Given what I’m about to write about the signs of depression in men, there are unlikely to be any men reading this.
Perhaps that is an exaggeration, but it is hoped that this will be a useful reference both for men who feel that they may be suffering from depression and for those around them, who may in fact be be more likely to notice a man’s depression than the man himself.
Are the sign of depression in men any different from those in women?
Whilst the symptoms of depression for men and women are essentially the same as far as clinical diagnosis is concerned, it seems that there are some well recognized gender differences in relation to depression just as much as there are in relation to other aspects of life.
Statistics are often cited to show that more women suffer from depression than men. However, the reality may be that depression is more often diagnosed in women than it is in men. Or, to put it another way, more men than women probably suffer from un-diagnosed depression.
This situation comes down to the familiar story of men hiding their feelings or being unwilling to talk about the way that they feel. How many men do you know who, despite their claims of impending death when suffering from ‘man-flu’, are reluctant to go to the doctor if something serious may be wrong with them? I know, I am one of those men.
The differences do not only extend to diagnosis, though. There is good evidence to suggest that the signs of depression in men may themselves be quite different as a consequence of the way that men handle the condition.
A 2005 study by Brownhill and others, looked at the way that men cope with and react to depression compared to women. The findings suggest that there are certain quite recognizable male reactions to depression. These reactions not only differ from the responses of women, but tend to have a discernible and escalating pattern.
One of the problems with depression is that it can affect self-confidence, making you feel weak and vulnerable.
For many men, this is not a state of affairs that they are willing to talk about because their sense of self revolves around projecting a strong image. They do not want to compound their feelings of weakness by asking for help.
What is more, for men who have always considered themselves to be strong, perhaps the rock in their family, feelings of vulnerability are often quite difficult to understand, let alone confront.
So, especially where depression goes undiagnosed and untreated for some time the signs of depression in men may follow the pattern that Brownhill etc call “the Big Build”.
Signs of depression in men to look out for
Let’s look first at the signs of depression that are generally recognized as being found more often in men than in women. These are:
- being irritable
- more frequently losing self-control
- willingness to take more risks
- being aggressive.
Aggression and anger are often signs of depression in men
The way that these signs may become obvious in males is reflected in the pattern of the ‘Big Build’, which can be summarized as follows.
Initially, the male reaction to feeling depressed is one of avoidance. This may be seen in the man’s unwillingness to talk about what is troubling him or perhaps by the desire to immerse himself in work or other activities so as not to have to think about what is happening.
The second stage is where the man attempts to numb himself against what is happening. This would usually involve an increase in gambling, gaming, drinking or drug-taking.
When ‘numbing it’ cease to be effective, the man may then seek more active means of escape. This could mean heavier drinking, the use of harder drugs, excessive gambling and quite extreme risk taking.
The next stage becomes more serious still and is likely to involve signs of hate and even crime and will include aggression, violence, road rage or causing damage to property.
The ultimate stage in the Big Build is self-harm or suicide. Indeed the statistics show that men are more likely to commit suicide than women. According to the US National Institute of Mental Health almost four times as many men as women (and nearly six times as many men in the 20 to 24 age bracket) commit suicide.
It is therefore clear that some means of intervention in male depression has to be found and at the earliest stage possible. This is especially important for young men who potentially face severe damage to their prospects in life as a result of addictions and crime and even loss of life itself.
Are you aware of any other signs of depression that are more prevalent in men than women? What about intervention – how can this be achieved? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.