3 ways depression is different for men

By The Health News Team | November 18, 2021
Men and mental health

Approximately 19.4 million adults in the U.S. — or 7.8% of the entire population — have experienced a major depressive episode. While depression affects both men and women, the way each gender experiences depression can be very different.

Dr. Dara Schwartz, lead psychologist at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital, notes that when it comes to depression, men and women typically differ in ways many people would expect.

“Women are usually more in touch with their emotions and more open to discussing problems they are having,” she says. “Men can be more closed off and reluctant to admit they’re experiencing emotional distress.”

Dr. Schwartz outlines the other major differences in how men experience depression:

  1. Men exhibit symptoms differently
    Depression in men can manifest as irritability, numbness or anger, rather than the hallmark sadness one might expect to accompany this diagnosis. Additionally, when men experience depression, they have a harder time sleeping, resulting in difficulty concentrating and loss of attention to detail. Men also have a greater tendency to manifest depression symptoms as physical health problems, such as aches, pains and digestive issues.
    “Men are much more likely to present to their doctor with physical issues they are experiencing, rather than emotional,” Dr. Schwartz says. “Because health problems are a physical and more tangible ailment, they feel more comfortable reaching out to address these issues.”

  2. Men need a different approach to treatment
    The stigma of mental illness is much more pervasive in men than in women. Culturally, men are often raised to be strong and stoic and not show emotion. Because of this, to best treat men with depression, doctors often can’t drive straight to the emotional issues. Men respond better to treatment when it’s initiated as an attempt to address the symptoms they are experiencing rather than the underlying cause.
    “Addressing the concerning behavior or symptoms is often what will help us start to break down the real issues,” says Dr. Schwartz. “Some men can have a hard time talking about emotions and are sometimes unable to recognize that what they are feeling is actually depression.”

  3. Men cope differently
    Because men experience depression differently than women, it’s natural that their coping mechanisms would differ as well. According to Dr. Schwartz, men are more likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs as a coping method. Additionally, men are much less likely to reach out for help, and if their depression gets severe enough, are more likely to die by suicide. Worldwide, men are twice as likely than women to die by suicide.
    “While women categorically have more suicide attempts, they tend to use nonviolent means, such as medication,” says Dr. Schwartz. “Men are more likely to choose lethal methods, like firearms. That’s why it’s so important to know that depression is treatable and to get help for yourself or your loved one.”

If you or a loved one is in crisis, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255. For additional assistance, Sharp Mesa Vista is here to help. Please call 858-836-8434.

For the news media: To talk with Dr. Schwartz about signs of and treatment for depression for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at erica.carlson@sharp.com.

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