Depression is one of the most difficult conditions to contend with and manage. This is due in part to the fact that it can go undiagnosed for years. Many people suffer with depression not realizing that the problems they are having and the way they are feeling can be addressed and improved with help, time, and effort. And while anyone can suffer with depression, there are some significant differences in the way that it affects men versus women.
Although there are several symptoms of depression that are common to both men and women, the way that a man experiences and expresses depression can be very different than the way a woman does. And women are twice as likely to experience depression during their lifetime than men. So understanding how to recognize the symptoms of depression and the differences in how they are expressed in men vs. women are vital when helping yourself or someone you love.
Common Signs of Depression
It’s important to note that depression is more than just sadness. A person who has lost a friend, or is going through a tough time at work may feel down and seem “depressed.” Most, however, will experience these things and the associated emotions for a time and then move on. Some people though can find themselves feeling more than just sad and unable to regain a normal, positive outlook on things. This can be clinical depression, which is much more than the temporary feeling that comes with a loss or the ups and downs of life, and it can be far more serious.
As mentioned, there are several symptoms of depression that are common to both men and women. Some of those signs include:
- Feelings of hopelessness and despair.
- Lack of interest in friends or activities that were once enjoyed.
- Inability to concentrate.
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits.
- Inability to maintain the normal functions of daily life like working, household duties, or paying bills.
While these are not all of the ways that depression can manifest, they are fairly common and can be seen in both men and women alike.
Depression in Women
When it comes to a woman there are some additional symptoms of depression to watch for. Women tend to be more likely to actually express the emotions they are feeling in ways like crying for no clear reason or becoming highly insecure and losing self-confidence. There is also a higher prevalence of eating disorders in depressed women. And unlike men, whose eating habits can also change, a woman is more likely to overeat — emotional eating — rather than to stop eating.
Women may engage more heavily in negative self-talk and feel that they are to blame for their own problems or for the problems of those around them.
The danger with all of these behaviors is that they can be self-perpetuating and make depression worse. You tell yourself you’re the problem and you become the problem, you overeat and feel badly about yourself and the negative self-talk gets worse. Before long there is no clear path out and the feelings of despair become overwhelming.
Depression in Men
Men are far less likely to express the emotions that are typically associated with sadness. Instead, they may go to extremes with dangerous or risky behavior.
A man is far more likely to develop anger issues or no longer be able to manage a normal anger response. It’s not uncommon to find that a man who is emotionally, even physically abusive, could be suffering from depression. This, of course, doesn’t excuse abusive behavior, but the behavior will be hard to change without dealing with the underlying issues.
It’s also not uncommon for depressed men to turn to alcohol or other substances as a means for dulling the emotional pain they are experiencing. Self-medicating only temporarily alleviates the depressive problems being experienced and overall makes things exponentially worse. These are a mask for the real problems and taken to extremes can cause problems of their own.
The reasons people experience depression can also vary a great deal. And just as there are different ways that men and women express depression, there can also be very different triggers for each gender. The largest and most common trigger for either sex, however, is a major change in life like the end to a relationship, a change in health, the loss of a loved one or birth of a child.
If you or anyone you are close to has experienced a traumatic life event (or in the case of a new baby, not so traumatic) and are showing any of the signs listed above, it’s time to get help. Depression can go undiagnosed and untreated for a long-time and the longer it goes the more detrimental the consequences. There are many avenues for support and healing if you are suffering from depression, so seek one out.