthcare and systemic biases in our healthcare system. The most important thing to note is: Absolutely anyone can experience depression.
When it comes to depression in men, knowing the risk factors is key. Here are some of the most common risk factors that increase your likelihood of developing depression:
- Family history: Men with close family members who have experienced depression are at a higher risk.
- Medical conditions: Serious medical conditions can increase the likelihood of depression.
- Personality traits: Certain personality characteristics, such as high levels of anxiety, perfectionism, or tendency to worry excessively can predispose individuals to depression.
- Substance use: Overuse of alcohol or drugs can contribute to the onset of depression.
- Major life events: Significant life events or stressors such as job loss, divorce, death of a loved one, or experiences of abuse can trigger depression, especially in those who are already vulnerable.
- Social isolation: Loneliness, especially due to prolonged periods of social isolation, like what has been experienced by many during the COVID-19 pandemic, can increase the risk of depression.
- Unemployment or financial issues: Economic difficulties or job loss can trigger feelings of worthlessness or despair, contributing to depression.
- Unclear causes: In some cases, depression can develop for no apparent reason. Even without a clear cause, the experience of depression is valid and should be addressed.
Addressing Depression: A Multi-faceted Approach
Although you may not be able to control most of the risk factors around depression, the good news is, there are lots of things you can do to reduce your risk of developing depression. There are also proven and effective ways of treating depression if you are experiencing it.
Reducing the risks of major depression, especially for those with a family history of the disease, involves taking some proactive measures such as:
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle
- Avoiding the use of alcohol or drugs
- Eating a balanced diet
- Getting enough sleep
- Using stress management strategies
- Regular exercise
- Having a good support network
Remember, reaching out for help is crucial if you or someone you think might be experiencing depression. Although your symptoms may come and go, or you might not think it’s a big deal, depression is the number one killer for people aged between 15 and 44 in Australia. Depression is a significant but manageable condition, and everyone deserves the help they need to navigate it.
Here at Integrated Health Specialists, we are experts in understanding and treating depression in men. We offer both counselling and psychology services. Book an appointment today, to seek help. You should also read more of our helpful resources, including the following blog articles:
- Why Depression Can Be Hard to Spot
- Do I Have Depression? Most Common Misunderstood Signs
- Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for Depression and Anxiety
- You Can Begin Depression and Anxiety Treatment at Home Right Now